It should be a matter of concern that the rate of road accidents has been going up. According to the latest data released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 16 lives are lost in road accidents every hour in India. Over 1.41 lakh people died in such accidents in 2014. The figure represented a three per cent increase in fatalities over the previous year’s. What’s more, the numbers of crashes and of people left injured — 4.5 lakh and 4.8 lakh respectively — were also at the highest levels since the recording of such data commenced. If Delhi registered the highest number of fatalities at 2,199, Chennai followed with 1,046. Tamil Nadu recorded the highest number of two-wheeler accidents.
Needless to say, most of these accidents are avoidable. They happen because of human failure, rather than mechanical failure. For instance, over-speeding is one of the primary causes of accidents. Another is drunken driving. Even government vehicles, which are supposedly driven by professionals, cause accidents. In the case of 1,232 Central Armed Police Forces deaths in 2014, 32 per cent was due to road accidents and only 7 per cent related to anti-terror operations. In other words, road accidents kill more jawans than insurgent attacks. The accident rates are higher in India when compared to those in developed nations that have more per capita motor vehicles. Where India stands apart is in wanton violation of road safety rules. If rules are followed strictly, there will be a drastic reduction in the number of accidents. In any discussion on road mishaps, the condition of roads is seldom mentioned.
Forget village roads, even state and national highways are not properly maintained. A ditch or an unscientifically constructed “speed breaker” can cause fatal accidents. It takes months and years to repair roads damaged by rains. It was a year ago that a Union cabinet minister died in a car crash, mainly since he was not wearing seat belt. It is mandatory for two-wheeler riders to wear helmets but very few care to follow this in the countryside. Speed limits are specified for every road but they are not followed. In the national capital, the colour scheme used for traffic signs was changed to correspond to the ruling party’s flag. Violators of rules escape by bribing traffic cops till they meet with death.