The horrific high-speed car crash that killed Hosur DMK MLA Y Prakash’s son Karuna Sagar and six others—all in their 20s—in Bengaluru in the early hours of Tuesday should be a trigger to devise action plans to prevent such deaths. Such accidents threaten to be more frequent with the Covid-19 pandemic on a decline and the youth coming out in hordes to reclaim freedom that had been curtailed due to lockdowns and restrictions. While those restrictions are aimed at safety from Covid-19, similar measures need to be in place to deter motorists—particularly the youth—from using roads recklessly and posing a threat to pedestrians and themselves.
Given the fetish of the youth for high-end cars and bikes and the rush of adrenaline from high-speed drives/rides, it is a ready recipe for disaster in the face of weak enforcement, or even the lack of it. While inaugurating a seminar series on ‘Road safety challenges in India and preparation of an action plan’ by the International Road Federation in February this year, Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari pointed out that 70% of road death victims in India are in the working age-group of 18-45. With 415 road deaths per day, India holds an inglorious record of having the highest number in the world—even ahead of the US and China. The losses amount to 3.14% of the GDP.
A densely populated India has a vehicle population of 29.5 crores, mostly concentrated in the urban centres where the accident rate exceeds that in rural areas. However, it is not the vehicle population that is a worry but the behaviour of the motorists. Despite technology being pressed into service as part of enforcement, it finally boils down to the mind and behaviour of motorists in avoiding accidents to ensure safety on the roads. Wariness about death by Covid-19 is a priority today, but death by any other means is still death. Avoiding it and ensuring safety should be the focus of the authorities as well as the general public