It was a time some 50 years ago, the human population was less, even then it was stated that India is thickly populated. Now also our population has considerably increased and we are still afraid of this growth. But foreigners are eagerly watching on our growth and want to come over to our country for trade and sell their products at much lower cost and high quality.
Similarly in that period the vehicle population was less compared to the present generation it increased four-folds. Despite the governments efforts in road widening was considerable and the number of flyovers increased, yet we see traffic jam, serious accidents and multiple road deaths,.
The cause of accidents, prevention of accidents and removal of traffic jams had seen a combined effort of the legislature, the government and the judiciary. Could any one sincerely say that this has solved the problem of reducing accidents?
The Legislature very emphatically made the Motor Vehicles Act and Rules; did it solve the problem? The government entrusted the matter of traffic control to police; could this bring any solution for traffic control? The Government entrusted the matter of maintenance of roads and road widening to the Municipality and the PWD; was there any response to improve the result? The judiciary in response to PIL had revised some traffic rules, were they implemented sincerely and the revision in traffic rules brought any results? The usage of helmets for two-wheelers is said to be strictly implemented; has it brought any results or did it add more to the atrocities of the police.
The usage of safety belts to car drivers, while to some motorists it has became a show-belt. Did this create any safety measure or became more inconvenient to the car driver and the passenger? It is wondered why alone the safety of the car driver has become the matter of great concern, leaving he drivers of trucks, buses and auto rickshaw drivers who are also likely be hurt by the steering. Ask the users of belts i.e., car drivers and definitely they will say “It is a nuisance, as it has to be removed every now and then in the city”.
This means that we make some rules which are made without proper fore thought and they become meaningless, by which people realize such rules are not for safety but for inconvenience. The belts should have been made compulsory for all vehicles since the driver is exposed to the risk of hitting his head to the steering, that too it should be a must on highway roads or where there is less traffic and not in the city area where the user has to get down at every short distance and the speed of the vehicle is very slow.
- Improper traffic rules :
Let us assess the traffic problems which everybody faces, but nobody has time to express the difficulty. The result being a bad public opinion is left on the traffic system. There are some of the many problems, which are as under:
No Right turn:
On many of the main roads, although there is right turn, lately it is prohibited. One has to go miles together to take a right turn. This is done with a view to freely allow the oncoming traffic. When one evil is stopped, another emerges. This is increasing the traffic congestion and a big queue of cars is seen at each traffic signal and this queue goes back and touches traffic signal far behind. In some cases these huge circles for beautifying the city, plants of more than man-height are grown, which is causing difficulty in noticing the oncoming traffic, which may cause head-on collusion.
Traffic circles on the cross roads:
Either the circles on the cross roads are very big or irregular and improperly located of the circles on the cross roads. The vehicular traffic is finding difficult to take a round of such circles and in order to avoid this inconvenience the two wheeler riders or three wheeler drivers take a stealthy turn on the wrong side that too with a high speed, resulting in serious accidents.
Drafting of two-wheeler riders:
Drafting of two wheeler riders has become a menace on public roads. These young riders in enthusiasm to show their gymnastics, raised the front wheel and go on the rear wheel only, causing a great fear in the people going on the road, apart from their meeting with serious accidents. Even they don’t mind to drive the vehicle without holding the handle or drive the vehicle by lying down on the seat. Is there any measure with the police to check such a violation?
Young two-wheeler riders are fond of going on public road with creation of big and horrible sound and they think that a great thing is done. They even don’t mind to raise the accelerator or adjust the silencer to create a big horrible sound. This not only creates a fear in the pedestrians but also in the residents of adjacent house owners. Some of them do not mind in taking one or two additional pillion riders. High speed riding has also become common in congested traffic areas.
On the whole this appears to be out of control of the traffic police to stop drafting, carrying of more pillion riders, and sound pollution created by these riders.
Auto-drivers also carry passengers more than its capacity like gunny bags and they think paying the “hafta” is granted unqualified permission to do anything. They go at high speed in joy and the passengers also enjoy the ride. A slight accident may result in serious casualties Even young boys of 14 to 17 years are also found driving the auto rickshaws. It is wondered how the license is given to them or else the traffic machinery is failing to check such persons.
Pollution control of gas emitting vehicles has remained to be a procedure. Pay the fees and get the pollution certificate, no matter it emits smoke or not. A sincere approach should be made to check this so that suffocation near traffic signals can be avoided.
Usage of Mobile Phones:
Anything that is properly used is good. Despite immense uses of mobile phones, two and four wheeler drivers make frequent use of mobiles while deriving the vehicles. This is prohibited. But the drivers go out of way and use phone calls as though they don’t have time to talk in the office or at home. The usage of these mobiles distracts the attention of the hearer and some time the mode of the person taking suddenly gets changed depending on the message. The message is subject to the blood pressure or heart beating.
Added to this the rider may be involved in a serious accident. Once I have seen in front of my house on the road, a four wheeler driver in the mood of talking on mobile ran over a boy crossing the road. Thus the usage of mobiles while driving the vehicle must be prohibited. Moreover the mobiles of the driver should be shut down. This should be checked up and such law breakers should be punished.
- Responsibility of the Municipality:
Water-logging on public roads:
A slight rain of about an hour creates water logging on low-lying area of every road. If the down pour is for two or three hours, the roads convert into rivers and the manholes get automatically opened. These open manholes and nallas have become a great danger to school children and women and many instances are known that many lives were lost in the current of waster through these manholes, apart from it creating a danger to the cyclists and motor-cyclists of meeting serious accidents.
The Municipality and Drainage Department are fully manned with engineers and inspectors, during the rainy season nobody is seen to check such water-logging or setting right the manhole covers. Perhaps they spend good time in their bedrooms to enjoy the warmth. If top officials apply their mind and check their subordinates by instructing them to go on each of the roads to watch and observe the water-logging some suitable solution can be found either to allow the water to go the possible way or avoid the water logging, so that movement of traffic is not affected.
The officials just to pass on the bug, simply state that the drainage pipes were laid some 50 years ago and with the population growth, the size of drainage pipes has to be increased. On this pretext the water-logging continues and continues without any solution. Sagacious and intelligent officers will solve this problem by regular checking and identifying the water-logging areas and finding solutions with least cost.
Condition of Roads:
The condition of roads in the city is not that bad, nor in the rural areas, excepting some of the roads which need total leveling. For this the road contractors suggest laying concrete roads which means good number of days are involved in digging and laying the foundation, same time is involved in laying the road (with bad workmanship of leaving uneven surface) and then the time involved in water curing even after that the road is left without clearing the debris for days together.
At least the period of one two to three months is involved. Despite the cost and involvement of time, the concerned government officials agree for concrete roads just because the contractor get fat bills. On the other hand in respect of the asphalt roads the laying is fast and less expensive. Even after laying the roads the water works department, electricity and telephone departments would be waiting to start their work and cut off the roads at various places. If there is co-ordination between these departments, they could have done this work before laying the road. On questioning the departmental people they state that for every road cutting the money for remaking is paid. But that amount goes in the pocket of the exchequer of the Municipality, who leave this pits ever-existing for the people to suffer. Is there any authority to check such problems so that the road accidents are avoided?
Roads after repairs:
Apart from hearing the sad story of laying of roads, many of the roads are having their surface peeled off here and there, with ditches caused by digging of government departments, and skids. These need timely repairs by putting asphalt mixture and pressing it for making a level. The Municipality claims it as an achievement by sending the asphalt mixture in a truck along with a mason and labour and this work is done as though a great favour is done.
The unskilled labour does not know what to do and where to do this work. No supervisor, no engineer follows to give instructions or inspect how far the work is carried out. A small brain does a small job. So the ditches are closed without any pressing or leveling, causing more obstruction to the traffic but the inspectors and supervisors are happy that the work is carried out for their giving the report. Could they see how many bad roads are so repaired and how many roads need complete leveling? This matter should be overviewed by the higher officials, who keep busy in attending the telephonic compliance.
Encroachments by govt. depts.:
When the Departments like water works, electricity, telephone, dig the roads either they leave the work pending for indefinite period for the people to suffer, or after completion of their work, leave the balance material like broken bricks, stones and mud in heaps on the site leaving the road to become more narrower. The traffic has to thus fish out from such roads amidst the uncertainties of safety. The departmental people state that their job is completed and as to removal of debris it is the job of the Municipality begins. Neither the departmental people inform the municipality to clear off the debris, nor do the municipal inspectors, who are supposed to check such encroachments and penalize the encroachers.
Surprisingly, these inspectors become more active when a person for construction purpose lays the building material on the road side and they will not spare him until he removes the material. Why not in this case. Is it not the job of higher officers to make timely and surprised inspections to detect such encroachments?
Encroachments by shop-keepers:
Encroachment by shopkeepers has become a chronic affair. The shops have become go down for storage of material for sale, the foot paths become their show room and the side road has become the workshop of a small shopkeeper, trader, and workshop for cycle, scooter of auto repairs on either side of the road. Even tinkers, welders, electricians resort to the same method, apart from usual auto and two-wheeler parking. As a result, a road of 60, 80 or 100 feet width has become narrow and hardly a bus can pass with great difficulty.
Nobody can point out this. The concerned officials make surprise inspections and penalize such persons, but they think this penalty is a tax to continue encroachments for one year from next day onwards. Further the hawkers too obstruct the road by standing nearly in the middle of the road thinking the customers attract the attention and they will have a booming sale. When anybody questions this obstruction, they say, how can we survive? It is upto the government to think over sincerely how to rehabilitate these people by year marking some marketing area of shopping so that both the ends would meet. But the aspect of encroachments cannot be overlooked at the cost of traffic safety.
Increase in vehicle population, narrow roads,innumerous pedestrians without footpaths to walk on, has become really a matter of great concern when the question of road side parking is concerned. The people are habituated in not utilizing the specific parking places which are almost scarcely scattered. Moreover the people like to park the vehicles for a while and do shopping for a while.
Some consciousness and awareness should be created in the drivers to park the vehicles in such a way that the traffic on the road is not disturbed. Even some people carelessly park the two wheelers almost in the middle of the road, as there is nobody, to go. Thus proper parking is for the good to meet both ends meet. This will definitely minimize road accidents.
- Mobile Traffic Police Squad:
All the evils of the road which are responsible for road accidents, as enumerated above, can be set right if there is a traffic squad moving on the city roads as well as on the high way roads, either regularly, weekly or occasionally to check traffic violations, encroachments, improper parking, drafting of two wheelers, ripple riding, gay driving etc., particularly on congested roads, and also on highway roads, to check high speed driving, drunken driving, wrong overtaking, overloading of passengers etc. A sincere approach would bring good results, whereby there will be a feeling in the drivers that somebody is watching them.
It should also be the duty of the Police squad to note the ditches on the roads, missing manhole covers and to inform the concerned authorities to have them repaired immediately. Police powers should be so widened, that the concerned supervisor or inspector who does not carry out the repairs or removal of debris should be prosecuted. For this purpose Government should enlarge the powers of the Police in the interest of prevention of road accidents.
Thus the Police should be the informer of defects on the roads to the concerned departments by noting the irregularities in their hand book and cross checking the compliance. Failing which action should be taken against such inspector, supervisor or those responsible for creating of public nuisance under the IPC.
- Mobile Municipal squads:
Mobile municipal squads are seen sometimes for clearance of encroachments of footpaths, but people name them as annual municipal trade license officers. As an eye wash these Mobile Squads seize one or two items and penalize the encroacher by laying the fine of say Rs.200/- and it is said by such violators that this is license fee to use footpath for one year from next day onwards.
If these mobile squads sensibly work, many of the obstructions can be avoided, removed or sorted out by allowing the hawkers to make use of vacant or unused sides. It should also be the duty of these mobile squads to see which portions of the road are damaged and need immediate repairs and they should report to the concerned officials.
- Licensing of Drivers:
There are different types of drivers, some are doctors, lawyers, engineers, highly qualified persons, students, while some are old illiterate commercial drivers, illiterate youngsters. While granting such licenses, the licensing authority should give due attention to student drivers of two-wheelers and illiterate young drivers of three-wheelers, who drive the vehicle fast, in fancy and out of joy. Sometimes two and three wheelers are driven by minor boys. This can only be checked up on the spot and the owners of vehicles who spare their vehicles to such drivers should be taken to task.
However timely checking are done and the defaulters pay penalty, but the same persons are seen driving the same vehicles without fear or favour. In England and western countries students are granted licenses very carefully and the insurance companies also exercise lot of care in granting insurance to vehicles driven by students. But in our country our laws have become simple and people violate laws with a smile and pay the penalty as the matter of procedure.
- Lectures on Driving:
Before granting the license, 3 to 6 hours lecture should be given to the candidate depending on his qualification and capacity to grasp. This must be designed to impart lessons on ethics, sense of responsibility in driving, sympathy to the dependants of the victims, as though they are their family members. Impact of faulty driving and also first aid training so as to give immediate help to the injured if any, including the advantages of using the helmets and harms of using the mobiles.
- Responsibility of manufacturer of automobiles:
Motor vehicle manufacturers who are manned with qualified engineers and technical staff should also design the vehicles in such a way that the safety of road users should be the prime consideration.
- i) Tractor and Trailer Manufacturers: – It is worth mentioning here that the tractors are made with an open body even without any covering at the bottom. If the tractor meets with an accident there is every possibility of the driver falling down and coming under its wheels.
Even there is no place to accommodate the labourers traveling therein; consequently they sit on the mudguards of the tractor. In the event of the tractor meeting with an accident or it gets turtle, because of no bottom, these coolies like the driver also fall down and get crushed. Many such accidents have added more into the list of casualties.
Added to this the Trailer which is attached to the tractor is wider than the tractor itself,. As a result there is every possibility that the oncoming vehicle in the darkness or with improper headlights, my hit the trailer part protruding the tractor, resulting in serious accidents. Moreover, the pedestrians may not know the trailer is attached to the tractor, and may get crushed in its wheels.
Therefore, tractors should have a tail light on either side in the front and also in the back, or at least iridium stickers should be passed on the protruding portions, so that in the nights the oncoming vehicles will notice the attachment of the tractor and avert accidents. The manufacturers should also make provision of two horns on either side of the trailer as caution to the pedestrians.
Thus the manufacturers should made to remove the above defects and improve the tractors and trailers as stated above. The government should prevail on the manufacturers to observe such safety measures; otherwise the licensing authority would not register such vehicle.
Similarly for the existing agricultural and non-agricultural tractors, the RTA should make provision of law to ask them to enclose the body of tractor with lights and horns on the trailer; otherwise the yearly fitness would not be accorded.
- ii) Manufacturers heavy vehicles: In future the manufacturers of heavy goods vehicles and buses should be asked to provide horns on either side near the rear vehicle, so that the pedestrians or two wheeler drivers which are overtaken by such vehicles can get cautioned with the help of horns, and thus avert accidents. Added to this presently registered vehicle owners should be asked to provide the horns as suggested, failing which they should be informed that no fitness of vehicle would be given. A provision for safety belts for driver should also be made so as to utilize it on the highway roads.
iii) Two wheelers: The manufacturers of two wheelers are showing advertisements with a fast pick up, drafting or swift turning etc. The youngsters of the present day have learnt from these advertisements the way how two wheelers are driven and this type is taken as sporting on the public roads There must be an end to such advertisements.
- iv) Driver’s Belts: Imposing usage of driver’s safety belts is definitely a good rule. But this should not be for the city drivers, as they get down every now and then. Moreover, the cars are driven generally at a lower speed in the city. This should be outside the municipal limit or on roads where traffic is less, particularly highways. Added to this drivers of cars are not alone exposed to the risk of hitting with the steering, but the drivers of trucks, buses, autos etc. should be asked to use the safety belt, as there is also possibility of their getting injured with the steering.
Therefore, the manufacturers of all the above vehicles should be asked to provide safety belts to the driver’s seat. Similarly for the present vehicle owners should also be asked to get safety belts fitted to their vehicles and the authorities should also see that the same are used strictly.
- v) Helmets: The story of helmets is not new. It has all the 25 years, during which period its usage was compulsory, then relaxation came. Every time a new Traffic Chief takes the charge, the helmet manufacturers approach and makes its usage compulsory in the name of the safety of the two-wheeler driver, this is perhaps due to boost the sale of helmets. After sometime peoples grievances and representations being relaxation. This cycle of activity of imposition and relaxation is periodically made by every changed traffic chief.
Nobody bothers to know the difficulty of the users of helmets, nor could anybody understand the inquisitiveness of the helmet manufacturers. Helmet users have a complaint that helmets make the hearing capacity defective, these are not heat resisting, and during rainy season the water enters in the helmet and makes the foam totally wet. As a matter of fact the helmet manufacturers are not moneymaking machines at the cost of the inconvenience of helmet users.
The manufacturers should have taken the general opinion of the helmet users and studied their problems and they should have made improvements in their product. They should understand the simple psychology of the small baby when the mother outs on the swatter on the baby, the baby removes it, and so she understands the baby’s mood.
Similarly the helmet manufacturers should make researches to improve the quality of their product. As a matter of fact the traffic police officials should have found the non-inclination of people in not using the helmets and the helmet manufacturers should have been asked to improve the product. It is hoped that the helmets would become quality product for the usage of two-wheeler riders.
- The Role of Police:
The police, irrespective of rank and file, should be like the teacher, who is affectionate, harsh and friendly. Simply displaying the slogan “We are your friends” visible to everyone but many vie on this as though they have experience that policemen were never friendly. But there is till very much left for the police to prove worthy of this claim. They should check up improper parking, allow systematic parking of the hawker carts leaving the foot paths vacant to provide space for the pedestrians.
They should also check up open manholes, careless obstructions left after repairs of concerned departments, removal of electric and telephone poles and transformers left after road widening including repairing of path-holes. Such defects should be noted by the area police in their handbook and see that the concerned department are informed, persuaded for repairs, give them one or two chances and then prosecute the concerned contractor, inspector or supervisor under the IPC for creating public nuisance. This aspect has also been highlighted hereinbefore.
- Care after the accident:
In many accidents the injuries quickly turn to death, because of lack of first aid, stoppage of flow of blood, or lack of oxygen and many of the victims die due to shock. If immediate steps are taken many a life can be saved, but who is the sympathizer, neither the spectators, the doctors nor the police.
Accident informer and role of public:
The people present who witness the accident do not dare to give medical relief nor do they inform the matter to the police for the fear that they may have to stand as witnesses leaving their business activities, apart from they have to go to the court every now and then. This fear makes them to be the dumb spectators.
If the co-operation of the police and the courts apathy to the witnesses is considered many people would come forward for the help of the victims. On the other hand sincere witness should be encouraged by the government by giving awards.
Role of Doctors and Hospitals:
As soon as the accident victim is taken to a clinic, the doctors pass on the bug to take the victim to government hospital and if a doctor has to attend the case he wants the police to be informed. No doubt this is a requirement of the police, it should not be forgotten that in this delay a life may be lost. There must be a via media compromise and understanding.
I remember of a serious accident the front seated passenger was first tightened by the seat-belt and this bleeding victim had to be removed by breaking the belt with the help of the crowbars. The bleeding victim was taken to a corporate hospital, which lost the precious time in the police and hospital procedure and the requirement of blood, by which time he got the heart stroke and died. Such many cases can be quoted, but a world to the wise suffices for future guidance.
Every vehicle should be provided with as first aid box and the driver cleaner and conductor should be given First Aid training as a pre-requisite for licensed. Unfortunately after every accident the driver involved runs away with the fear of the public manhandling him. However, the First Aid Box can be utilized by anybody to give treatment to the victim immediately.
- Role of the media and films:
Our film makers and TV programmers are quite capable of making the films on violence, dacoity, murders and rape etc., but could anybody find a film or a program on road accidents and traffic safety and consequences thereof. There was an old movie “Dushman” lead by Rajesh Khanna some 35 years back, wherein the punishment imposed on the truck driver to take care of the deceased’s dependants was highlighted.
This movie became popular and people realized the duty of the vehicle driver towards the accident victims and their dependants. Our Government through the Censor Board prevails on the producers of films to make such films or highlight a small role along with the main story on traffic safety and its consequences; it will be a yeoman duty to humanity. For good movies deserving awards may be given.
- Care of the God-father
The Chief Minister of a state or the Central Minister, assisted by departmental ministers, secretaries and senior officials, should quite frequently ask for compliance report of the area inspectors and supervisors, to improve road conditions removal of encroachments as far as possible, in converting the big circles of cross roads into smaller ones, to study chronic water-logging on the roads, drainage overflowing and road encroachments not only of shopkeepers but, also those left over by the departmental people after carrying out the work etc., apart from checking the faulty drivers, traffic violators and to check the defective and smoke-emitting vehicles.
The Traffic Police Chief must be made the chief co-ordinator to see and supervise in removal of the above problems. If a sincere approach is made, I am sure, the road accidents will definitely reduce and the number deaths will consequently be reduced.
As a Retired Divisional Manager of one of the Public Sector Companies, I have come across several relevant claims on this subject, which if cited on this occasion, the size of this article would increase to four times.
Suffice it to say that many of the accidents are due to many of the above irregularities and if these irregularities are sincerely rectified, many accidents can be avoided.
However, the above are some of the suggestions which an ordinary member of public definitely feels inconvenient, but no body has that time to open his mouth. What only he does, is that he carries with him a unit to mould the public opinion, which is very harmful in a democracy?
By Mr. Vazir Ahmed Khan