Road To Safety: Still A Far Cry In India?


To imagine empty, or let’s just say relatively empty, roads and streets in India seems to be too farfetched. As the second most populous country in the world, Indian roads are a spectacle in themselves to most foreign travelers; with people swarming like flies alongside stray animals, vehicles, vendors, as though in an eternal testimony to the unity of all creatures. India is one country where it is impossible to imagine roads and streets without hundreds of people within our view. Not quite surprisingly then, India also happens to be a place where far too many lives are lost on streets, roads and highways, every day. According to government data, there were 4,86,476 accidents that claimed the lives of 1,37,572 people in the year 2013.

However, despite road accidents being a persistent problem in India since years, nothing much has really be done to make the roads safe and less fatal. Lack of a traffic ethic is one of the reasons behind a totally dysfunctional traffic system, where jumping signals are hardly aberrational. Jumping signals, drunken driving, reckless speed driving, and so on are all indicative of the missing sense of responsibility one witnesses on the roads. The Leh-Manali highway, the Kinnaur road, the Grand Trunk road, the Zozi La pass road, National Highway 22 and many others remain amongst the most trying stretches in India. The NH 22, in particular, is considered to be one the most dangerous highways in the world. Individual recklessness too continues be the other fatal reason for the innumerable unfortunate accidents on road. Aren’t bike riders without helmets, for instance, a common sight across the length and breadth of the country? It amuses me as how sincerely people on Indian streets seek to embrace death, every day.  I am not, however, simply jeering on as an outsider when speak of people’s reckless attitude towards their own safety. I still fondly remember the times when as a child, I would hop onto the motorbike behind my father or brother. However, I can probably count on fingers the number of times I would have worn a helmet.  It is unarguably this lackadaisical approach to one’s own safety that seldom prevents people from taking charge of their own lives on roads.

Within just a couple of weeks in 2015, reports of road accidents have flooded the media. Here are a few of them:

January 1, 2015: “Six Students Returning From New Year Party Killed in Road Accident in Kerala”

January 5, 2015: “24-year-old crushed under speeding car”

January 7, 2015: “Three girls killed in road accident in Hisar”

January 7, 2015 : “14 killed, 20 injured in bus accident in Andhra Pradesh”

While road accidents have been on a decline in 88 countries around the world, India’s roads remain increasingly unsafe with an accident taking place every 60 seconds, and claiming a life every 3.7 minutes. Even a World Health Organisation (WHO) report published back in 2013 had revealed that India had the highest number of road deaths in the world.

Although  infrastructural improvement and better maintenance is certainly one of the roads to safety, it cannot alone ensure safety of all. It instead calls for a concerted effort from those behind the wheels and those on the road to commit themselves to a traffic ethic; and most importantly, a basic respect for organized and safe movement on streets, roads and highways.

Pallavi Ghosh

Image Source: [Google]