CHENNAI: The city’s road safety has come under fire with the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) report pointing out that the maximum number of road accidents occur here. And activists, motorists and road safety experts are not in the least surprised that there were 9,663 accident cases recorded in the city, through 2012.
Ask N S Srinivasan, former director of National Transportation, Planning and Research Centre (NATPAC), on the high number of incidents of road accidents and fatalities, and he blames both the government and the public. “The government does not have an action plan. They have not implemented proper road system,” he said. “Educating the public about the necessity to obey traffic rules is an exercise of paramount importance.”
He added that Indian road users are rude and discourteous. “People take the law into their hands and enjoy a ‘might is right attitude’. This is why scenes of people jumping the red signal is common on our streets,” he rues. Like M Alex Samuel, a student and regular road user, who does not wear a helmet. “It is something I am used to. I think accidents happen because of rash driving. I trust my driving skills enough to know that I don’t need protecting gear.” And in a philosophical note to boot, he adds, “We’re all going to die someday, no?”
And Samuel appears to be well-versed in the ways of the Chennai cop: “I know where they stand. So, I try to avoid those routes as much as I can.” His grudge is that the cops apprehend the teenage boys and let women slide.
Which is why the former NATPAC chief is not prepared to spare the government either. He is happy that the victims’ kin get compensation. But is that really reducing accident incidents, he asked. The government should look into utilising the resources of road safety fund in a better way. The aim should be to cut down on accidents, he stressed.
One effective way would be counselling people involved in accidents, he felt. Add to that rigorous testing classes to impart discipline to the drivers, especially youngsters. In this regard, he finds the present RTO scrutiny woefully inadequate. “In this country, we don’t find it essential to employ people of specific sciences background at the RTO level, when testing to issue license.”
But as a long-term remedy, he advocated pursuing public-private partnership (PPP) models for construction of better quality roads and maintenance. For the government, maintenance is tougher than construction. Citing the Trivandrum City Road Improvement Project, he said the PPP project was maintained by Trivandrum Road Development Company Ltd, a special purpose vehicle under the PWD.
Attempting to explain this, a senior Chennai Traffic Police official said, “These numbers have taken into account the extended area of Greater Chennai. This means that suburban highways are also being added to the tally. Delhi would have a much higher number too if all the accidents from the Gurgaon expressway are included.”