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Road Accidents In North-east India : A Growing Concern

Road accidents primarily depends on obeying traffic rules and using right safety gears

We, Indians pay a fair amount of money for our roads — from taxes on fuel, road, and vehicle to Toll.  But we don’t get a whole lot of road safety in return. More than 1, 50,000 people die in road accidents in our country every year.

Does anyone really care? Do we follow traffic rules to drive safe toprevent accidents?

Though Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, and Karnataka record the highest number of accidents in our country, the accident severity is nothing less in the Northeast. Among the Northeast states, Mizoram, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, and Tripura have the highest number of road accidents.

Road Safety In Tripura

Road safety in north east india

One of the Seven Sister States in North- East India, Tripura is blessed with unexplored forests, lush green valleys, hills, and beautiful waterfalls. But the other side of the coin is that traffic-related deaths are again on the rise in Tripura after two years of slight decline. 

The overall number of people killed in traffic crashes, including pedestrians, passengers, cyclists, motorcyclists, and drivers, was 161 in 2017,down from 173 in 2016, according to ‘ROAD ACCIDENTS IN INDIA – 2017 by the Road Transport & Highways Transport Research Wing.  And, the numbers didn’t show signs of dropping in 2018 either (we must wait a little more for 2019 data!).

Be it in National Highways or in State Highways, motor vehicles share the road with people traveling by other means – such as bicyclists,bikers, and pedestrians. Due to the disparity in size and power, when road collision happens with other type of vehicles or a pedestrian, the consequences become tragic. During the last two years, the share of pedestrians and two-wheeler riders in total fatality (including States and Union Territories)accounted for about 33% and 13.8% respectively. These numbers are alarming.

This may not come as much of a surprise – of the 48,746 two-wheeler riders who lost their lives, a whopping 73.8% did not wear helmets. Other causes include traffic rule violations, not wearing seat belts, over-aged vehicles, overloading,over speeding, drunk-driving, mobile phone usage whilst driving, driving on wrong side etc. That said, we cannot neglect the fact that 3-years after Motor Vehicle Amendment Bill (2016) fatal head injuries from road accidents have started to decline, well, to a certain extent. The reason? Motorcyclists started wearing appropriate ISI-marked helmets. To further the efforts, The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways even put a ban on non-ISI helmets effective since January 15 2019.

What as a bike/car driver you can do to ride safe?

Sure, some accidents happen due to someone else’s negligence, for instance, trucks hitting bikes and cars. However, a good percent accident happens because of car and bike riders themselves. It’s true that you can’t control other’s act, but you can control yours. Here are a few essential things you as a motorcyclist or car driver can do to AVOID an accident.

Keep eyes on the road, not on your phone

“I never saw it/him/her” is the most common phrase used after an accident. One of the most common causes here is the habit of using a mobile phone while driving. The reasons why one shouldn’t use the phone is simple.Even a 2-second distraction – taking the eyes off the road to answer the call –can kill or leave you permanently disabled. Unless you’re using hands-free along with mobileholder for bike or car, you shouldn’t talk on the phone while driving. If you absolutely must answer the call, wait until you’re parked safely.

Never, ever drink & drive

There is a reason this message needs be repeated! According to the studies conducted by Abdul Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology India’s drunk-driving death rate is 19/day. Next time you’re drunk, don’t drive yourself home. Instead, get an Uber taxi or call your friend or family member. Just don’t put yourself or others in danger.

Slow down, Speed Kills

As the famous campaign one-liner goes, ‘speed kills’! Driving at 65 kmph on a road where the limit is 45 kmph might save you 10 to 15 minutes. But it also increases the likelihood of speed-related crashes and deaths. In general, the faster you ride, the longer it takes to halt the vehicle. If you really need to get to the office or college as quickly as possible, follow this fool-proof idea: Leave Early. Don’t try to save time on road.

Limit Night Driving

For every kilometer you drive, the odds of meeting fatal crashes increase three-fold at night than in the day. In fact, color recognition,distance and depth perception, or vision can be compromised at night. Not to forget those headlight glares from the oncoming vehicles that’ll blind you.

Watch the weather

Driving through heavy rain or fog is a strict ‘No’. If you have little choice but to drive through bad weather conditions,remember these: drive slowly, leave extra space for stopping, and watch the curves. If the weather gets worse, stop the vehicle, find a safe place, and wait it out.

Wear Safety Gears

And, finally, get used to the habit of wearing safety gears whenever you are on a bike or in a car – no excuses, please !

Other important things you shouldn’t overlook are,

  • Keeping a safe distance between the vehicle ahead
  • Riding in open zones of traffic in front of or behind other vehicles

Positioning the vehicle between lanes, watching out left turning cars and trucks, etc.

What the Government can do to curb road accidents and fatality ?

Government can increase the awareness about road safety

After 2015’s ‘Brasilia Declaration on Road Safety’, other signatory countries are doing a much better job of reducing road crashes and death toll. Government of India has taken some major steps like The National Road Safety Policy, Motor Vehicle (Amendment) Bill 2016, Highway Advisory System etc, yet we have a poor record of road safety.

The average reduction in road accidents in India over the period of 2015-’16 was only 4.1% whereas 2017 showed a minimal drop of 3.27%. Though the period 2017-’18 didn’t show much improvements, the efforts to reduce road accidents by 50% within 2020 are in full swing. Here are some modest proposals to curb accidents.

Safer Road Infrastructure

Speeding and drunk-driving are the main reasons for road accidents. But potholes, ‘under construction’ roads, poorly engineered speed breakers, and open drains on the roads contribute equally in raising the fatality rate. For designing better and safer roads in rural and urban areas,the Government has a multi-pronged strategy (combining 4 Es – Engineering,Enforcement, Education and Emergency Care) in place, but we still have a long way to go.

Road safety education

Road safety education is essential for citizens of all ages. Hence,it’s imperative to escalate efforts to improve road safety awareness via publicity campaigns and training. Educating about the helpline numbers and encouraging blood donation should also be the part of road awareness campaigns. Creating traffic sign awareness, zebra lines,speeding limits, and wearing safety shields among school and college goers will also go a long way.

Address lack of manpower

With a growing economy and easy EMIs adding more vehicles on Tripura’s roads, the shortfall of traffic police personnel is indeed a booming issue. For a population of around 36 lakh, Tripura traffic police just have a little higher than 500 officers – no wonder accidents, traffic congestion and violations are on the rise. Adding more manpower is the first-thing Government should do – the sooner the better !

Technology Solutions

Leveraging technological advancements to improve road safety can go a long way. For instance, an Adaptive Traffic Light Timer Control (ATLTC) adjusts its green light cycle to match the real-time traffic. That means the green lights stay longer time when there is congestion. Less to no traffic means shorter green lights. With signals constantly being captured and uploaded, ATLTC’s ensure traffic moves freely. In addition, ASCT helps to reduce hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emission due to improved traffic flow. Other solutions that come handy in transforming the roads safer include LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) gun, digital speed boards, speed governors,real-time variable message signs, and induction loops.

Final Thoughts

Winning the fight against poor road safety and road deaths don’t happen overnight. To start with, the state and its people need a complete social, political, and behavioral shift in how road safety is perceived. This is not to say that modest road safety proposals aren’t important. But those small efforts may go in vain if the Government, NGOs, emergency services,health bodies, communities, and private bodies fail to collaborate. To sum up, don’t sit and hope for safe roads. Do your part first – obey traffic rules!

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