Tuesday , 17 September 2019

How Safe are we on Our Roads?

The MoRTH is the nodal ministry for road safety. However, there are no road safety experts and qualified engineers who can manage the business in a dedicated manner. While the ministry does not have expertise and capacity to deliver road safety, there is no specialised or expert body which can cater to the management of road safety in the country. It does not help that we often neglect the basic norms of traffic and indulge in wrong way / lane driving, violation of helmet and seat belt law, etc.

In the planning process, all three elements ? the people, vehicles and the roads should be considered. At the international level, a great deal of research exists on the efficiency of traffic safety measures. The proposals for measures may involve research data collection, information on collisions, and organising traffic safety work. These are so-called indirect measures that can be categorised separately in the programme. The plan can be based on knowledge of organisational effectiveness (resulting from process evaluations, etc.). During the planning process, the options to implement, organise and finance the programme at the regional and local levels must be considered. To commit various organisations to the work, officials from different sectors should be involved in the work from the outset.

A multi-pronged approach needs to be adopted: There should be a definite action plan and specific target for the reduction of fatalities and other safety indicators; Regular awareness on road safety must be created for the citizens through mass channels of communication like newspapers and television; Education and training must be imparted to the road users on a daily basis; and, a well developed and designed public transit system must be provided in the country. Properly organised and efficient public transport for all cities, specified traffic engineering system on the road system and its operation, strict enforcement of law to strictly penalise those not adhering to the basic traffic rules and norms, and a transparent system with well distributed responsibilities to realise the ultimate objective of road safety are some other measures that need to be adopted. For the execution of road projects under BOT or DFBOT, the road authority along with the concessionaire, undergoes an agreement with the state government. This agreement is particularly for provision of land required for the development and building of roads as per the design specification.

Till date, the situation is such that the required land never gets acquired on time due to unfounded resistance of land owners, apathy of road agency and several other reasons. This leads to highly unsafe and deficient roads. It is prudent for the solution providers and the decision makers to work very closely and try to minimise the hindrance in upgrading the safer roads for the country.

Various related agencies should work in a cohesive manner. They should bring in the best expertise to the country and organise effective and efficient road safety management. Efficient management would mean directing of resources to attain defined objectives. Successful road management requires a number of integrated activities and links between them to realise safety on roads.

The World Bank study (2002) has identified the ?poor safety outcomes? as one of the significant transport sector deficiencies in India. Things are getting bad to worse each year and yet, nothing significant seems to be happening to improve the road safety situation in the country. India seems to be almost stuck at the threshold of the third and the final phase of the road safety development process which other countries have gone through and benefited from.

Road safety is being treated in a laissez faire way in India. Among the important reasons for such a situation are lack of national commitment to the road safety, bureaucratic inertia, and public apathy to human suffering and economic losses due to road accidents.

Material not complying with specification must strictly be rejected: Ajay Bundiwal, Director, Rama Retroreflectives

Our country is densely populated with a variety of vehicles on highways, and addition of four lane highways has increased the speed of traffic. To compensate these two factors, we need a good retro-reflective product for early warning or maneuverability. Every accident averted not only saves precious lives but indirectly saves national expenditure on liabilities like insurance, hospital, police, etc. Moreover, the total money spent on quality traffic safety measures works out to be less than 5% of the total project cost. The enforcement agencies need technically qualified, experienced and quality cautious entrepreneurs to come forward in this business. Entrepreneurs qualifying these criteria shall be encouraged.

The enforcement agencies / decision makers must lay proper specifications and strictly adhere to them. Material not complying with specification must strictly be rejected and asked to be replaced. For precaution, one sample must be called at every time of procurement and must be compared with the actual supply.

Standards must be strictly enforced: Bharat S Modi, Director, Reflexite Safety India Pvt Ltd

Recent advances in road construction technologies and superior vehicular engines have changed the road safety concepts drastically. What was being practised earlier is no more valid for today?s situation on the road. Roads have become wider, smoother and less curvaceous. Vehicles are faster, swifter, and more maneuverable. This has resulted in more risky situations on the road.

The earlier standards for road safety signs were good enough for the then prevailing speed on the roads. Today?s situation calls for more stringent standards, like what is being practised internationally. The retroreflective material used for making road signs is now available in total nine types as classified by ASTM D4956. These different types are used for various road situations like expressways, national highways, state highways, district roads and village roads depending upon the average vehicular speed on the respective roads. These road signs are either shoulder mounted or gantry mounted asking for various observation and entrance angles. Vehicles can be made more visible at night by using retroreflective vehicle conspicuity marking tapes of specified standards. In Europe, ECE 104, and in India AIS 090 standard govern the regulation. In India, C.M.V.R. 104 (Fitment of reflectors) is already amended to this effect. While issuing fitness certification under C.M.V.R. 62 (Fitness Certification) to any commercial vehicle, it is mandatory to check the fitment of reflective marking tapes on vehicles as per C.M.V.R.104 by transport authority. In European countries these standards have already been laid down and are strictly enforced resulting into reduced road accidents and deaths. Now we must follow them, of course in Indian context.

We must adopt the road safety regulations practised in developed countries, since these technologies and solutions are already available in India. However, even after adopting them, if they are not implemented and enforced strictly, we will continue to put the road users in risky situations. In order to ensure strictness in the enforcement, a regular auditing will be necessary at various levels.

India is a vast country. Whatever decisions are made with regard to road safety, they need to be communicated, educated and implemented in every nook and corner of the country. There has to be a common platform of understanding and interpretations. A particular road sign must be perceived in the same way whether it is installed in north, south, west or east region of the country.

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