Road safety comes in manual mode, not automatic…
Dr Georgie Talks
A few days ago, millions of music lovers were saddened by the sudden and untimely demise of the brilliant violinist, Balabhaskar. He was critically injured in a car accident last week, from which he never recovered. Our heartfelt condolences.
Many such precious lives are lost on our roads due to a variety of reasons – the majority of them being man-made. Let’s work towards fatality-free roads.
“Road sense is the offspring of courtesy and the parent of safety” goes a very apt adage about the road safety. But for many of us, road safety seems to have become a subject for bumper stickers, blissfully unaware of the human tragedy hidden in statistics on deaths on Indian roads.
Every year, speed kills more Indians than all natural disasters put together. Every hour, we are losing around 415 people in at least 55 road accidents; even though road accidents were down 4% in 2016 compared to 2015, we lost as many as 1.5 lakh Indians on roads that year – the highest number of casualties in the world, according to the Govt of India data. Only Iran and few countries in Africa were ahead of us in other data points. Advanced countries like Sweden, UK and Denmark score the lowest in all parameters.
India continues to suffer huge human and economic losses due to road mishaps despite the economic progress, large-scale urbanisation and greater awareness. For example, in 2016, 46% of road accident deaths were in the highly economically active age group of 18-35, depriving the country of greater productivity and contribution to growth. The real impact is felt when these result in higher healthcare, insurance and legal costs.
Human – the risk element in the cockpit: Studies have shown that a human being is the riskiest element on road hence the drive to automate vehicles by Google and others. Statistically speaking, a drivers’ fault contributes the most (at 84%), resulting in maximum killings (80%) and injuries (83.9%) in 2016. In fact, over-speeding caused a maximum of 56% of all accidents with the mobile usage and driver fatigue being the next best at 12%. There was plenty of overtaking and wrong side driving, responsible for 10% of all accidents in 2016. Normally, road accidents seem to rise in May-June and December-January periods due to extreme weather conditions.
Distracted driving -the new challenge: Rapid urbanisation and motorisation are creating a new set of challenges for the authorities; if drinking and driving is old fashioned, distracted driving is the order of the day. Distracted driving can be described as being engaged in activities that divert the attention of the driver - such as lost in personal or workplace thoughts, focusing on objects away from the road, eating and drinking, adjusting internal controls, being occupied in animated discussions with co-passengers and toying with the entertainment or navigation system.
Behavioural factors give clues about a driver: As a healthcare professional, I see many behavioural factors that could be responsible: those aspects that reduce individual capability on a long-term basis – such as aging, disease and disability, alcohol and drug abuse - those that effect in the short term – such as fatigue, alcohol intoxication, drug side-effects and stress and risk-taking behaviors – such as road rage, macho attitude, habitual speeding, disregard of traffic regulations, indecent driving behavior, non-use of seat belt and so on. Worldwide, authorities also judge drivers based on these criteria before they issue licences.
Important safety tips
* Never drink and drive.
* Obey the speed limit.
* Do not use mobile phones when driving.
* Ensure the vehicle is in a roadworthy condition.
* Be cautious against distractions while driving.
* Set all devices, mirrors and controls prior to driving.
* All vehicle occupants must wear seat belts.
* Maintain a safe following distance. Obey the two-second rule.
* Allow yourself to take short breaks when driving long distances.
* Plan your journey well in advance.
Well, here, South Korea is a classic example. The country acted on three fronts; enforcement, engineering and education. On the enforcement side, it revised transport safety acts, regulations and guidelines thoroughly beside installing a large number of speeding and red-run cameras. Engineering-wise, it drastically improved transport facilities including infrastructure and safety controls across major locations that experienced several accidents. But most importantly, the driver's license issuing programs were reviewed drastically to reduce unworthy persons getting behind the wheel.
New act promises to rein in the unruly: As I understand, India too seems to be looking at these issues seriously. The new Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill 2016 seeks to impose higher penalties for driving offences, higher compensation for the family of the deceased, inclusion of Good Samaritan guidelines, automated fitness training for vehicles and electric monitoring of highways. These should go a long way in not only preventing accidents but in reaching those affected with timely medical aid.
Let me conclude by seeking safer roads wherein driving would be a pleasure when we extend courtesies to one another. It’s our collective responsibility to make it risk-free. This is very important since we have now more people and vehicles, depending on a highly inadequate infrastructure. Follow the rules and show gentility on the road – you will see the difference.
My ardent request to our authorities is to follow the Korean model; wherever we have to enforce the rule of law, they should not sidestep the core issue and must bring in tougher laws to improve our behaviour on roads as well as to reduce fatalities. However, we must concentrate more on engineering better infrastructure and education of all current and potential drivers who need to be lectured more on civility in public life than the techniques to drive.
Muthoot Healthcare is happy to chip in with our initiative, Accept, Abide & Appreciate: Be Courteous On Road” through which, we would like to educate drivers on the manners, rules and regulations, Good Samaritan guidelines, fitness of vehicles (and of the drivers themselves) besides essential medical aspects that would help many lives on our roads