Despite efforts to ensure road safety, road deaths and accidents continue to climb creating a question mark on the efforts being put in ensuring safe road infrastructure. Infrastructure Today looks to understand the constraints in ensuring safe road infrastructure.
For motorists travelling on the Pune-Mumbai Expressway, the beginning of the month of April brought about an 18 per cent increase in toll charges on the expressway, as announced by the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC). In the new fare structure, those travelling to Mumbai by car from Pune, will have to pay Rs 195 instead of Rs 165 that was being paid earlier for a one-way journey. This recent move has drawn flak from activists as they argue that the corporation has failed to provide basic safety measures like brifen wire rope fencing, CCTV cameras, rumble strips, trauma care ambulance etc. on the expressway.
The lack of road safety measures on this stretch is just a one-off example, but the resulting fatalities caused is frightening. India accounts for one per cent of the world's vehicles and 10 per cent of its road fatalities. The Global status report on road safety 2013 by WHO estimates that more than 2,31,000 people are killed in road traffic crashes in India every year. Approximately half of all deaths on the country's roads are among vulnerable road users - motorcyclists, pedestrians and cyclists.
Considering Road Safety as an area of immediate concern around the world, the United Nations (UN) has declared Decade 2010-2020 as the Decade of Action for Road Safety, with an aim to save 5 million lives by 2020. The aspect on road safety, despite finding mention in road contract documents, lacks priority. It is a collective responsibility of the developer, state and at times the central government," says M Murali, Director General, NHBF who further adds that lack of initiative makes it a forgotten objective. Road safety issues range at multiple levels and in a bid to sensitise people and organisations, globally organisations are adopting the Road Traffic Safety Management System (ISO 39001), a global standard for a management system (similar to ISO 9000) for road traffic safety. The implementation of the standard is supposed to put the organisations that provide the system "road traffic", into the position to improve the traffic safety and to reduce by that the number of persons killed or severely injured in road traffic.
The Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi became the first airport in the world, and the first organisation in India, to be certified to the Road Traffic Safety Management System (ISO 39001) as stated by British Standards Institution (BSI). The scope of this certification include: design, development, repair and maintenance of road networks and management of traffic, signage & parking within purview of DIAL managed road networks around Terminals- T1, T2 and T3 of Indira Gandhi International Airport.
"If you look at the overall perspective on the planning of growth right from the alignment stage, to the construction and maintenance etc, road safety is such an issue that from every stage this issue has to be kept in mind. One interesting aspect is road maintenance. We often say that 75% of our accidents happen because of the driver's fault. But the potholes and the bad conditions of the roads are also to be blamed and play an important role. Not only do these reduce speed but also increase the travel time and are also hazardous to road safety. For that one cannot blame the driver only. Road safety has to be dealt with in an extremely holistic manner, says Dr S Gangopadhyay, Director, Central Road Research Institute (CRRI).
He further adds that private parties can play a very important role in road safety. Road design and construction is being given to the private parties. Road safety too can be dealt by these private players. "Road signage and markings play an important role in road safety" says Gangopadhyay. Experts suggest that annually nation loses almost 1.5 per cent of its GDP on account of road accidents, not even 10 per cent of the amount is being spent on making the roads safe.
Provision of a very good and efficient public transport system and pedestrian safety both in rural and urban areas are two important aspects that need a significant attention when it comes to road safety. Looking at the comparative analysis of bitumen and concrete from safety parameters, Gangopdhyay adds that while studies have been carried out between the usage of bitumen and concrete, no study has been carried out to analyse the safety parameters.
The need of the hour is to have effective policy and regulatory framework and its implementation, better infrastructure especially better road designs and to ensure safety on the move.