Lessons from India’s roads

It’s good to see civic consciousness coming to the fore with a series of articles in the Hindu on the occasion of road safety week, and the efforts of our own VinodVV. The tragedy that is taking place on our roads, and the rest of India, is unprecedented, with 1.2 million lives lost every year. If we lost that many lives in a war, can you imagine the hue and cry it would have set off in India and the rest of the world? Think about it: 1.2 million people died on India’s roads. The human cost in terms of grief and loss, in addition to the economic loss in terms of productive lives snuffed out, is incalculable.

Yet we have a fair amount of apathy on the part of the government and the police when it comes to road safety (except for road safety week!). In part because the government does not understand that it is the largest service organization in the country, its raison d’etre in serving the best interests of its citizens. Instead, politics has become power play, more often serving the interests of the politicians or the party, rather than the people. Exceptions do exist such as our current Prime Minister and President, but at the state level, it has been pretty dismal. In part, we the people are to blame, because we accept this without protest, with equal apathy. This results in our deteriorating quality of life when it comes to public infrastructure and safety.

We, the citizens, are also personally responsible. For the careless way we use the roads. Our mindless driving focused on getting ahead at someone else’s cost. With rude behavior that leads to road rage. And immature races and risks that lead to sudden death, more often than not, for the innocent. Or crossing the road without a thought to personal risk. Or the disruption and risk that we are putting others into. Oh yes, we are equally responsible. Responsible for the deaths of 1.2 million of our fellow countrymen. It is said that we are a functioning anarchy. That may be, but there’s a huge cost involved, in lives lost in the process.

What of the maimed? What of those crippled for life? What of the wage earners who lose their ability to support their families? The figure of 1.2 million is only of lives lost. I would imagine that number needs to be multiplied by ten to arrive at the figure of those grievously injured or crippled on our roads every year. Maybe more. Who is this happening to? Someone else? So it doesn’t matter? It will catch up with you, and your loved ones. As it did to me, and my family. And my friends. For no fault of ours. Think about it. How many people do you know in the last ten, or five, years who have been through major accidents and died or survived? You will find the results sobering.

So lets wake up to reality. And do something individually and personally to make our roads safer for all concerned. For as the saying goes, “Want to change the world? Start with yourself”. I have in this New Year. And I invite you to do the same.

5 Comments so far

  1. anaon (unregistered) on January 8th, 2007 @ 1:12 am

    The biggest part of it motorist safety is the vehicle. most of us drive two-wheelers.
    internationally bikes are not a mode of transport, bikes are used for recreation in the west.
    in india many of them get crippled or die in freak city accidents. Cars are one of the safest transport options in the city. Our bloody fu)*(ing government which has import duty in the multiples of 100% is the main culprit, denying the citizen a safest mode of transport.
    India can import cheap 2nd hand cars at the cost of a new (death machines) bikes.

  2. R. Vijay (unregistered) on January 8th, 2007 @ 10:46 am

    India can import cheap 2nd hand cars at the cost of a new (death machines) bikes….. so that people can get choked (to virtual death) in traffic jams ????????

    Best for India – public transport run by private companies.

  3. JoeV (unregistered) on January 9th, 2007 @ 2:50 am

    Thats 1.2 million less than a billion which is growing exponentially!!!

  4. panampalli (unregistered) on January 9th, 2007 @ 6:23 am

    Heart breaking facts david. well written.

    Exactly the point where the determination to return back to the homeland and be part of the changes happening there breaks down.

    But to imagine that this could be fixed in any democratically crippled country would remain exactly that . Just a dream!.

    And who was that nut commenting we use cars instead of two wheelers.

    Metropolitan cities to be liveable have to built around public transport and not the other way around. Infact this problem isnt specific to india. Its quite common in every place experiencing rapid economic expansion.

  5. Thad E. Ginathom (unregistered) on January 11th, 2007 @ 6:52 am

    There are certainly more two-wheelers on the streets of Chennai than London — but I don’ think it is true to say that they are only used as recreation in the West. Very many use them as their daily transport, especially commuters who can no longer park their cars anywhere near their work.

    However, safety laws are strict. The wearing of helmets is absolutely mandatory, and anyone carrying more than one passenger would almost certainly be prosecuted. There is probably a minimum age for passengers too. No way are they considered ‘family transport’. And no way are they considered goods carriers! Unbelievable to the average Chennai-ite? !

    Despite all that, motor bikes are still firmly at the dangerous end of accidents statistics.

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