A study by the Road Accident Sampling System-India has shown that 20 per cent of fatal car accidents in India could have been avoided with modern crash avoidance technologies like antilock breaking system (ABS) and Electronic Stability Programme (ESB). Introduction of such technologies in EU nations and China has already led to reduction in road fatalities. Even developing nations like Argentina, Brazil, Columbia and Uruguay have legislated for airbag and ABS. Brazil and Russia will soon have legislation in place to take compliance to 100 per cent levels. China already has a very high adoption rate. Europe will make ABS mandatory even for two-wheelers next year, while for cars, it has existed for seven years.
Unfortunately, India is a laggard and has the lowest global installation rates of ABS and ESP. The government must take immediate steps to ensure India, which has the highest rate of road fatalities, adopts the technologies. Mobile phones are fast turning into a killer, accounting for 20 per cent of fatal road accidents worldwide annually, half of which are on Indian highways. Pioneering new technology developed by Abdul Shabeer, a doctoral scholar at Coimbatore, and his colleagues, will jam mobile phones that truckers use on their long-distance hauls and thus prevent accidents. The jamming system operates whenever the driver turns on the ignition.
The key lies in greater knowledge, understanding and use of devices to avert mishaps. There is no reason why ABS and ESP can’t be installed more widely in vehicles. Why must India not catch up with others in introducing safety devices and standards which have become the norm in many forward-looking countries? The Centre could take the lead in formulating new standards through executive action or legislation, if necessary. That India has the highest fatalities on road is a truly dubious distinction. More stringent laws against drunken driving are also the need of the hour to stem careless driving and accidents.