For safer roads
The Union government’s decision to establish a central body to address concerns pertaining to road safety all across the country is an important step towards better and safer roads in India. The proposed National Road Safety and Traffic Management Board, to be set up under the ministry of road transport and highways, will, however, have to surmount too many odds to match the global standards in design, construction, regulation and management of the roads and vehicles playing on them. The plan is to arm the board with significant powers, such as summon manufacturers of vehicles with faulty designs, recommend changes in road construction, plan and landscape engineering to minimize accidents, particularly during dark hours. In addition, maintenance of operational roads and ensure periodic repair work in a regulated manner to prevent hazards on the roads and national and state highways would also come under the board’s call. Extremely vital functions such as data collection, surveys of vehicular movements, lighting and construction details in accident-prone regions, demographics of those involved in run-ins with the law, among others, have often been neglected because no central organisation was in place to oversee the varied tasks.
Even though, global bodies such as World Health Organization, have been repeatedly stressing the need for coordinated action from the central and state governments and allied institutions to ensure safer and commuter-friendly roads, very little had been done until now. Latest government data shows a staggering loss of Rs 1 lakh crore every year because of road accidents. Heart-wrenchingly enough, despite having just one per cent of the world’s vehicular numbers, India accounts for over 10 per cent of total road fatalities, killing more than 1.38 lakh people in the year 2013 itself. Road accidents have shot up collateral damage, including medical costs, expenditure pertaining to legal, administrative and police procedures as well as damages to life and property. In addition, injury, impairment or untimely death caused by accidents also significantly dent our GDP, and without a proper social safety net, accident survivors are condemned to live a life of suffering, both medical and financial. Hopefully, once the apex board comes into being, such
concerns will be mitigated.