THE Himachal Pradesh police data for this year, till September, reveal statistics that are loaded with potentially fatal repercussions. Two-wheeler riders behind 43.5 per cent of the 384 accidents involving them did not possess valid driver’s licence (DL). Their recklessness cost the lives of 131 riders and left 231 wounded. This frightening story is the story of driving all across the country. With just 1 per cent of the world’s vehicles, India accounts for 11 per cent of the global death toll in road mishaps. The around 4.5 lakh road crashes that kill nearly 1.5 lakh people and injure several lakh every year are rendered worse as they impose a severe financial burden on the victims and their families.
The only way accident-proneness can be curtailed is by strictly enforcing and following rules. But, sadly, many people have acquired the DL through dubious means, without passing the test that equips him/her with road safety rules. It is commonly known that fake addresses are resorted to get the DL to bypass a ‘strict’ office that refuses to bend the rules. A countrywide uniform model exam is needed to quell this malaise. Not wearing helmets, using mobiles, drunk driving and overspeeding are the major offences that put both the driver and other innocent road users in danger.
In this context, Tamil Nadu, which was the worst performer in 2016, offers an exemplary model. Earlier this year, it won an award by the Centre for impressively bringing down its road accidents by 38 per cent and deaths by over 54 per cent in four years since 2016, despite the total number of vehicles in the state rising by around 30 per cent. The method employed is one that is well known, but rarely implemented. The prominent steps include cancelling/suspending DLs of errant drivers, road safety awareness drives, including road safety in school curricula, using IT to collect real-time accident data to help ambulances reach victims within the golden hour, shutting of liquor shops on highways and incorporating road safety work in appraisals of field officers. If all states sped up to halt the offenders, the accident rate would accelerate to near-zero levels.
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