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India has the highest rate of road accident deaths for any country in the world, and among Indian States Kerala is somewhere in the top league. In the latest instance, rash driving has claimed nine lives in Kannur district. What needs to be done to curb this peril? Our readers respond:
SORRY STATE: An unfinished flyover adds to the chaos on the roads in Thiruvananthapuram.
First of all, maintenance of roads should be done at regular intervals.
Secondly, rules for granting licence should be made stringent. Proper campaigns should be done throughout the year and not just when a major accident occurs. Children should be taught traffic rules from a lower class.
Drunk driving should be checked along with non-use of helmets and seat belts. Use of speed governors must be made a must.
AranmulaKnow the rules
The increase in road accidents can be attributed to the bad condition of roads, bad condition of vehicles and the ignorance of road rules.
After a vehicle is given a 10-year road-worthy certificate, nobody is bothered about the condition of the vehicle.
Most of the heavy vehicles plying on national highways have neither parking lights nor brake lights, making night driving hazardous for others.
Minimum courtesy of using dim lights, using the right track when driving at low speeds and jumping the queue when traffic is heavy are some of the oft-seen bad practices.
Most of the drivers do not know the difference between a dotted central line and an unbroken central line.
It seems KSRTC drivers are a better lot when it comes to rules, in spite of being blamed unnecessarily.
The so called driving schools should teach courteous driving skills and manners.
Every day the number of vehicles is increasing but roads do not progress.
Much land has been procured for road expansion but the progress is pathetic. Just take the case of MC Road itself; how much time it is taking to complete the work.
Even when the condition of the road is pathetic, most drivers are least bothered. The speed at which private buses are driven is terrifying. Strict regulations should be introduced and violators dealt with seriously.
Thiruvananthapuram‘Real’ tests needed
It is high time the present system of issuing driving licences was scrapped. Real tests including ‘gear down’ (from top gear to first gear without applying the brake), bridge driving and reverse parking should be introduced.
Officers should strictly adhere to this instead of allowing driving school drivers to give the test. Use rear mirrors while changing lanes, overtaking or stopping suddenly.
Be careful while overtaking heavy vehicles and never overtake on the left. Avoid smoking or using cellphones while driving. Respect other drivers.
A golden rule of road safety is to implement traffic rules and regulations with an iron hand.
Most of Kerala roads are single lane, rain-soaked, without road signs and do not confirm even to national standards.
Unfortunately, we do not really have a Transport Minister but only a ‘KSRTC Minister.’
Also, the traffic section is fund-starved.
One way to overcome these problems is to entrust traffic responsibility to some central agency like the CISF. Also, install satellite-based Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking systems in addition to speed governors; this system is highly efficient and cost effective.
M.K. Abdul Majed
ThiruvananthapuramEnforce traffic rules
Road safety is mainly dependent on three factors — enforcement, education and engineering. Unfortunately, the State is in a pathetic condition in all three respects.
First step would be to strictly enforce traffic rules. Unauthorised parking, including at bus bays and junctions, is to be booked. Pedestrians are also no exception; each person has his own law, causing chaos. Jumping of traffic lights at junctions has become a common practice. Pedestrians are also to be booked if they violate the law.
The next step is to improve roads. In the case of Thiruvananthapuram city, there are some cases where total disregard by the government machinery is jeopardising road safety.
The junctions at medical college and PMG are examples of this. There have been several accidents at these places, including a fatal one at PMG Junction. These could have been avoided had the government acted in time to develop these junctions.
The government needs to bring out a booklet on Road Traffic Rules (RTR). The Indian Road Congress has brought out one (available with the Chief Engineer, Buildings & Roads), but it is in English and is priced at Rs.100.
The government only has to get it translated to Malayalam and make it available at all bookshops. It is worth giving it free to all, especially to schoolchildren. Considering the high literacy of the State, it is only reasonable to expect most people to read and understand the RTR and follow them.
All the same, enforcement by the police is necessary. School buses are given a fawn colour so that they can be identified easily and others can be cautious.
A speed limit of 40 km/hr in built-up areas should be strictly enforced, especially from 15 minutes before and for 1 hour after school closing hour.
Schoolchildren should be taught to walk in single file along the road, preferably on the right side of the road, if there is no footpath. Small children should be helped to cross the road by the conductor of the school bus holding an appropriate placard asking vehicles to stop.
The most short-sighted and unintelligent move recently by the government was the stopping of the helmet and seatbelt ‘vetta.’ It sends wrong signals concerning the importance of helmets, seatbelts and the commitment of the government to implementing safety rules.
Sadly, the awareness level of the public is very poor on such a serious issue. After a series of road accidents involving students in my colleges, including a couple of fatal ones, I organised an awareness programme for youngsters addressed by an eminent doctor. According to him, even death is a better option compared to the endless suffering after narrow escapes and living a vegetable life for the rest of your life.
Setting aside all unnecessary arguments on the pros and cons, it is universally accepted that precautions to protect the head and the body can do a lot of good. A few things need to be pointed out here. A lot of effort is required to educate the public on the importance of safety precautions. The government may not have enough resources to do this and voluntary organisations must take up this challenge, especially at the school and college level. Also, the commitment and clarity of purpose of the government in implementing this must be above board.
The condition of the roads in the State, especially after rains, is the root cause of most accidents.
Also, the public is careless about traffic rules and the awareness is ambiguous. Because of the lack of credibility of the government and its authorities, the public sees the enforcement of the High Court order on wearing helmets as a chance for the authorities to extract money from them. The public is also becoming highly self-centred and never think or even stop for a second to help fellow motorists.
We have seen photographs in the media of a man in a pool of his own blood at an accident site showing his purse to people to carry him to a hospital. That picture says very clearly that humaneness is diminishing. Pedestrians are also never careful about traffic rules. In some cases, others may have to pay with their life to save them. Stray dogs are also very dangerous.
ThiruvananthapuramRule of might
Public awareness will not work where people are politically influential. If one party is reluctant to help a culprit, others beeline with offers.
I know a boy who committed traffic offences more than 24 times and several times the vehicle he had been driving without a driver’s licence was seized, only to be released soon with phone calls from politicians.
This type of crime cannot be resolved when the upper class society is the culprit as they have money and muscle power to come out of the case.
The solution is that political parties should never help the culprits. Still, when it comes to cases of their near and dear ones, they will not stay away. Another issue is the corruption in Regional Transport Offices. Road governance should be handed over to the military, who can patrol the roads day and night. Also, politicians cannot easily access military men.
DubaiRate in perspective
The number of road accidents in Kerala is about 12 per cent of the total road accidents that occur in the country; and Kerala has only 3.1 per cent of the country’s total population. This puts the accident rate in Kerala in perspective. Our roads must be maintained in good condition. Parking of vehicles on the sides of busy roads should not be allowed. Speeding vehicles, especially in city limits, should be seized. Overtaking through the left side of the road is a major cause of accidents. Zebra-crossings for pedestrians must be properly marked.
Lack of signal lights at important junctions confuses pedestrians and drivers, so signal lights should be installed.
KollamRealise the horror
Accidents have become daily happenings in our life. In big cities, many road accidents occur every day; some of them fatal.
People have come to accept them as part of life. To speak the truth, only by witnessing an accident can one understand the horror of it. The main causes of accidents are rash driving and speeding. Many young students and young men drive their scooters and motorcycles recklessly even through small lanes and in front of schools, sometimes under the influence of intoxicants.
The only thing we can do is follow all the rules of road safety and drive very cautiously. I request the authorities concerned to put an end to the bloodshed on public roads by enforcing speed limits in the city circle and severely punishing the offenders.
The recent road accident in which nine persons died in Kannur caused great deal of grief to the people of our State.
Most accidents occur when drivers do not remain alert and refuse to share the available space on roads with other vehicles and pedestrians.
To prevent accidents, authorities should restrict licences only to those who pass a rigorous driving test and a psychological test that would confirm that they would put safety above everything else.
The driving licence should not be seen as a passport to indulge in rash driving but as an instrument to be used for service that is beneficial to all road-users.
KoyilandyState’s unique problem
Every town or traffic planner worth his salt knows that road-widening is not a solution to traffic woes. A comprehensive long-term planning is needed on a regional basis with integration of land uses and circulation system. But he is helpless owing to bureaucratic apathy, political uncertainties and difficulties in fiscal planning and long-term budgeting.
The scattered nature of settlements in Kerala, coupled with the undulating terrain, poses unique problems in traffic management. These call for specialised solutions.
But, the need of the hour is an attitudinal change for the better, both among the road user and the law enforcers.
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