The untimely death of Mr Munde in an car accident highlights the need for safety while traveling and the need to severely curb the rising traffic violations on our roads. It is reported that the highest number of deaths are taking place in the world on Indian roads. However there is little that is being done by the authorities to reduce the incidence of these unfortunate deaths. Indians also seem to have a fatalistic attitude towards road mishaps even if it is going to involve oneself.

Indian Scenario:

It is estimated by WHO that nearly 3,400 persons die everyday on the roads of the world. Every year nearly 1.24 million persons lose their lives in traffic deaths worldwide. Around 3,94,982 Indians died in road accidents in 2012 on Indian roads and it is 1% higher than the figure in 2011. Rising population and number of vehicles also  contributes to increase in deaths every year. The states of Tamil Nadu, UP, AP, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Gujarat are at the top of the list of road accident deaths. Nearly 97% of the victims were traveling in private vehicles

The mode of transport also has a bearing on the number of fatalities. Two-wheelers account for 23%, trucks & lorries 19% and cars 10% of the traffic related deaths. Females account for nearly 15% of these deaths. Maximum road accidents, nearly one third, occur between 3.00 pm to 9.00 pm time period and around 6% between mid-night and 3.00 am in the night. Among cities Mumbai is at the top followed by Delhi, Pune, Bengaluru and Chennai while the lowest rate of road deaths is in Kolkatta.

Causes of Road Accidents :

Some of the reasons why accidents take place are for following reasons :

Due to road users driving rashly or at high speeds, willfully violating traffic rules, driving under influence of liqour or in fatigue condition, negligence and in case of long driving hours feeling sleepy.

Due to faults in vehicles like brake failures, tyre bursts, faulty electrical or steering system.

Due to improper road conditions like pot holes, rough patches, obstructions etc.

Due to bad road design and lay out like sudden narrowing, improper width, improper curves, inadequate lighting and improper traffic lighting system.

Due to and environment climatic conditions like rains, storms, snow, smoke and floods and improper placement of advertisement boards.

The Average Indian Driver :

The careless attitude of our drivers begins at the learning stage itself. Most of the time the driving licences are arranged through agents. The driving exams are a sham and hardly anyone takes them seriously. The agents take care of everything and ensure one gets a permanent licence. The various road signs and rules to be observed during driving are rarely studied and understood in detail by the drivers. When the system is going to deliver a permanent licence, courtesy an agent, who is going to take the trouble of preparing for an sham exam.

Many years back, I remember a friend of mine who had gone through an agent to give his driving test was failed by the RTO examiner. My friend went and blasted the agent who told him not to worry. After about a fortnight he got him his permanent licence without him having to appear  for a driving test again. 

This connivance of the agents and corrupt persons in authority ensures that a very high number of drivers of two and three-wheelers and cars and trucks get the legal  right to drive without proper training and examination.

However, real culprits are the drivers themselves, who do not understand the gravity of their careless attitude and that they could be a cause of accident and bad driving on the roads and could end up themselves on the wrong side of the law and injuries which could be fatal.

The responsibility is on the state to devise a foolproof system to ensure road safety and the citizens must cooperate with it. I have often found it amusing and distressing that Indian citizens when they emigrate to say USA are very keen to get their international driving licence in India where they can 'manage' rather than in USA where they will not be able to do so.

The Traffic Law Breakers :

There is an increase in the number of drivers, especially two-wheeler owners, to break the traffic rules with a degree of freedom not seen before. In my city and I am told elsewhere also, it is very common to see scooters and motorcyclists and often a car come from the opposite side on your left side. It is very risky as many a time one sees them at the last moment. They are doing so to avoid coming from the right opposite side which would mean they have to drive a bit longer. Some daring drivers come from the opposite side along the divider in your driving lane. This has now increased so much that it is now looking a normal practice. The traffic police look helplessly on.

The two wheeler drivers hardly put their helmets on. It has been seen that in many fatal cases, if the driver had his helmet on, he would have been saved. Similarly many car drivers do not put on their seat belts and pay for it often with their lives. Another habit is not to follow the traffic signals. Either there is a tendency to rush and beat the red light or start even before the green light is on. It creates many near collision possibilities. Yet another irritating habit is to park the vehicle in the lane which is open on the left side during red signal,thereby blocking the lane.

The pedestrians are another source of problem creators. They walk, cross, run from anywhere to anywhere on the roads especially during crossings. It is their right to do so and it is the duty of the vehicle drivers to save them. 

Another nuisance is the presence of stray animals on the roads of many cities. They block the roads, make them dirty and are cause of accidents especially with two-wheelers. The three-wheeler drivers are a class by themselves and one has to watch their movements very carefully as they can turn anywhere at almost no notice.

The Possible Solution :

The only way in which traffic in India can be regulated and lives saved is by strictly implementing the traffic rules and heavily punishing the violators. Most of the traffic rules are of a by gone era when the vehicle density was relatively negligible. With  increase in population, the number of vehicle owners has gone up significantly. Roads are choked with traffic during the evening hours. On Indian roads the sheer variety of vehicles makes it all the more challenging for rule makers.  In many parts of the city it is not possible to widen the roads unless buildings are brought down. Yet traffic has to move on.

The fine on minor traffic violations should be minimum Rs. 500 for two and three wheeler drivers. For car drivers it should be minimum Rs. 1,000 per violation. For commercial drivers it should Rs. 1,500 for non truck drivers and for them it should be Rs 2,000 on wards. These may look harsh but with cost of vehicles also having gone up the violators should be made to pay for their law breaking. Repeated violators must be fined double the amounts. In fact there should be a provision to suspend driving licence for a specified period of time

Another provision must be that after say two violations, the information should go to the vehicle insurance company. The next premiums should be raised accordingly. In fact after say three violations, the insurance company should deny insurance. Similarly life insurance premiums should also go up for them. 

They should be forcibly made to attend traffic rule awareness classes. 

Conclusion:

If the number of deaths on Indian roads has to be reduced significantly then strict laws and strict fines including imprisonment have to be introduced. These have to be strictly enforced without fear and corruption. The citizens also should co-operate as they are the beneficiaries. It is high time that discipline should be brought on Indian roads. If only traffic rules were followed Mr. Munde would have been alive today!


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