Road to Safety

  • IASbaba
  • November 22, 2021
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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Nov 20: Road to Safety – 


  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation
  • GS  3: Infrastructure – Roads

Road to Safety

Context: The third Sunday of November every year is observed as the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims – to remember the millions of people who’ve been killed and seriously injured on the world’s roads…and to acknowledge the suffering of all affected victims, families and communities. 

  • Globally, over 3500 people die every day on the roads, which amounts to nearly 1.3 million preventable deaths and an estimated 50 million injuries each year – making it the leading killer of children and young people worldwide. 
  • An estimate suggests road accidents could cause around 13 million deaths and 500 million injuries during the next decade, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. 

Global Efforts

  • Recognizing the enormity of the problem and the need to act, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution in September 2020, proclaiming the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030, with the ambitious target of preventing at least 50% of road traffic deaths and injuries by 2030. 
  • This year marks the beginning of the Second Decade for Action for Road Safety. 
  • The Global Plan on Improving Road Safety was launched by the United Nations last month, calling on countries to deliver on the resolution’s target by make roads safer in the coming years, saving lives, and preventing serious injuries. 

India and Road safety

It is a major concern for India – a side effect of urbanisation that has mainly 3 levels.

Level 1: Infrastructure

  • It’s not just a Government issue; it is a city planning issue around city design, planning, architecture etc.
  • With advancement of technology, the most developed project undertaken along with real estate are the massive roads building projects.
  • While new roads are being built, faster automobiles are being invented in high numbers making road safety a crucial problem.
  • Number of cars over roads have increased over time. Most of the new constructions are around highways and flyovers. The most affected by these constructions are pedestrians and cyclists who face utmost problem while on roads.
  • Hence, it’s not just a policy issue but also about city planning. When a road is planned, crossing, over-bridges, under-bridges has to be also thought about.

Level 2: Dealing with road accident

  • How quickly the person who has met with the road accident is responded to has to be improved.
  • Citizen behaviour is important- how quickly bystanders reach out, how quickly an ambulance or police calls, how quickly ambulance reaches patient, it reaches hospital and how quickly the person gets critical care.

Level 3: Behavioural attitude

Are the traffic rules followed? Are seatbelts and helmets worn? Is quality of equipment, taking care of vehicle etc. maintained regularly?

  • Drivers’ behaviour, especially of the two wheeler riders, is very rude. Not many are ready to accept the importance of helmet and also there is a need of making better quality of helmets. In many countries, there are designated lane driving for cycles, and two wheelers.
  • In western countries, the pedestrian rights are respected where there is dedicated time and space allotted for them on roads.
  • More and more people in India are using seatbelt because of the fear of traffic police. Penalties can get to change the people’s behaviour for some time, but for long term behaviour change, it has to come from inside. Wearing the seatbelt correctly reduces the risk of death and crash by 61%. Often the driver wears the seatbelt but not the co-passenger along with people in backseat.
  • There needs behaviour change from both sides. Pedestrian should know when to cross the road and when not to. The driver should respect the pedestrian rights.

The Way Forward

  • Guidelines on good Samaritans: Lack of awareness about SC guidelines about ‘good Samaritan’ is visible. Though it says that the helper of victims of road accident will not be harassed by police, yet people are scared of getting involved in legal matter. It can only change when there is greater awareness. Awareness starts early, and the best medium is school and colleges. India’s legal system is more complicated. But the simple guidelines of SC hopes to encourage people to help victims of road accident.
  • Golden hours of safety: The more critical kind of crashes, the first 48 hours are most critical. Governments have recognised and implemented policies. It doesn’t depend on person who is in crash or the driver because often the driver themselves are hurt. Here bystanders have to take action. Scheme 108 ambulance is very helpful in this area. However, there are enough services in cities but on highways and rural areas, these kinds of schemes need to play a major role.
  • Stakeholder Engagement: Efforts from different stakeholders such as the community, transport sector, insurance sector, health sector, police, legal sector, educational institutions, highway engineers, vehicle manufacturers, public agencies, NGOs and etc. are needed.

Here, India can learn from Sweden’s ‘Vision Zero’ approach which focuses on three things

  • Safety comes first– human life and health above all other transportation challenges. Account for the human error– transportation systems, including roads and vehicles, need to be designed taking into account that people might make mistakes, so that when crashes occur owing to human error, it does not result in fatalities or serious injuries.
  • We’re in it together– there is a joint responsibility for safety between the road user and road authorities. Conventional thinking is to attribute the cause of most road accidents to a single factor, and more often than not, to driver or pedestrian behaviour.
  • Coordinated strategy– comprehensive and consolidated strategy to road safety that involves all authorities and agencies responsible for road transport systems. Thus, departments working in silos will have limited impact, as road safety is a multi-disciplinary problem. It requires unified strategic vision to be set that lays out the mechanisms for coordination between all stakeholders.

Can you answer the following questions?

  1. How much attention will the Global Plan be able to attract to road safety worldwide? What kind of action is required to not just reduce road fatalities and accidents, but also increase awareness and sensitivity about road safety?
  2. What is the importance of road safety in the Indian economy and society? Discuss

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