For great road safety, India needs a change in mindset

Source– The post is based on the article “For great road safety, India needs a change in mindset” published in The Indian Express on 4th January 2023.

Syllabus: GS2- Government policies and interventions

News– The article explains the issue of road safety in India.

What are the reasons behind increasing road accidents in India?

Human error on the roads is the single-largest factor responsible. There are frequent violations of lane driving, speed limits and traffic signals and at-will parking on highways.

There is administrative and political apathy toward road safety. Road users are lacking the understanding of the basic traffic rules and road signage.

There is easier access to driving licences without a meaningful ground scrutiny of skills.

In case of a serious road crash, charges are framed against the erring drivers. They are not framed against the road-safety public officials for non-performance.

At the macro level, various institutions of road safety are engaged in routine paperwork and lack accountability.

What is the way forward for road safety in India?

The enforcement of traffic norms is the key to road safety. The priority goal should be to significantly reduce the rising number of road crashes.

There is a need for regular and professional enforcement of rules. Swift and innovative solutions by the administration could help in evolving a healthy safe-road culture.

A new Motor Vehicles Act is required. Along with it, decentralised federal structure and the Supreme Court committee on road safety and its regular monitoring of the related issues is key to road safety. A specific regime whereby road safety authorities are given clear targets for reducing road crashes over a defined period should be priority.

Parts of major roads and highways should be set up as “ideal” road safety zones. These zones will promote locally suitable, comprehensive safe road practices.

To begin with, identify the two worst roads in a specific area:

  • Notify each identified road as a Zone of Excellence in road safety
  • Provide road written instructions on road-surface and road signage
  • Take care to provide lanes for emergency vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians etc, as feasible
  • Ensure adherence to basic traffic rules. Create multiple checkpoints every 2-4 kms. Each checkpoint should be supported by road safety volunteers in addition to police
  • Use tech aids, judiciously combined with manual interventions and volunteers
  • Supplement enforcement with road safety awareness measures
  • Station ambulances and lift cranes for swift response to accidents
  • Make reliable arrangements with hospitals and trauma centres through formal MoUs

The administrative structure for the implementation of road safety can be set up in three tiers.

Tier 1 would be the Managing Group. It would look after day-to-day operations and would be autonomous and financially empowered. It will have representatives from the police, transport and health sectors, the public works department and public representatives.

Tier 2 would have district level monitoring. It would also ensure adherence to targets.

Tier 3 would have top management and control, represented at the level of the Union or state government. At this level, a dynamic road-safety ecosystem would be developed. Existing road safety institutions would either be dismantled or rejuvenated. There would be monthly reviews, with directions, accountability and disciplinary action.

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