Seven measures to ensure pedestrian safety

DH STORY PEDESTRIANS STRUGGLE

Road traffic injuries are a leading cause of death and injury around the world. Each year, nearly 1.2 million people die as a result of road crashes, and millions more are injured or disabled. This number is higher than deaths due to natural calamities or any contagious disease. Most victims of road accidents are vulnerable road-users like pedestrians, cyclists and two-wheeler riders.  In most cases, people killed and injured are men in the age group of 15-45 years, the productive age group in any economy.

Pedestrians are the most vulnerable road-users. They account for over 25% of road accident deaths and injuries in India. Pedestrian deaths and injuries are often preventable and yet pedestrian safety does not command the attention it merits. Police has an important role in prevention of pedestrian-related accidents. To take effective measures to safeguard pedestrians, it is important to understand the causes, ramifications and possible sustainable strategies to preventing pedestrian deaths and injuries.

In Indian cities, pedestrians are at a high risk of injury due to lack of pedestrian crossing facilities and indiscipline among road-users. More than half the people killed on roads in our cities each year are pedestrians. In Bengaluru, pedestrians killed are generally more than 40% of the total persons killed in road accidents. 

The major factors responsible for road accidents involving pedestrians are: overspeeding and negligent driving; drunken driving; lack of pedestrian facilities in roadway design and land use planning; inadequate visibility of pedestrians; inadequate enforcement of traffic laws; pedestrian distraction, including due to mobile phone use. Sustainable strategies to enhance pedestrian safety are:

1) Reducing pedestrian exposure to vehicular traffic: There are a number of specific engineering measures to ensure that. Most of these measures involve separating pedestrians from vehicles or reducing traffic volume: building usable sidewalks/footpaths; putting up marked crossings. The purpose of a marked crossing is to indicate the optimal or preferred location for pedestrians to cross. Marked crossings help to indicate pedestrian right-of-way and motorists need to yield to pedestrians at these points; building pedestrian overpasses and underpasses; design of mass transport routes — pedestrian safety is a key issue to consider in the design of any mass transport system, including routes and stops. Mass transport routes are usually locations on major arterial roads, which are the most dangerous types of urban streets. Though travelling by public transport may be one of the safest modes, transit passengers are at a high risk of crashes when walking to and from the station or stop.

2) Reducing vehicle speeds: One of the most effective ways to improve pedestrian safety is to reduce the speed of vehicles. If possible, speed management measures should be used alongside measures to reduce pedestrian exposure to vehicular traffic. Speed management is much more than setting and enforcing appropriate speed limits. It employs a range of measures in engineering, enforcement and education, with the aim of balancing safety and efficient vehicle speed on the road network.

3) Improving pedestrian visibility: A high percentage of pedestrian collisions and deaths occur due to low lighting conditions. There are a number of engineering and behavioural measures that make pedestrians more visible to motorists, especially during dusk, dawn and at night. 

4) Improving pedestrian and motorists’ safety awareness and behaviour: Changing the attitudes of drivers and pedestrians is a complex long-term undertaking that requires a variety of interventions to be implemented such as: Education, outreach and training -- safe road-user behaviour and a reduction in pedestrian fatalities depend not only on knowledge and skills but also on community support, perception of vulnerability and risk, social norms and models, engineering measures and law enforcement; mass media campaigns — these can be used to inform the public about pedestrian safety legislation, risk factors, impact of collisions and solutions available. Targeted and planned mass media and social marketing campaigns informing the public about pedestrian safety laws and risk factors are necessary to improve driver and pedestrian behaviour and enhance understanding of traffic issues such as traffic signs and right-of-way for all road users.

5) Traffic law enforcement: Traffic laws affecting pedestrian safety are largely aimed at controlling pedestrian and driver behaviour at intersections, crossings and others locations.  Comprehensive legislation is a key element of pedestrian safety, but legislation alone is not likely to facilitate behavioural change in the absence of law enforcement and adequate penalties.

6) Improving vehicle design for pedestrian protection: Motor vehicles have become increasingly safer for occupants, due to improvements in vehicle design. Until recently, vehicle design incorporated few features to protect pedestrians, but there is an increasing effort to include design elements that reduce the likelihood of pedestrian collision and/or reduce the severity of pedestrian injury in the event that a vehicle-pedestrian crash does occur.

7) Providing care for injured pedestrians: The primary goal in pedestrian safety should be to prevent road crashes from happening in the first place.  However, pedestrians do get injured, despite the best efforts and intentions. An efficient post-crash care response can minimise the consequences of serious injury, including long-term morbidity or mortality. Pedestrians struck by motor vehicles with high energy transfer end up with high residual locomotion disability and also have significantly higher mortality rates than occupants of vehicles.

The role of the police and other enforcement agencies is vital in implementing the above-mentioned strategies. Strict enforcement of traffic rules and disciplining pedestrians through penalties for jaywalking will go a long way in making our roads safe for pedestrians. 

(The writer is Additional DGP and Commissioner for Traffic and Road Safety, Bengaluru)

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