A few seconds that count

Road safety

A group of friends gather, with happy chatter, memories and wine, often forgetting that they have to drive back home.

This might cost a life, if they drive carelesslessly. As drunk driving, among other reasons likespeeding, is one of the raging menace on the roads, there are communities and families of victims who are actively trying to bring awareness about road accidents. Many among them feel it is the sab chalta hain attitude that should be corrected first.

“After drinking a pint of beer, response time decreases by three to five milliseconds and that is all it takes for an accident to happen because the reflexes are slow,” says Dr Shashank Mishra, consultant orthopaedic surgeon specialising in shoulder and knee injuries at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. 

More than 1.2 million people have lost their lives in road accidents in India in the past decade. “Last year, 2,199 fatalities were attributable to road accidents in Delhi, which is highest amongst all cities in India. Compared to last year, there is a three per cent rise in fatalities in Ghaziabad area alone.

In NCR, age group affected the most is between 15 years to 29 years. Victims, in the age group 21-60 years, who are economically productive are not only a major setback for the family but for the country as well,” says Dr Dhananjay Gupta, secretary, Delhi Orthopaedic Association (DOA). 

Indian Orthopaedic Association (IOA) has marked this year for ‘Road Safety’ on the occasion of National Bone and Joint Day 2015. The Delhi chapter of IOA organised a meet to discuss the issues where it mentioned that DOA is placing road safety awareness posters in doctors’ clinics and hospitals and plan to visit Road Transport Offices to propagate best practices amongst learner licensees.

“Road accidents are the second largest cause of death after cancer and the aid from the government is just five per cent because we haven’t been able to make the government realise the spectrum of deaths. The incurable diseases are being treated with science but the man-made tragedies haven’t been controlled,” says Dr Gupta.

On January 13, 2010, 19-year-old Jaspreet Singh who was pursuing BTech from Indraprastha University was returning from his college at five in the evening when a rash woman driver hit his scooter at Naraina flyover. He died on the spot.

His father Harpal Singh tells Metrolife, “It is very shocking that we have got freedom but are not able to implement law and order.” He explains, “While the lower court convicted the woman for two years, she went scot free from the High Court on the grounds of ‘being a patient’, with a Rs 1 lakh fine. The loss is mine and I have to bear it for life.”

Mavis Russell lost her son on March 13, 2011. Vikram who was to celebrate his birthday few days after was the only male child and was with a media organisation. She recollects, “He had called me up saying that he is reaching in 15 minutes. Those 15 minutes never came. He had hit a wrongly parked trailer truck ‘with no lights and no indicator’ on that night at National Highway 8.”

“Much later, we got to know that the ambulance had refused to take him to the hospital because he was bleeding profusely. He had to be taken in a tempo. The apathy of the system was shocking,” adds the grieving mother.

Piyush Tewari, a social entrepreneur who focused on improving road safety and emergency medical care across India is also the founder and president of SaveLife Foundation. He is advocating for a strong national road safety law for India. He tells Metrolife, “There would be no family in which an accident has not happened. The problem has almost reached our homes.”

He adds, “It has been a low priority for the government. A constant check on road-user behaviour, failure of licensing authorities, bad condition of roads are some of the systemic changes that we seek. To create awareness and spread the word, we are organising the ‘Walkathon’ which is a walk for safer roads in remembrance of accident victims at Rajpath on August 8 from 8 am to 11 am.”

The new Union government has begun a five-year project to cut road deaths by a fifth every year, part of the overhaul of highway laws since Independence in 1947. The Prime Minister recently spoke about road accident victims in his radio address ‘Mann ki Baat’ and assured a road transport and safety bill, national road safety policy and, cashless treatment of accident victims.

“Still, a lot needs to be done. A new mandatory traffic education system is required, both at school level as well as at licence procurement level. People should be taught traffic sense. The Supreme Court has already ordered that the person helping an accident victim should not be harassed. This needs to be strictly implemented,” says Dr Deepak Chaudhary, director, Sports Injury Centre, Safdarjung Hospital.

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