Educate to enhance road safety

Road accident injuries are a major public health problem and a leading cause of death and injury around the world.  Each year nearly 1.2 million people die as a result of road accidents, and millions more are injured or disabled. This number is higher than deaths due to natural calamities or any contagious disease.

Most of the victims of road accidents are vulnerable road-users like pedestrians, cyclists and tw0-wheeler riders. In most cases, people killed and injured are men in the age group of 15–45 years, which is known as the productive age group in any economy. Each such death results in the loss of precious human resources in the country and total disaster for the families of the victims.

In Karnataka, about 10,000 die and some 50,000 are injured every year in road accidents. Karnataka ranks fourth in the country in road accident fatalities. The state police is highly concerned about the steep rise in the number of accidents, injuries and fatalities in recent years. The victims are mainly from poor sections of the society and vulnerable road users like pedestrians, cyclists and two-wheeler users.

There are many deficiencies in the infrastructure, enforcement, emergency response, etc., which need to be addressed cumulatively. Road safety cannot be achieved by enforcement alone. It should be backed up by better road design, increased awareness about traffic rules and regulations, administrative support to name a few.

Taking cognizance of the same, a proper analysis of accidents is necessary to improve road safety. Studying accident details intricately shows up many issues and helps identify the necessary mitigation measures for the same.

The various causes of road accidents are:

• Road users: Excessive speed and rash driving, violation of traffic rules, failure to perceive traffic situation or sign or signal in good time, carelessness, fatigue, alcohol, sleep, etc.

• Vehicle: Defects such as failure of brakes, steering system, tyre burst, lighting system.

• Road condition: Skidding road surface, potholes, ruts.

• Road design: Defective geometric design, like inadequate sight distance, inadequate width of shoulders, improper curve design, improper traffic control devices and improper lighting.

• Environmental factors: Unfavourable weather conditions like mist, snow, smoke and heavy rainfall which restrict visibility and make driving unsafe.

• Other causes: Improper location of advertisement boards, gate of level crossing not closed when required, etc.

Most road accidents are cau­sed by human error. Research has shown that road user’s error accounts for over 80% of all fatalities and injuries. Apart from
strict enforcement and regulation, educating road users plays an important role in creating
awareness about safety on roads leading to reduction in acci-
dents. Effective road safety campaigns need to be designed to influence road-users’ behaviour.

Road safety campaigns have to be aimed at specific road-user groups. Separate campaigns should be designed for different road-users.

• Schoolchildren: They should be taught the rules of the road, correct manner of crossing, etc., by introducing necessary instruction in the schools and with the help of posters exhibiting the serious consequences of carelessness while crossing the road.

• Pedestrians: The most vulnerable road-user group is the pedestrians and constitute a large percentage in total casualties. They must be made aware of the need to use footpaths for their own safety. Three-dimensional pedestrian crossings, high-raised pedestrian crossings, operation of pelican signals, instructions through public address systems, distributing pamphlets and leaflets and on-the-spot skits and flash mobs.

• Bus commuters: Bus commuters and even drivers have to be educated regarding proper use of bus bays and stands to stop the buses, safe alighting and boarding, use of footpaths, pedestrian crossings. Awareness has to be created regarding the locations of new bus stands/bays from work places and residential areas to popularise public transport.

• Footpath vendors: Footpath vendors must be educated regarding the ill-effects of footpath encroachment and must be encouraged to practice safety.

• Transport drivers: Special training should be given to drivers of transport vehicles like buses, trucks, taxis and autorickshaws to follow traffic rules at all times. They should be sensitised about ill-effects of drunken driving, overspeeding and haphazard parking.

• Two-wheeler riders: Since 40% of road accident victims are two-wheeler riders, the focus of road safety education should be on wearing of helmets and following lane discipline.

Road safety cannot be achieved by police alone. Apart from booking the violators to pay penalty, awareness programmes to educate citizens should be undertaken. Non-governmental organisations and civil society should join hands with enforcement agencies to evolve effective strategies to ensure greater safety on roads.

(The writer is Additional Director General of Police, Crime and Technical Services and Traffic and Road Safety, Bengaluru)

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