Road blocks on the way

Road blocks on the way
Indiscipline on roads, indifference towards rules and road rage are now a part of the urban existence.

With the country observing the ‘Road Safety Week’ till January 17, most Bengalureans think road safety or safe commute will never become a reality until each person inculcates a sense of self-discipline, the traffic police become ruthless when it comes to enforcement of rules and civic agencies ensure that roads are not pockmarked with potholes.

People riding with helmets hung around their arms, two wheelers zooming on pavements and motorists jumping signals to get ahead leads to drivers and riders imperilling the lives of other road users as well. In the rush to get ahead of others, people end up riding and parking on pavements, points out Karthika SN, a student of Mount Carmel College. “I find people riding on pavements that are meant for pedestrians. So, one of the first things that must be done is to put up barriers to avoid two-wheelers from riding on them. I’ve seen these road safety weeks being held before but such efforts seem to be like shooting in the dark. However, I am still hopeful that things will change,” says Karthika. 

People have become less sensitive and less tolerant, thinks Issac Paul, a student of Christ University. He agrees that there’s indiscipline on the roads and concedes that he too, sometimes, takes his anger out on the roads. “It doesn’t happen always but sometimes when I am ticked off about something, I take it out on the roads. Whether you like it or not, you sometimes tend to resort to extreme speed just to get over your own extreme emotions,” says Issac. His college mate Vishnu Venugopal feels that not only has traffic doubled on the roads but people have also become impatient. “Everybody is in a hurry and doesn’t mind scrambling to get ahead of each other. We can’t expect an instant change of attitude when it comes to respecting road rules but the many campaigns on road safety must continue because it will make a substantial difference in the long run,” feels Vishnu.

It is not just enough to maintain a sense of road discipline and follow rules but the basic infrastructure seems to be missing, points out Anu Thomas, a professional in her early 20s. “I think most people are aware of the safety norms but my biggest concern is the condition of roads in our City. I always wonder where our tax money goes when we don’t see the good roads,” she rues. Anu dubs the state of the roads as ‘pitiful’ and ‘pathetic’. “There are potholes forming every day on the roads. I am scared that I may lose my balance on these roads. Thanks to bad roads, I’ve also developed a severe backache. Good roads will ensure that people follow safety norms,” she reasons.

Experts studying and analysing the rate and nature of road accidents across Bengaluru say that deaths due to these vehicular mishaps have been hovering to around 700 a year. “The number of accidents doesn’t seem to dip at all because of multiple reasons. Unscientific road humps and road design top the list,” explains Dr G Gururaj, professor and head of department, Centre for Public Health and WHO Collaborating Centre for Injury Prevention and Safety Promotion, NIMHANS.

Dr Gururaj believes that only a combination of education and enforcement will get people to pay attention to the importance of adhering to safety standards when driving or riding. He says that more than merely talking about accident rates, attention must be paid to serious injuries and the medium and long-term disabilities that are a consequence of these accidents.

The indifference among the motorists is visible whenever there is an ambulance on the road. While some vehicles pull over to give way to the ambulance, others are seen speeding just behind the ambulance to get past the signal lights. Pointing this out, Sheela V Dange, an educationist, says, “Giving way to an ambulance is a rare act by our fellow drivers. While some give way to the ambulance, others are seen speeding just behind the ambulance. How do we make these people understand?” Complying with safety standards on the road must be a priority for all vehicles user, reasons Sheela. She adds, “Whether it is drunk driving, maintaining lane discipline, jumping signal lights or not wearing helmets — the driver is not only putting his life at risk but also that of his fellow drivers who are not responsible for his action.”

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