A spate of road accidents in the recent days, including the one involving a tipper truck on the Changanassery-Alappuzha road that killed 10 persons, has brought up the question how safe Kerala's roads are. More than 3,000 lives were lost in road accidents in the State last year. Kerala is the second most accident-prone State after Maharashtra. The Government has already come out with some measures. Our readers write in with more suggestions to keep our roads safer:
The steps initiated by the Government to address the increasing number of road accidents are peripheral and half-hearted. The authorities are treating the symptom not the disease. The reasons for the high number of road accidents are the poor condition of roads, lack of awareness about traffic rules, and the indifferent attitude of the law enforcing agencies. Most of our arterial roads are narrow and damaged and are unable to handle the high traffic density. Motorists show scant respect for rules and engage in careless and high-speed driving, inviting accidents. Law enforcement is tardy and the driving tests are outdated. The authorities spring into action only when a major accident occurs, but their enthusiasm is short-lived. Reports of various inquiry commissions on road accidents and the studies conducted by agencies such as NATPAC have not received due attention. Instead of rhetoric, we need coordinated action to save the lives of the citizens.
Sanju S ,Thiruvananthapuram
A two-pronged approach is required to tackle the issue - preventive and punitive. Installation of more speed monitors and supply of adequate number of breathalysers will help the authorities check reckless driving. Frequent eye check-up of the drivers, especially in the 40-plus age group, is a must. The manpower of the traffic wing of the police should be beefed up. Speed governors should be installed in heavy vehicles within a time frame.
Accident relief centres equipped with life-saving drugs, qualified doctors and ambulances should be set up near highways. Funds should not be a constraint when the life of people is at stake.
Stricter enforcement of the law is called for. Punitive measures should include cancellation of the licence of drivers found flouting the rules and imposing of heavy fines. Instilling the fear of the law in the minds of errant drivers will bring down traffic violations to a considerable extent.
V.N. Mukundarajan ,Thiruvananthapuram
Improve driving habit
Despite the steps taken by the Government to prevent road accidents, loss of life continues unabated. Poor road conditions and increase in vehicle population are often blamed for the situation. These are valid reasons. But above all, it is the driving habit of Keralites that is the major factor.
Keralites seem to believe that successful violation of traffic rules is the index of efficiency in driving. Observance of traffic rules while driving needs patience and consideration for the rights of others on the road. These we lack. Violation of traffic rules should be sternly dealt with so that fear of punishment serves as a deterrent.
P.K. Luke ,Thiruvananthapuram
Faulty land use
Road accidents are increasing because the population and the number of vehicles are increasing at an alarming rate. Narrow roads unsuited to modern vehicles, lack of usable footpaths, inefficient enforcement of traffic rules and public apathy towards regulations are some of the other reasons. The tendency to load the roads beyond their carrying capacity through faulty land use is visible everywhere. Erroneous road geometrics and uncontrolled building and business activities are a few other reasons for increase in accidents. Traffic management and optimisation of available infrastructure, no doubt, can produce some results. But the importance of land use planning and land use controls even in rural areas of a State like Kerala with dense, scattered type of settlements is not yet fully realised by our decision-makers. The authorities are yet to recognise the importance of building rules and zoning regulations. Disregard of such rules is also responsible for traffic accidents and environmental hazards.
K. Thomas Poulose,Chief Town Planner (Retd.) Thiruvananthapuram
Road accidents generally occur because of indiscipline and lack of patience. Kerala's population density is high. The residential systems, waterways and road networks are centuries old. The auto industry in India is competing to bring out high-power machines. But these vehicles will have to use the same old roads built for bullock and horse-drawn carriages. The road-user must always be conscious of these constraints.
The decision-makers must accept the fact that the number of vehicles is bound to increase every year. An anti-people solution is to provide more space by pulling down roadside buildings and widening the roads for vehicles. This lacks vision and is not an appropriate long-term policy for a land scarce State like Kerala. The authorities should take a cue from property developers. With two or even three-level road systems, if suitably planned and constructed, the congestion on the roads can be tackled on a long-term basis. With roads on different levels, different types of vehicles can also be suitably segregated, thereby eliminating road accidents.
S.R.K. Rasalam , Thiruvananthapuram
Improve road network
The 21-member road safety authority in the offing since mid-2005, proposal for one-time levy of cess on 25 lakh vehicles for safety programmes are all apparently waiting to take off.
Even arterial roads in the State are in a poor state of repair. Traffic density has considerably increased on the few well-maintained roads.
No action has been taken to improve accident-prone spots and keep the State Highways in good condition. Delayed payments for completed works and non-competitive bidding process make the output from road investments woefully low compared to the input. Improvement of the available network of roads can considerably reduce the traffic density and thereby accidents at a comparatively low cost.
Joy Eapen ,Vennikulam
Hold road safety audits
The growth in vehicle population without adequate road infrastructure is responsible for the increasing number of road accidents.
The primary requirement for establishing a safe road network is to thoroughly analyse and study the contributing factors along with the causes and circumstances that lead to accidents so that innovative methods in terms of design and/or control can be developed to counter deficiencies in the system. Studies conducted by NATPAC show that the existing pattern of road development without exhibiting the principles and practices of road safety auditing is the prime reason for road accidents and fatalities. Road safety auditing is a formal procedure for assessing the accident potential and safety performance in the provision of new road schemes, and schemes for the improvement and maintenance of existing roads.
Shaheem S ,Senior Research Officer ,NATPAC ,Thiruvananthapuram
Slew of measures
Road traffic accidents are eminently preventable. The 3E's for the prevention of RTA are education, engineering and enforcement.
A booklet describing the traffic rules concisely should be made available. The `Highway Safety Code' prepared by the Indian Road Congress (price Rs.100) is in English and too elaborate. The Government has only to get this simplified and translated into Malayalam and make it available at all bookshops.
Roads in our cities and towns are narrow. This need not increase accidents provided traffic rules are observed. No parking or overtaking should be allowed at or near intersections. Bus bays should be provided on the approach roads rather than at intersections. Pedestrian crossings should be provided at appropriate places so that jaywalking can be curtailed. Urgently required are multi-storeyed car parks so that parking on the roads can be avoided or minimised. Speeding, overtaking from the left, or despite on-coming vehicles, or at curves, and not dipping the lights at night are offences deserving heavy fine. Traffic offenders should be fined on the spot. CCTV at vantage points will help spot the violators and provide proof.
N. Rajan .Thiruvananthapuram
Hindu, Jan7, 2006