No end to road accidents

Unfortunately there is no end to repeated road accidents in Jammu and Kashmir. Only on Thursday, five precious lives were lost when a tempo vehicle fell into a gorge in mountainous Ramban district. A poor laborer’s life was claimed at Qazigund late on Friday. Prior to it, the accidents continue to happen, claiming many precious lives and leaving numerous others with disability, some for lifetime.  The consequences of a tragedy often endure long after the accident is over. Road accidents occur due to multiple causes such as over-speeding, use of mobile phone, overloaded vehicle, vehicular condition, poor light condition, 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.

The large number of deaths in road accidents every year should raise an alarm bell among the policy-makers and the concerned 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.

Not long ago, a political declaration on global road safety was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. 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 government must keep an eye and keep track of the developments with concerned quarters.

There is also a need to lay down engineering standards and complaints procedures that will help citizens hold the concerned to account. There is also the need for education, civil society cooperation and professional policing besides spirited enforcement of law including regarding wearing seat belts, against use of smartphones while driving, over speeding, wrong side movement and other violations. Targeted programmes must be devised and strict timelines set to prevent repeat of accidents. Otherwise the accidents will only claim lives and bring devastation.

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