The year 2020 was a bumpy one for road safety. That the Chandigarh traffic cops, who fanned out on New Year’s Eve, could not catch any one driving drunk that night speaks volumes about the awareness among people regarding the hazards of driving in an inebriated condition. At the same time, the 282 fines slapped for general violations on December 31 stress the need for drilling a lot more sense of adhering to rules for one’s own safety, as well as for the sake of everyone else on the road. A worrisome figure revealed by a recent survey underscores the urgency: 95 per cent of the drivers with licences in India are unaware of 50 per cent of the safety guidelines.
Kullu, which saw road fatalities dip by 60 per cent from 131 in 2019 to 53 in 2020, is an encouraging case. While the drop may partly be attributed to negligible traffic during the lockdown, the role of alertness and stiffer penalties for violations such as the use of a mobile phone by the driver, drunk driving and overspeeding/rash driving — some of the main causes of accidents — cannot be dismissed. It’s equally vital to address the poor condition and maintenance of roads and highways, besides the stray cattle menace.
The report pointing out 391 black spots that snuff out 4,600 lives and leave thousands injured every year in Punjab shows what needs to be done to make roads safer. Aggressive awareness campaigns, strong policing and zero-tolerance enforcement of traffic norms on the scale of measures undertaken for battling Covid-19 are needed. For, road accidents in India account for a fatality rate comparable to that of the pandemic. More than 1.5 lakh people lose their lives on the roads annually in the country. Replicating the determination and drive seen in the fast-tracking of the Covid vaccine will go a long way in effectively smoothening the bumps and potholes in our transport and safety standards.