Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Road safety and Kerala

By D.Dhanuraj

Ever since Malayalam cine actor Jagathi Srikumar met with an accident, media has turned their attention to the medians causing accidents. I must confess that the medians are one of the so many elements of road safety. It is nice to read such debates so to wish that the responsible departments would take it seriously. But what we need is a comprehensive framework for road safety and the auditing of road safety measures taken.

Many papers that deal with road safety in India mentions the increasing sales of motor vehicles as the reason for accidents and causalities. Though I agree with this argument at the theoretical level, I believe this is an apt example for poor side of policy making in this country. Most of the policy documents dealing with road safety either ignores or being oblivion of the elements of road safety.

Road safety includes design (architecture) of the road, safe and secure pedestrian side walks, street lights, pedestrian cross links, junction improvement, proper signals, removing poles that obstruct the smooth movement of pedestrians, straightening the sharp turns etc. Driving on Kerala roads, one must have noticed that pedestrians are hardly respected as there is hardly any space for them for a safe walk on the sides of the road. Most of the junctions lack free right or left turns that cause accidents at the junction mouths. We don't have the concept of detailing even the minutest attributes of a street when the roads are designed. I am not sure whether the department lacks the expertise or skills or they are least bothered about these finer aspects.

Road safety cannot be stand alone subject. It involves so many elements and they shall be addressed to ensure the safety for all the road users. Unfortunately, every one blames the speeding vehicles and the increased number of vehicles on the roads as the major reasons for the road accidents. If that is the case, accident rates would have been bigger in the developed countries. What we lack is the attributes for a developed infrastructure ensuring safety of street users. again, in India, the infrastructure means the big ticket projects like Metros and Fly overs etc. But if we look at the number of road accidents, none of these big ticket projects will have any profound influence in reducing the causalities.Rather, a better coordinated approach among the departments (I would rather suggest for a street development authority) for model streets with side walks, crossings, proper medians etc will save so many lives and GDP of the country.


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