Vital need to check road accidents

The Prime Minister’s announcement of the decision to reach cashless treatment facility to victims of road accidents on national highways in the first 50 hours may help ensure faster and effective treatment to the victims.

A pilot project of this facility which was tried on the Gurgaon-Jaipur highway has shown good results and it is being extended to other parts of the country. The project showed that the average response time for the ambulance to reach the accident site and for taking the victim to hospital has substantially come down. The first few hours after the accident are critical for the victims because a large number of casualties occur due to the delays in medical aid. Many relatives of victims do not have the financial means for immediate treatment and passersby may not take the initiative if they have to spend money. Cashless treatment will address these problems. The facility will cover most accidents in the country because the majority of them take place on highways.

The statistics on road accidents in the country are forbidding and dismaying. India accounts for about 15 per cent of road accidents in the world, with about 500,000 of them taking place every year. There is a death every four minutes from an accident and about a third of the victims are young people. There were over 140,000 deaths last year. Many families lose their earning members and many people are disabled for life. The medical expenditure ruins many families and is a waste of resources. While facilities for immediate treatment may reduce fatalities, it is more important to reduce the number of accidents. A new road transport and safety bill has been proposed which is expected to introduce a better safety regime, including harsher penalties for violation of rules. There is the need for better traffic policing, strict action in the case of drunken and underage driving and a better system for issue of licences.

Legislation in itself cannot go far if the rules are not enforced effectively. Inadequate road length in the country which results in crowding of vehicles and the poor quality of existing roads are other factors which cause accidents. Proper designing and lighting of roads and construction of bypasses, over-bridges and subways and installation of road signs wherever needed are important. It is also necessary to improve the quality of vehicles and the safety facilities provided in them. Road safety is dependent on all these factors and so, a comprehensive approach which covers all these is needed. 

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