Driving on the wrong side of the road, improper signals and potholes are some of the reasons that result in 70 deaths per hour on Indian roads. MUSBA HASHMI speaks with stakeholders who talk about how technology and compulsory road safety education in schools can bring down the accident rate
On March 18, 2018, an SUV rammed into a canter resulting in the death of three doctors and leaving four injured. The horrifying high-speed crash happened in the wee hours of the morning at the Yamuna Expressway when seven doctors from AIIMS were heading to Agra. The accident was so fatal that it took half-an-hour for the police to extricate the victims from the vehicle. Later in the day, two other people were killed in an accident when a UP Roadways bus fell off the road because the driver dozed off.
On January 2, 2019, four people including a minor were killed in a deadly car accident at the Yamuna Expressway and three people were seriously injured. The tyres of the SUV burst which resulted in the accident. The accident was so severe that head of one of the deceased was decapitated from his body while another person’s torso was amputated.
Such deadly road accidents are a common sight on highways due to high-speeding vehicles. To address this issue SIAM (Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers) in association with Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and Delhi Police held a seminar on emerging trends in safety on roads in the Capital. The seminar aimed at raising awareness on the issue of road accidents and how to prevent them.
Mahesh Rajoria, treasurer, SAFE and advisor, Maruti Suzuki said: “Most of the accidents happen due to the lack of seatbelts. People think that airbags are there to protect them but truth be told that airbags will only work properly if the seat belt is deployed. Airbags only provide 25-30 per cent protection in accidents and the majority 70 per cent protection is given by seat belts.”
Taj Hassan, Special Commissioner of Traffic Police, Delhi who was present at the seminar said that there are multiple reasons of road accidents and it is a multi stakeholder’s responsibility to prevent them. “There are various reasons that contribute to road accidents, they are — road condition, road engineering, improper speed calming measures, driver's expertise or failure, vehicle fitness and the facility provided for pedestrian crossings, which makes for this complex issue. Then there are a number of drink and drive cases, rash driving and over speeding cases and we do approximately 200 challans every day for such cases,” he tells you adding that these issues can only be tackled when there is proper awareness among the public and the rules are implemented more seriously.
“The challenges of enforcing the accident preventive measures are like whenever a driver will see a policeman standing he will wear his helmet or seat belt and as soon as he crosses the policeman he will again get back to its original state. In such situation, the system should lay more strict rules and proper implementation of the rules should be done to prevent it from happening. Also more speed calming measures should be taken and road conditions should be analysed on a more frequent basis. The reason behind this is irresponsible behaviour of the public is lack of awareness. Road safety measures should be taught to each individual of the society and it should be the people’s responsibility to take road rules more seriously. It should be added as a part of the school’s curriculum so that students too get to understand their roles and responsibilities. This has to be done from the grass root level of the society to ensure positive results,” Hassan opines.
Prashant Banerjee, Executive Director, SIAM said that the Government and the automobile companies have come up with certain road safety measures that will help prevent accidents. “We are almost near the concept of developed countries in terms of safety levels and certain car crash norms have been mandated by the Government and they will come into effect from July. Some of these rules include airbags requirement in every model of the car, seat belt reminders and speed alerts. The first speed alert will raise an alarm when the car speed reaches 80kmph and the second one will create an alarm when the car reaches 120kmph,” he tells you adding that there are certain safety rules laid down for the buses also.
When it comes to bigger vehicles like buses there is a prescribed weight limit for the number of passengers that can be carried in a bus. This is laid down under the ASI63 rule which says for a normal person the weight limit is 75kg per person and for children it is 50kg per person. There are certain rules which decide what type of seats should be there in the school buses and what kind of window panes should be there.
NS Talib, Assistant Vice-President & Operating Head, Honda Car India, said that along with the rise in infrastructure the number of accidents have also increased in the last four-five years with almost 70 deaths per hour on roads being reported everyday. “The infrastructure has gone up in the last few years and with this rise in infrastructure the number of road accidents have also increased. Seventy deaths are reported on roads per hour. The reason being bad commuting habits which includes wrong side driving, potholes which act as a natural speed breaker, improper signages and traffic light malfunction which thereby results in violation of road rules,” he explains.
He insisted that technology can only provide 25 per cent assistant in preventing and managing road accidents and the rest 75 per cent is upto the public.
“Technology can only prevent 25 per of the accidents. The rest will only happen when the mindset of the people will change. For this we have to educate our drivers on road safety and the preventive measures. There is urgent need to create more awareness and have to take this issue more seriously,” he says.
Talking about certain safety measures that will be now incorporated in the two wheelers and four wheelers Talib tells you that there are new systems that have come up with to ensure proper safety of the public.
The cars will now be equipped with a front camera that can sense any obstruction on the road. Whenever there will be an obstruction on the road the system will generate vibrations which will be sent to the steering wheel and the driver can sense them. This system is called Controlled Mitigation System. Another system that will help prevent road accidents is Lane Keeping Assisting System. This system will keep the car inside the prescribed lane and avoid any accidents or crashes. But this system will only work if all the vehicles are moving in a single direction and if any car is moving in the wrong direction and in the wrong lane then this system will go for a toss.
Some manufactures have already started providing this system but unfortunately the drawback of this system is it will not work if the driver will switch if off. Some drivers get irritated with the alerts and vibrations and they decide to switch it off and it seems like there is no such system in the car. And this issue can only be tackled when the mindset of the people will change. As far as the two wheelers are concerned, they will be equipped with Combined Braking Mitigation System. This system will automatically reduce the vehicle's speed if it will sense any obstruction on the road. The other system is Automatic Braking System which will help the vehicle to maintain its balance even if the brakes are applied suddenly. This will exclude the chances of losing balance and falling down. So these are some of the preventive measures that are being taken up by the automobile manufacturers to make their road experience smooth and reduce the risk of road accidents.
KK Kapila, Chairman, IRF and CEO-MD, Intercontinental Consultants and Technocrat Pvt Ltd opines that it is everyone’s duty to ensure that proper safety measures are being taken up by the public. “It is a multi-stakeholder’s responsibility to make sure that road rules are followed by one and all. The automobile manufacturers should also make it mandatory to buy a helmet along with the two wheelers. They should sell their two wheelers only if the customer buys an ISI mark helmet along with the vehicle. This should be done by all the manufacturers at large and not just by a couple of big brands,” he says adding that revised NCERT books for schools have been uploaded on SIAM’s website which promotes road safety measures among children and it can be downloaded free of cost.
The solution or safety measures according to Harjeet Singh, Executive Advisor, Hero MotoCorp Ltd has to touch the masses to be effective. “According to a survey it showed that the number of two wheelers accidents and fatalities have increased from the year 2008 to 2017. My recommendation is that any solution or safety measure will be effective only when it touches or reaches out to the masses. For this proper and appropriate education should be there for every individual of the society. Education in schools and colleges should not be only about giving lectures about road safety and going away but also teaching the students practically. They should be made to follow the rules every time they step out of their home and they should be taught to become a responsible citizen themselves,” he tells you.
Neeti Sarkar, CEO and PD, NATRiP, tells you that safety is of prime concern now because of the alarming fatality figures on road. “With emerging technologies and the strengthening of law and regulations, situation in India is bound to improve in spite of high traffic density and vast climatic ranges. NATRiP is setting up more testing facilities to ensure vehicles’ safety condition. Testing agencies and Original Equipment Manufacturers will work together on safety of Indian roads,” Sarkar says.
‘Accidental deaths are preventable’
Road accidents are not uncommmon in India. But the gravity of the situation can be gauged from what Dr Tej Prakash Sinha, Assistant Professor, Emergency Medicine, Jai Prakash Narayan Apex Trauma Centre, AIIMS has to tells you.
“There are almost 220 patients that comes to the trauma centre every day and out of which almost 50 per cent are road injury cases. And out of these 220 patients 20 per cent are seriously injured or require some kind of urgent intervention,” Sinha tells you.
Talking about the death rate in road accident cases he said: “There are two types of cases. First is death during initial care which is in the first 24 hours of being admitted. Last year out of 9,000 patients 185 deaths were reported so death rate is not that high but cases of serious injury are very high. Second, when the patient dies on the spot or is brought dead to the hospital and approximately 300 patients were reported brought dead last year.”
Sinha has a solution on how to prevent the post-crash deaths that may happen on the way to hospital. “These deaths are largely preventable and can be prevented by a Robust Hospital System. The Robust Hospital System is accommodating the bystanders of the accident as responsive individuals who can provide some help to the patient. There should be a legal framework which can help save the patient. The bystanders should have some kind of training so that they can make instant call for an ambulance and they should be smart enough to identify that the place where the victim is lying is safe or not,” he tells you.
Also, if the victim is lying in between the road they should be able to transfer him to a safer place and should be able to do something to sustain the life of the victim till the ambulance arrives. This can simply come under promoting trained and smart bystanders or first responders. “Second, there should be well-equipped ambulance services which can provide the initial care to the patient on his way to the hospital. We are working with National Health Mission and Ministry of Health to promote this initiative,” Sinha says and tells you that 79 per cent cases are of two wheelers and pedestrian accidents which happen because of wrong lane driving and skipping the traffic signals.
He tells you that the most common type of injuries are head, muscular and bone related. “Some other common injuries are reported in the limbs because that is where the person seeks balance from after falling. Also in majority of the cases the death is caused due to excessive bleeding. Almost 30-35 per cent deaths in accident cases are caused due to excessive bleeding and they are largely preventable by following simple safety measures like wearing your helmets and seat belts,” Sinha says.
The other common reason for deaths in case of two wheelers is brain haemorrhage which happens because of the absence of helmets or because the quality of the helmet is not good or because the helmet was not tied properly.