Blood on roads


An important meeting held under the auspices of the UN in Moscow last fortnight to draw the world’s attention to the worsening problem of road accidents passed unnoticed in India. It is also hardly known that every year the world commemorates road traffic victims on the third Sunday of November. The meeting, which was attended by ministers from 70 countries and representatives of governments and non-governmental organisations from 140 countries should have been of special significance to India because it leads the world in road accidents and fatalities from them. But there was no ministerial representation from India at this first global summit on road safety. The meeting ended with a Moscow Declaration and recommended to the UN general assembly that a Decade of Action for Road Safety be declared from 2011 to 2020. It called for better coordination of efforts to tackle the problem of deaths and injuries on the roads.

India has only one per cent of the world’s vehicles but accounts for over 10 per cent of deaths on roads. About 1.3 lakh deaths occurred in the country last year. The global tally is about 1.2 million deaths and 50 million injuries. The summit termed this as a desperate situation that called for urgent remedial action. According to WHO 90 per cent of these deaths are in developing countries. While the number of deaths is declining in many countries including China which once led the world in this respect, the count is rising in India. Last year the increase was as high as seven per cent.
The reasons are well-known. Roads are bad and poorly maintained. Traffic rules and regulations are not obeyed and enforced. The Motor Vehicles Act is not implemented properly and safety precautions like wearing of seat belts and helmets are not taken seriously. Penalty for bad or drunken driving and for offences is not stringent and exemplary. Accident relief and trauma care facilities are not readily available most of the time. Roads and highways are not designed with safety as the first consideration, and pedestrians and vehicles of low standing like bicycles get a poor deal. There has to be improvement in all these areas and a commitment on the part of the government and the people to greater safety if there is to be less blood on the roads.

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