Smita Thackeray: As a mother, I am concerned about India's road safety

Updated: Jan 17, 2018, 16:50 IST | Smita Thackeray

India witnessed 17 deaths and 55 road accidents per hour in 2016 and as a mother of two children I am concerned

Smita Thackeray: As as a mother, I am concerned about India's road safetySmita Thackeray

India is one of the fastest growing countries today. While we may be progressing as a nation economically, I sincerely believe we have taken a step back when it comes to the safety of our citizens. India witnessed 17 deaths and 55 road accidents per hour in 2016 and as a mother of two children I am concerned.

The 2016 report released by the Union Road Transport and Highways Ministry tells us these road fatalities’ victims were aged between 18-35 years with an astonishing 33.8% two-wheelers accounting for the highest share. This is heartbreaking to say the least!

What disappoints me the most is the fact that while there are several measures that can be undertaken to ensure safe driving, no one cares enough to implement it. The youth of today are not only carefree but are unable to understand the repercussions of their actions. The realization that rash driving can cost this 'cool' generation their lives and cause a great deal of pain to their loved ones is a thing of the past. Now, it’s all about trying to make it in time or rather outsmart the others. The survival of the fittest as they say...

My children are growing into mature adults day by day and with this cycle comes a great deal of anxiety. I understand that as a mother, I need to let go and let my child live their life but every day they step out the door, my heart and mind are racing with unwarranted thoughts caused due to the perils of our fast paced lifestyle. To add to that, Maharashtra, with 12,935 accidents in 2016, has been ranked as the third state with maximum road fatalities after Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, which is just terrible!

The recent survey by Maruti Suzuki reveals that only a quarter of Indian drivers wear seatbelts. The reason that 27% of Indians do not wear a seatbelt is because it’s not macho enough, while a few other respondents said that it ruins their clothes. We, as a society, need to understand that lives are far more important than looking macho or wearing well-ironed clothes. WHO’s research states that the risk of road fatalities comes down by 45% when people are wearing seatbelts. And this may not be a guarantee of sorts but at least we can work towards reducing this risk. As someone who has seen enough of the world, I know for a fact that the most painful emotion in a mother’s life is seeing her child in pain.

The facts divulged by these studies are deeply disturbing. They have raised several questions inside me, and as a mother and as a responsible citizen, it’s required of me to ask them! Are we, as a society, not concerned? Is it fair to parents all over the country to hold their breaths until their kids get home safe? Should only the families who have suffered the loss feel bad and dejected? Is the attitude to just mourning for a few days and move on with no progress made?

Personally, I believe that it’s not solely the government’s responsibility to strain on the importance of safe driving measures. There have been multiple campaigns and activities stressing on the same. Now it is time for us to stand up as a society and intensely start creating awareness about road safety so that we can protect possible disasters in the future. It’s time we change the scenario by having regular training sessions in schools, colleges & societies about the importance of wearing helmets & seatbelts. Speeding and using mobile phones while driving must be discouraged. I believe that the earlier these measures are instilled as rules the better. Considering the millennial generation today is too headstrong for our liking, imbibing these values when they are younger is always more fruitful.

A sizeable difference is possible only if our society and the government works hand in hand. I do believe that better planning of roads and bridges will render a better foundation for safety. Between 2005 and 2015, the vehicle registration went up by 10%, but the road length increased by only 3.75%, which meant road congestion and a spike in accidents. To solve this issue, we must work together.

Through this article, I appeal to the government to focus on road-engineering measures and strive towards better lane-segmentation, optimization of bridge heights, road expansion, placing of road traffic signals, pedestrian walk-ways etc. in addition to rendering post-crash response & trauma care facilities. It is us, the society as a whole, who should stand up to this menace called ‘road accidents’ which is claiming lives at a very high speed. It is only when we push the brakes here that we can ensure that the youth can have a safer lifestyle!

Road safety is the need of the hour. Imposing stricter measures is the need of the hour...

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