Wednesday , 20 March 2019

How Safe are we on Our Roads?

Our standards and laws are inadequate too and hence, everyone exploits these loopholes.

Many solutions are available. For pedestrians, minimising vehicle to human contact is a key start point. This could mean the use of walkways, skywalks, etc. For vehicle users, traffic signs and road safety furniture are crucial. We boast of speeds on our new roads, but safety support elements are still primitive, and are not cut out for such speeds. For example, we have guard rails which are more or less a contractual obligation for a road builder, but the guard rails that we use today are outdated by at least 15 to 20 years and are not exactly the right solution against an errant vehicle as they just flatten out on impact.

We need to start at the beginning and implement the plans then. We should be prepared not to compromise on these decided upon safety elements and should constantly be on the lookout for newer safety measures. Road safety is a continuously improving process and practice.

The mindset of the decision makers must change. Primarily, the idea that ?The road is meant for the vehicle? must be dispensed with. Users including people have a right-of-way on these roads. Once this happens, the Designers and Authorities will look at road safety from a completely different human perspective. And of course, we need better coordination among the various agencies. To be honest, we lag way behind in terms of safety and enforcement in developed countries

The Authorities must have an independent cell completely devoted towards improving road safety instead of burdening the road building Authorities themselves with this responsibility. That could work wonders. But then, our approach to road safety has to change and change quickly at that.

Proper highway codes are not in place: V Eshwaran, General Manager, Business Development, Hill & Smith Infrastructure Products India Pvt Ltd (HS IPI)

Road Safety seems to be an unachievable goal despite the existence of proper laws and availability of latest technology & solutions because proper Highway Codes are not in place. What are in place are broad specifications but traffic management, vehicle worthiness certificates and health & safety laws regarding passenger carrying vehicles are nonexistent. Putting in place a proper product code for road safety products is a must. We need to alter our product standards /codes to ?performance standards? from ?constituent based? standards.

Even if laws are in place, they are not enforced the way they should be. It is about time we induct technology into our enforcement system so that the enforcement agencies have the required tools to implement the law and improve the enforcement standards. Human intervention must be minimised as much as possible. The technology doesn?t fail us but the culture that displays lack of respect for life, and lack of proper infrastructure to support the technology aggravates the situation.

The solution lies in the introduction of internationally approved highway safety products /road furniture, e.g., barriers on Medians and Verges and also Bridge Parapet systems to reduce serious injuries and fatalities. The introduction of safety barriers will automatically reduce accidents by better controlling vehicle movements, i.e., eliminating U ? turns on medians and verge exits /entry.

It is important to provide properly tested and internationally approved systems from accredited manufacturers and not their imitations. The expectations from the enforcement agencies are always very high but these can be met provided they make a start ? that seems to be the main bottleneck besides the cost factor.

India needs one agency for better coordination among all the related agencies. Also, the decision makers must take decision faster in partnership with the solution providers. Since India has the dubious distinction of having the highest fatalities on Indian roads, it is a golden opportunity for the policy makers and all stakeholders to work very closely together to ensure that quality products are used in the Indian road network.

The product approval process in India is very lengthy ? it has no proper guidelines and time frame attached to it. No one has the answers to what and when things will happen. Unless this process is corrected and proper effective system is put in place, new technology cannot be used properly in India.

As we are investing huge public money and resources on building roads and highways, it is important that the road furniture on these is of highest international standards — no compromises must be made. The road builders, developers and government must look at the ?Life Cycle Cost? of the asset they are creating. This will go a long way in improving India?s road safety record.

Life insurance agencies need to come in the fray: Yuvraj Singh Ahuja, Director, Frontier Polymers

We have the laws. It is the implementation and enforcement that fails us. Since paltry fines of ?100 are not a deterrent any more, stricter enforcement will reduce accidents. Drunken driving, driving on the wrong side, crossing roads while the signal is red, over speeding and not having brake lights on commercial vehicles are some of the reasons that lead to accidents. All these need to be checked, defaulters must be prosecuted and heavy fines imposed. Where needed, licences must be suspended.

What is required is the will to enforce law. Also, law agencies are short on staff. But this gives us a good option to include technology and speed cameras as road safety measures. Proper use of technology, skilled work force to operate any equipment, and proper installation and maintenance along with good training are very important.

We are indisciplined on our roads but history tells us, we can be tamed. Delhi traffic police enforced heavy penalty of ?2000/- for getting into the lane marked for CWG in 2010, and a fine of ?5000/- for entering the BRT bus lane, and it made a huge difference. So, if the enforcement is good, everyone will follow the rules.

Plenty of technologies and solutions are available ? speed camera, night time speed cameras, ITS, etc. In China, cameras are installed on city roads to capture speed, the driver?s face and car number. This provides immense advantage for security. Correct identification of technology, correct installation and correct use are all of prime importance.

The solution providers expect the decision makers to adapt or get extinct. We need to have budgets for implementation. Why are we still reluctant to make installation of GPS system mandatory on state buses, taxis, autos or truck fleet when it will help in checking speed and location?

Life insurance agencies need to come in the fray. No insurance cover must be given for drunken driving or for driver not wearing a certified helmet. Like our Prime Minister had said for the economy, ?It is time to take tough decisions?, it is time we said the same for road safety laws.

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