The road to safety

News: Recently, The Delhi government has initiated a drive to enforce lane discipline, starting with strict compliance on the bus lane. Trials over the last month have thrown up several lessons

What are the road-safety-related problems in India?

Every year, around 50,000 accidents take place in our mega Indian cities. A quarter of them are fatal, which leads to avoidable deaths.  Nearly half of those who lose their lives are pedestrians.

The burden of death is borne by the young. The opportunity cost of lost human lives is immense.

What are the causes of traffic, accidents, and others’ problems in Indian Cities, especially Delhi?

Around half of the accidents occur on account of overspeeding and a quarter are due to dangerous driving. Further, almost half of the accidents are due to collisions with buses and trucks.

In India, in some cases, a driving license is obtained through wrongful means with help of an unscrupulous tout.

Even obtaining a license doesn’t equip a person with driving etiquette like sticking to the lane; maintaining speed and traffic signals, etc. Therefore, there is a large gap between a lab environment test and reality.

The propensity of people to use personal vehicles instead of public transport also adds to the chaos. For example, Delhi has the highest per capita registration of personal vehicles — nearly 110 cars per 1,000 people, as against a national average of 25.

Measures taken by the Delhi government (Delhi Model)

Since 2009, In Delhi, the road deaths have gradually tapered despite increasing numbers of vehicles due to efforts of the Delhi Police. This has been done by working upon black spots by adopting traffic-calming measures and enhanced enforcement.

In case of deviations from the lane, the bus driver will invite harsh penalties. It would be useful to look at the skill sets of Indian drivers. A driving skill test confirms the ability of the driver to wield the wheel

To obtain a driving license – Delhi now has automated driving test centres, which have reduced the margin of human intervention.

Delhi’s government is working on road design to accommodate all users fairly.

Delhi Traffic Police has installed speeding cameras in the city, with an automatic number plate recognition system. This has led to a spike in the number of challans and a slowdown of vehicles in the city.

The Way Forward

To obtain a driving license: the simulator tests and psychological evaluation could be embedded in the regulatory framework.

The city roads should be remodelled with intuitive road designs and signages. There should be different zones of road usage for pedestrians/cyclists, buses, and other vehicles.

There should be designated pick-up and drop-off points for taxis and auto-rickshaws. In this regard, a pilot stretch has been redesigned collaboratively with IIT Delhi.

There should be cooperation and coordination among all the important agencies directly and indirectly related to traffic problems such as the road-owning agency, the municipal body, the traffic police, and the transport enforcement wing for strict enforcement of the traffic rules.

Disciplining traffic requires a collective behavioural change. Therefore, the onus of change lies as much on citizens as on the government. The government can deploy technology tools and artificial intelligence to cause deterrence in traffic violations.

The public transport system can be improved with the introduction of the Mobility as a Service (MaaS) solutions. This will integrate all options of public mobility on a common digital platform. A commuter could then choose to hop onto a bus, metro, a cab, or an auto.

A government-backed digital aggregator of all mobility options would make public transport more efficient and provide inbuilt solutions for last-mile and first-mile connectivity.

Source: The post is based on an article “The road to safety” published in the “The Hindu” on 16th May 2022.

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