The horrific bus accident in Udhampur is another reminder for Jammu and Kashmir to get really serious regarding road safety. The large number of deaths in road accidents every year should raise an alarm bell among the policy-makers and the concerned government agencies responsible for ensuring the safety of people travelling by road.
Annually, hundreds people lose their lives in accidents in J&K, a disturbing sign that should spur a targeted project on road safety, bringing together traffic police, vehicle safety, licences to the drivers, training issues besides post-accident care.
In this backdrop, a sweeping political declaration on global road safety was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly earlier this month. It is aimed at reducing road traffic deaths by at least 50 per cent in the next eight years. Fundamental to the safe system approach is sharing and promoting evidence-based good practices for addressing key risk factors leading to the accident. The J & K government must keep an eye and keep track of the developments with concerned quarters.
The consequences of a tragedy often endure long after the mishap is over. Road accidents occur due to multiple causes such as over-speeding, use of Mobile phone, drunken driving including consumption of alcohol, drug or overloaded vehicle, vehicular condition, poor light condition, jumping red light, overtaking, neglect of civic bodies, weather condition, fault of driver, fault of pedestrian, driving on wrong side, defect in road condition, defect in condition of motor vehicle, automobile design, etc.
As per a study by the World Bank on road accidents, every death in India caused by a road accident leads to the depletion of nearly seven months’ income in the households of poor families and pushes the victims’ kin into a vicious cycle of poverty and debt. The low-income rural households, predictably, are hit the hardest.
There is a need to lay down engineering standards and complaints procedures that will help citizens hold the concerned to account. There is also need for education, civil society cooperation and professional policing besides muscular enforcement of law through tougher penalties for seat belts, drunken driving, smartphone use and other violations. Otherwise the carnage will only increase.
There is also need for analyzing and micro-manage the accident-prone stretches. In the rural areas, most mishaps involve vehicles rolling down the mountainous stretches. Targeted programmes must be devised and strict timelines set to prevent repeat of accidents which only bring tragedies.