Tuesday , 17 September 2019

How Safe are we on Our Roads?

We may not be indisciplined on our roads always but we surely are unaware and orthodox. Safety should be looked upon as a necessity and not a compulsion. The basic principle that needs to be adopted is that new products on the market should be tested and if found satisfactory, should be standardised by the government.

The safety providers should educate the enforcement agencies about their respective products and then, if convinced with the product, the latter should ensure that the same is implemented by the contractors. The government should reimburse money to the contractors adopting such stringent and effective safety measures. Such an attitude will encourage the contractors to promote safety on their sites.

As a solution provider we, at BDI Group, would like to see the decision makers think beyond commercials at times. If a better solution is offered at a premium, it should be adopted for the value addition it brings to the site in terms of safety and convenience; for e.g., a plastic barricade has numerous advantages over a conventional steel barricade. Unfortunately, today very few contractors have replaced the traditional methods of safety at site with the new superior solutions at hand. The technology used to maintain the roads is more or less approached with the mindset of savings. A small example can be of barricading ? on a stretch of 1000mtrs, barricades of merely 100mtrs are kept at distance of 10mtrs each. If safety has to be achieved, the barricades have to be interlocked and water filled to avoid any mishap. Unless and until there is cohesive thinking on such lines, safety will be impossible to achieve.

A centralised agency for the country is the need of the hour: Hitesh Mehta, Director, Protek

Though Central and state governments frame rules for road safety, there is no adequate network between the two. The?main problem for road safety is decentralisation of road network as there is no single authority to enforce the rules and laws for the entire country. There are far too many transport departments looking after the country?s entire road network and infrastructure. Some roads are looked after by cities, some by states? road departments and others by agencies like gram panchayats. National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) and Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) too are involved along with road departments, municipal corporations and development authorities. At least four agencies work at one place at a given time and no agency works in coherence with the others.

Technologies and solutions haven?t reached everywhere. Often, technology fails as it is not made proper use of. Though road engineering and road quality are improving, proper road safety furniture is not installed on the roads. In certain states, the roads do not have proper signages too. Proper reflectors, night time driving props, delineators, etc., are also a must to ensure safety. Also, our drivers are not aware of the latest technologies. They don?t know the functions of the camera on the roads or of ATC and other technologies. Having the latest technologies means nothing if the drivers do not know how to use them. Again, the enforcement agencies are very inefficient. They don?t look into the reasons of accidents and the steps being taken to reduce them! There are no proper guidelines.

It is alarming that any person in India can get a licence without proper education and training. Naturally, we are indisciplined road users. Driving licence should be issued by competent authorities. Since most of our drivers are not educated, they only know how to drive but cannot read the messages. It is also frustrating that despite knowing the effect of drinking and driving, we continue to endanger our lives and that of others by flouting the norms. Abroad, rules on drunken driving are strictly enforced by specific departments formed for this purpose. So, the accident rate is very low there. We need such departments to instill discipline in us.

If there is centralisation of decision making for the entire road network and only one road department for the entire country, planning will fall in line. Right now if you travel 50 kms, you find good furniture, but just 50 km ahead, you find no furniture at all just because that area is handled by another agency. Since we have too many agencies, none of these work as they can blame each other. Unlike India, in developed countries, single agencies frame proper rules and plan the roads, signals and state highways. Then, their road departments maintain them. Hence, all roads look the same and the staff works in a coordinated manner.

When we approach the government authorities, we find that the officers or the engineers themselves do not have adequate knowledge on road safety. It is strange that they use yellow cat?s eye at some place, white cat?s eye at another and red at yet another place without properly understanding which colour must be used where. They replace cat?s eye not for road safety but for doling out repeat contracts. It beats the purpose.

The problem right now is of proper identification of the right reasons. We also lack in proper planning. Also, sufficient funds must be allocated for carrying out road works. There are proper manuals on light, signals, etc., which are the same in China, Bangkok, the UK, Sydney and Africa. We should have manuals for the roads too.

We need an independent cell devoted to road safety: Rajaram Subramaniam, COO, Metalmeccanica Fracasso India Pvt Ltd

The latest technology and solutions available in advanced countries for road safety have still not entered India entirely. We might have absorbed technology in many areas but in terms of road safety, we are still following old practices and trying to improve upon them. The time has come for a radical change towards safety on roads.

Authorities must realise that promoting new technology like toll systems, etc., is completely different from technology on road safety. The first is about effort-minimising by automation while the second is about human lives. Hence, the approach to each must be entirely different — it is not about building roads and smooth passage, but also about ?safe passage?.

Road safety can only improve, if everyone including Authorities, Contractors, etc., look at safety as the prime objective. As safety elements on a road are installed last, many road builders look at them as mere contractual obligations they must meet to move on. In such a rush, what attracts them the most is the cheapest solution instead of a safety product. Though the technology is available, we are still reluctant to absorb the best. We must ask ourselves: While spending money on road safety, are we really spending it on the right products and solutions which increase road safety?

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