The annual report on road accidents in India for 2022, as released by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, paints a grim picture of the situation. The staggering numbers reveal 461,312 incidents, leading to a catastrophic loss of 168,491 lives and injuries to 443,312 individuals. What’s even more shocking is the alarming escalation of 11.9 per cent in accidents, 9.4 per cent in fatalities, and 15.3 per cent in injuries compared to the previous year. These statistics underscore the gravity of the issue at hand.
These figures extend beyond mere numerical representations; they symbolise shattered lives, families in distress, and a substantial socio-economic weight on society. Each casualty in road accidents serves as a poignant reminder of the pressing need to confront this escalating crisis. The evident question arises: Why, in a nation celebrated for its ingenuity and resourcefulness, do we struggle to tackle this issue and deliver a fitting, effective solution to the escalating menace of road accidents?
This situation appears to be an outcome of various factors, encompassing a combination of reckless driving, speeding, intoxication, and a neglect of adhering to traffic regulations. This, coupled with inadequate enforcement of traffic laws and a lack of awareness among the populace, perpetuates the perilous conditions on India’s highways.
It is evident that to ensure road safety, the critical factor lies in enhancing the condition of the road networks. The hazards for commuters are exacerbated by poorly maintained roads, insufficient signages, inadequate illumination, and a lack of separate pedestrian sidewalks and cyclist pathways.
The ease of obtaining a license by individuals and the flawed administrative process for issuing driving licenses in India is a plausible factor contributing to this menace. There are evident loopholes and discrepancies in the driving examinations conducted for license issuance across different Indian states.
The procedure for obtaining driver’s licenses may also vary significantly from district to district, ranging from relatively flexible to rigid. In certain places, corruption, presumably prevalent in local offices, plays a role that cannot be denied. This, in all likelihood, becomes a cause for issuing licenses to undeserving individuals, who, through their negligent driving, jeopardise the lives of others.
This is no secret—obtaining a driving license is relatively easy in our country. In contrast, acquiring a driver’s license in countries like Germany is akin to embarking on a quest for a holy grail. In Germany, securing a driver’s license is considered a formidable task, involving the successful completion of highly challenging tests and procedures.
Furthermore, a corruption-free system ensures that only individuals with full driving competence, capacity, skill, and a profound understanding of road conditions are granted a driver’s license. In addition, Germany has comprehensive road safety regulations in place, mandating parties involved in an accident, as well as witnesses, to stop, notify the police, assist victims, and ensure help arrives. Any violation of these rules renders the offender liable to hefty penalties and punishments.
Indian laws concerning road safety, particularly Indian penal laws, require reforms. The lax colonial-age law in this regard is prone to misuse and lacks the effectiveness needed for deterrence. Take, for instance, Section 304 A of the IPC, allowing for a maximum sentence of two years for causing death by negligence — a notably brief sentence in comparison to current requirements.
The Motor Vehicle Act of 1988 also demands substantial reforms. Despite the addition of Section 134A to protect individuals saving lives from criminal or civil liability, as a result of the Save Life Foundation’s PIL, no significant changes have been witnessed so far.
The advancement of India on its journey towards development and global leadership must prioritise road safety. To secure safer roads for everyone, it becomes crucial to embrace a culture of responsible driving, advocate for infrastructural enhancements, champion stringent policy reforms, and rigorously enforce laws.
(The writer can be reached at email@example.com)