This isn't ACCIDENT, We Are Killing Our Own
- Kanwar manjit Singh
This isn't ACCIDENT, We Are Killing Our Own



Imagine a Boeing 747, full to capacity, crashing everyday, every single day all through the year, in India! That is happening on our roads since more than 350 people are dying every day in road accidents. 
 
Out of 100 road accidents in India, people die in 28. Out of 100 road accidents in Punjab, people die in 76. Punjab is now on top of the fatality rate in road accidents. This, when fatality rate is recorded very poorly. In Europe or the United States, a person succumbing to his injuries within 30 days of the accident is counted among road accident fatalities. In India, unless someone dies on the spot or in the next one or two days, the fatality data does not reflect that statistic. 
 
Anyone with a reasonable conscience and a minimal level of sanity should find these figures shocking. Alternatively, every morning's newspapers should be shocking enough. A mobike rider being crushed under the wheels of a passing bus in front of hundreds of people on a busy road is such a common small-time staple news item that even junior reporters do not go out into the field to investigate.
 
Any trainee on late night duty in a newspaper office is expected to take down the details from the police chowki. A bus raming into a car and killing five people is a three-column story only if the victims are part of a marriage party or all belong to one family. Small time accidents are never news, big accidents make news if they happen on a non-newsy day in a metro, that too when a camera team can be spared.
 
To attract our eyeballs with a reasonable degree of certainty, a bus has to fall from a flyover. When one did recently during the morning rush hour, senior editors in most TV news rooms pulled off the story by afternoon since people had not died, or at least enough number had not died.
 
But then, we have often heard this question being posed by people to one another, or to the experts about why so many accidents happen. There are many answers that you would hear, and many suggestions. To quickly list them here, there would be talk of separate pathways for pedestrians, stress on public transport to reduce car density on roads, proper signals, zebra crossings, speed limits, police presence, highway patrolling, post-accident emergency response system etc.
 
Each one of these suggestions is valid, but does it answer the question of why do accidents happen? 
 
As long as we think of accidents as something merely connected to an event happening on the road at that particular moment, we will not get to the right answer. ‘How do accidents happen’ should be a separate question from ‘Why do accidents happen’. It is easy to blame a tempo driver for being asleep behind the wheel, and mark it as a cause of accident, but it is more difficult to connect it to the larger political and economic forces. When a distant state, say Orissa or Bihar or Uttar Pradesh, implements social welfare programmes in a poor way, the expenses of a family on health care go up astronomically because government hospitals run out of medicines or do not have doctors, it brings new pressures on the one son working as a driver in Punjab. When he drives the tempo, does not bother about getting proper rest or sleep, plumps for some extra overtime, it leads to him falling asleep behind the wheel.
 
When his poor old mother is forced to go to a private hospital and the family's expenditure on her treatment increases, he is under pressure to send more money home. When the labour laws are not implemented, and he is prone to exploitation, he cannot say no to his employer even if he didn't get proper sleep.
 
Yet, if he runs over a pedestrian, the cause of accident will not be marked out as poor planning and implementation of social welfare policies in Bihar or Orissa or UP, but because the driver was found dozing off behind the wheel.
 
That is not a true cause of accident, but then we don't have the kind of media or the government that is interested in actually investigating the ‘actual’ killer.
 
Well meaning activists working to reduce the number of accidents need to connect their fight to larger issues facing the country. In a paradigm of society where the stature of a man is measured by the length of your sedan, accidents cannot be reduced by issuing advisories.
 
In a system where road policies are made only to facilitate the movement of cars, policy planners will never take into account the interests of the pedestrians, the cyclists, the labourers, the poor roadside dwellers.
 
We need to challenge false generalisations: Accidents do not affect everyone equally. "A speeding car being driven by a poorly trained driver makes no distinction between poor and rich,” we are told.
 
That is patently false. It does make a distinction.
 
There is enough empirical data to show that an extraordinarily large number of people dying on our roads are pedestrians, and out of them, an extraordinarily large number are poor people. The first-ever Global Status Report On Road Safety, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies and covering information from 178 countries accounting for over 98% of the world’s population, said that almost half of the estimated 1.27 million people who die in road traffic crashes every year are pedestrians, motorcyclists and cyclists.
 
The needs of these vulnerable groups of road users are not being met, it said, even in rich countries.
 
In India, the debate is simply not moving beyond homilies about limiting speed, reducing drink-driving, and increasing the use of seatbelts, child restraints and motorcycle helmets.
 
The truth is that while the laws necessary to protect people are either not in place or are not comprehensive, our governments at the Centre and in states are actually creating legislation and conditions designed to increase road accident deaths.
 
When did you last see the initiative on giving sufficient attention to the needs of pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists who end up in clinics and hospitals?
 
Does the Punjab government have any consistent policy of compensation for road accident victims? Have we seen any criminal proceedings ever being undertaken against any public authority after any accident?
 
We have become so immune to the "Bus rams into car” or "Truck runs over three pedestrians” kind of news stories that accidents now jolt us only if there is a deadbody after a hit and run outside our house. Not if it is a few hundred feet away. It is time to understand that while the "Bus rams into car” story appears only once in the newspaper for the readers, for the family concerned, it is a stor that appears in its life every moment, every day, every week when you make one cup less of tea, make a couple of chapattis less, need one chair less on the terrace, don't know what to do with the music collection of the deceased, and cry everytime you listen to a song that was the dead man's caller tune on his cell.
 
What do our politicians have to say to this family, and to the hundreds of thousands of such families who are today incomplete because someone was not doing his job on road safety, on putting up signals, on marking zebra crossings, on regulating driving license procedures, on highway patrolling, on administering first aid lessons?
 
Punjab will soon have a great majority of voters who as children grew up without a father lost in the accident, old men who remember a wife who had only gone to fetch milk for the kids but couldn’t cross the road fast enough.
 
We lost a minister in a road accident exactly where we later lost not just a journalist but several more lives in different accidents. But why is the reality of killer roads not jolting our collective public conscience?
 
Why are our politicians not immediately under a great public pressure just as they had come after Anna Hazare’s fast? Not long ago, Punjab Vidhan Sabha was being solemnly told in response to a question that nine people die every single day in the state in road accidents. It reflects on the state of the media that even a fact as shocking as this did not make for much of a headline.
 
Around 350 people die on India's roads every day. That makes it over 13 deaths every hour. 20 children under the age of 14 die everyday due to road crashes in the country. Annual accident figures are crossing one lakh in India. Around 1,41,526 people were killed in road accidents in 2014 alone, that is more than the number of people killed in all our wars put together. Compare the media coverage and public outcry over road accidents with coverage of terrorism in Kashmir or the Mumbai or Pathankot attacks!
 
Since Indian highways are expanding and getting ever wider, experts are warning of a further four fold increase in road fatalities.
 
As for the sociology of accidents, it also works against the poor. Roads and accidents happen to poor and rich, both, but somehow the ground rules of accidents are not very democratic. The number of urban and rural poor dying in road accidents is surprisingly high.
 
Empirical data suggests that most deaths involve vulnerable road users like pedestrians, bicyclists and motorised two wheeler riders. True, everyone walks and even the rich get run over by a car, but data from Institute for Road Traffic Education (IRTE), Union Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways, and Transportation Research and Injury Prevention Programme (TRIPP) at IIT-Delhi suggests that death comes easily to the poor, the vulnerable.
 
Some of life’s realities do not change even in a road accident.  
 
And the more money goes into roads, the better the traffic flow becomes, the better the impact on economic progress, and yes, the higher the road accident deaths. In Punjab, maximum road deaths are reported from patches that cut through villages.
 
Our politicians are so keen to turn Punjab into another California but it will help if they simply paid more attention to what they consider mundane.
 
You know how little it takes at times to save lives? Simply telling people to keep their two-wheelers' headlights on during the day can bring down death rates by 15 per cent! Many countries have this law on their statute books; what's stopping us? Chandigarh police has done a remarkable job in enforcing many traffic rules; what have we learnt from that experience?
 
The toori-laden ubiquitous tractor-trolley cannot be allowed to continue as a road trundling deathly monster, and private bus operators cannot keep running riot trying to outdo each other to pick up passengers. But can you tell this to rulers whose own economic interests are closely linked with how well the driver of buses owned by them race down their rivals?
 
Do we want all our children to reach their school and then also return home every single day, to reach the other side of the road, alive, or to run an errand on a bicycle without meeting death on the way?
 
And if road accidents are a matter of life and death for each of us, surely those who claim to administer our affairs for us in our name and with our money must be doing a tough job. But when was the last time you heard any political party making high road deaths an election issue?
 
You read about deaths in road accidents everyday in your morning newspaper, every single day of the five years. Yet, when you see the manifesto of a ruling party, any ruling party, you don't see a mention of road accidents as a problem.
 
Imagine a Boeing 747, full to capacity, crashing everyday, every single day all through the year, in India! That is happening on our roads since more than 350 people are dying every day in road accidents.
 
Mumbai 26/11 killed 195 people. Imagine a 26/11 happening on our roads, twice every day. Are you sure your son or daughter will reach home alive today? What are you doing about it, dear reader?

 






Comment by: Accident Informer

An accident is an unforeseen, unplanned and uncontrolled event. In such cases, the Emergency response should be accessible and fast.

Typical response time in Metros when the police station is nearby is 30Min. To add, the family get to the person way too late.

Accident Informer App allows You to help any accident victim. Report the accident using this app and the information is immediately shared with their family.

Download the ACCIDENT INFORMER app and help in saving lives.

reply


Comment

your name*

email address*

comments*
You may use these HTML tags:<p> <u> <i> <b> <strong> <del> <code> <hr> <em> <ul> <li> <ol> <span> <div>

verification code*
 








Most Visited
You may also Like

Topic Cloud

Archive





Copyright © 2016-2017







NEWS LETTER