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Why India's Road Safety Initiatives Are Reaching a Dead-End

5 months ago

Road safety is day by day becoming a critical issue in India. The number of vehicles on the roads is rising everyday, urban centres are becoming more congested and motorway networks are expanding manifolds. But yet the rules and regulations that govern the road safety date back to the Motor Vehicle Act of 1988 which is not only outdated but also poorly enforced. There is conjointly a general lack of awareness of basic traffic rules, the absence of traffic aggregation and lights and above all the dangerous road conditions.


Well, the biggest problem that road safety in India faces that neither the passenger nor the commercial vehicles are equipped with basic safety features. It is very common for people of India to drive without a license, seat belt and bike helmet. If there is a road accident the general public are reluctant to help victim fearing of getting caught up in court battles, while the medical help is often late. So, unlike other developing countries, the number of people dying on the roads of India are not falling rather rising with every passing day.


There are many government ministers, activists and non-government organizations (NGOs) trying to address this problem but they are too failing miserably as the public are adamant about their ways and they show no signs of changing anytime soon. There were many initiatives undertaken in the years 2004 – 2014 but every organization have been unsuccessful according to the International Road Federation (IRF). There are statistics from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) that shows 1.2 million people died in road accidents between the year 2004 and 2014. Well, in the year 2014 alone there were almost 1,40,000 road deaths and 17,000 of them were children.


This report, however, should have been an eye-opener for the lawmakers, as it clearly shows that the Indian road safety laws do not meet the best practice that is required to avoid such happenings. To be precise, they lack four of the five risk factors that are enforcing speed limits, preventing drunk driving, the safety of children on the road and also the use of good quality helmets like the Aaron helmets. Even when for the wearing of seat belts the Motor Vehicle Act of India is in line with the WHO standards, the enforcement is rather poor in India.


Well, India has been working with the IRF, the WHO and the World Bank to strengthen regulatory institutions, design safer roads and also improve emergency response and medical care systems. The Indian government is also working to increase the awareness of road safety and the importance of obeying traffic rules while also driving safely. The Indian government has also endorsed the United Nations' Safe System Approach and is also planning to introduce road safety as part of school curriculum. But yet all their initiative is reaching a dead end.


The possible reason for this failure being resistant and lobbying local governments, manufacturers, regulatory authorities as they have much to lose from an efficient, transparent and properly enforced regulatory system. Another reason is again unawareness of the good Samaritans. They are not aware that the RTH has issued guidelines for their safety. This unawareness is the reason why the number of road deaths is rising rather than falling.


India has the second longest road network and if we consider the recent government plans then this road network would increase further. India’s transport is also its key to economic growth. But if the road safety rules do not improve along with a plan of expansion and if there are no changes brought in the MVA then the number of road accidents would rise along with the expansion plan.