Monthly Archives: January 2011

My journey to “The Road To Change”

In 1997, I decided to travel to Europe with my family. As I was planning for the tour, I thought it would be great fun, if I drove around Europe myself, instead of traveling by public transport. At that time, I had driven Maruti, Ambassador and Fiat cars in India, and had very little experience of driving mid-size cars. Some of my friends advised I not drive in Europe. In fact, one of my friends told me that on the expressway in Germany, people drive at a speed of over 150kmph and if I don’t cope up with the speed, I might meet with an accident. However, I decided to take the risk and went ahead to experience driving in Europe myself.

We hired a car from Zurich for 15 days and on the very first day, we traveled almost 400 miles! We reached Salzburg in Austria, without any problem, although I was driving an Opal Astra for the first time. I never had to honk, as there was no need. I found people very disciplined, while driving. Not just that, pedestrians only used footpaths. People had the courtesy toward pedestrians and fellow drivers on the road. There were no irregular pedestrian crossings, as there were either over bridges or subways.

You may think it is difficult to drive in Europe, because all cars have a left-hand drive and unlike India, you have to drive on the right hand side of the road. But to my astonishment, everything on the road was so disciplined, that I never faced any problem. There was a huge difference between what we see in India and what I experienced in Europe.
I, then, thought that when I get back to India, I will take up an initiative to create awareness of disciplined driving for a safe India.

Later, I visited London and observed that rather than enforcement of rules and regulations, people were self-disciplined on the road. One of my friends drove me all over London. One day, he told me that he would take us to the River Thames at midnight. We reached the river bank at 2am. The road, next to the river bank, had 5 lanes and there was no traffic at all, at that time. He told me to take a stroll at the river bank and he would join us after parking the car, as there is no parking allowed on the road sides. A typical Indian, I told him, 典here is no traffic at all now. Why don’t you park the car near the footpath and join us?But he refused at first. However, on my insistence, he agreed and parked the car at the side of the road. Believe me, even before he could get out of the car, a policeman came and told him that he cannot park here. There was no discussion or argument or even a request to allow him to park, as it was not disturbing anyone and was only for half an hour. The rules are that strict. My friend had to, ultimately, park the car in a parking lot.

It was really a pleasant surprise, that the ordinary citizens and the law enforcement officials are so disciplined on the road.
My 15 days experience in Europe and London led me to initiate a road safety project in India. I feel it’s our responsibility to make a better society and not just curse the nation for what it does not have.


How can we save those on the roads?

I have been discussing this with almost everybody. People like me, who face terrible traffic jams in the city. They are fed up and so am I. But I don’t want to give up on this problem. It is something we all need to solve.

I have thought about a few things, like going and meeting NGOs and private companies and asking them to come together and form groups, to tackle this problem.

Individuals, who want to help solve traffic-related problem, can join these special groups and sketch out different methods and ways to tackle the problem.

Actually traffic jams are just one small part of the current traffic situation. There are bigger problems related to it – road rage is one of the most crucial of those.

Traffic jams lead to road congestions, which tempt people to break traffic rules to escape the situation. This, in turn, makes people overtake from the wrong side, upsetting drivers, who do not break rules and follow road safety norms. This leads to frustration & anger and ends up as road rage, which can be dangerous, often causing accidents, and sometimes proving fatal.

So you see, there is loss to property, loss of mental health and sometimes life. Other problems like noise pollution, air pollution, wastage of petrol, parking problems, etc. are also there.

In the given situation, driving on the roads is almost a curse.

But, we can change this situation, if we make some efforts and take some steps in this direction.

Good traffic law enforcement is essential for road safety. People need to be taught discipline. They need to obey/follow traffic rules for road safety. Traffic policing is important for a safe and efficient movement of traffic. This can be achieved by persuasion, prevention and punishment. People need to be disciplined; the ones, who do not follow traffic rules, need to be penalized. Right laws put into practice will change behavior.

Speed limits will reduce accidents. Better movement of cars will ensure peaceful ways of driving.


The Roads Of Tomorrow

Our children, the young of the world, the people who will live in this world tomorrow, and next generation. It is on them that the future of the world will depend. But before that, the onus is on us to provide them a world that is nurturing and helps them develop it further.

Unfortunately, by the looks of it, this itself is in jeopardy. In every sense, be it the planet & its environment, the world economy, and not in the least, the state of our roads; its is all in shambles! Is this the state of degradation that we will have our future generations inherit the planet?

The roads in India alone will present the biggest challenges & threats to progress for our future generations. In fact progress is a long way off, that ensuing generations can be guaranteed safety on our roads is in itself a big question mark. And sadly, the current state of affairs, and projections, do not bode well at all.

Indian roads today host more than 48 types of transport modes, with the vehicle count exceeding a staggering 10 crore. In a developing economy with a progressively wealthier middle class, this number is going to inflate manifold in the coming years. More vehicles, no roads, extreme danger! If not a vehicular accident, the increased pollution levels from the growing number of vehicles will cause irreversible damage to the planet & to the next generation!even the social cost of accidents on Indian roads that has been currently estimated at 11,000$ will rise substantially

Worst of all, road fatalities will become an ‘epidemic’ by the year 2030, with 90% of deaths on world’s roads occurring in low and middle-income countries exactly like India!

The condition of our roads is already at breaking point. Traffic jams & snarls, safety issues, rash driving, flouting laws & lawlessness, and an increasing load of vehicular traffic with no commensurate progress in infrastructure. Its a very very critical situation.

We need a Road To Change, and we need it now. Drastic steps have to be taken immediately to correct the state of our roads; and a healthy, joint collaboration is needed between the authorities and the civilian population. Co-operation, patience, and urgent action are the needs of the hour, if we are to give our next generation, a road-system that is usable, safe & viable!


Indian Road Accidents

Despite just 1.5% of the world’s vehicle population, India manages to top world road accident charts with a disturbing 10% of all road-accidents! And this is a result of the lawlessness that prevails on our roads. Both from the authorities, and the people; road-ethics are ditched in favor of ‘short-cuts’, impatient behavior, and convenience. Its an extremely grim scenario, and one that needs urgent & crucial attention.

The fact of the matter is, nowhere is it safe on Indian roads. Be it the rural areas, our big cities, not even national highways. Everyone, on all types of roads, is constantly vulnerable to road accidents, that are in many cases, lethal! Such is the adverse impact of road-accidents, that the WHO estimates this menace to become the 3rd largest cause of injury, and the 6th largest cause of death, by 2020.

No user type is spared. Each road user type is subject to fatalities and the figures tell a rather bleak story. Topping the list are two-wheelers with 22%. Next up we have Cars/Taxis and Trucks with 13% & 11% respectively. And the scariest part, owing to a general lack of civic sense on our roads, even pedestrians are faced with road-accident fatalities amounting to 13%!

But while figures tell one side of the story, it is actual recorded incidents that portray the complete horror of loss of lives on our roads. With this are three such videos that encapsulate the extent of road-accident tragedies to some degree. In the first video, a sleepy part of Kerela witnesses an accident in broad day-light. The reason, an unmanned junction that the police seems to have ignored, and the civilian population is too callus to be careful about.

In the second video, we hear about the devastating end of a would-be pedestrian lady, that too in the nation’s capital no less, who has been marooned to death by large commercial vehicles reportedly continually driving over her! And the 3rd video tells the case of a happy holiday group, who crash to their deaths out on the open highway!

Is really no place safe? No one secure? Some serious thought is solicited by the dismal state of our roads & the impending calamities across them. Its high time, for a road to change!


New Year Celebration Turns To Tragedy

The New Year is greeted with much joy & celebration. Leading up to the new year, people are happy, full of hope for the ensuing year and everyone likes to leave their troubles behind, and let their hair down. Some people celebrate to forget a bad year gone-by, others to toast what has been a splendid year. There are parties, gatherings and galas all over the place. Everything culminates in the biggest night of them all- the new year’s eve – on the 31st of December.

However, in the midst of all the revelry, the roads across India present a very morbid and contrary picture. In a country that witnesses 13 road deaths each hour (adding up to 1.4 lac road deaths each year), it is ironically enough, the New Year’s eve, that sees a sharp increase in road-related casualties!

It is also no surprise then, that 50% deaths are of pedestrians, cyclists & bikers. Inebriated passenger car & commercial vehicle drivers lose the sense of proportion by taking their celebrations onto the roads. The result – pedestrians are targeted unwittingly, falling prey to the menacing drunk driving of new year’s eve party revelers. Bikers too, high on life and various other substances, bring in the new year by driving at lighting fast speeds, screaming and racing, not caring about laws, safety, or anything else!

Again, the fall-out is alarming – deaths in uncountable & shameful numbers on roads, that become unsafe places. To add to that, several parts of the country experience thick fog, that reduces visibility and makes it even more dangerous for people to be out & about.

One could argue that the solution is stricter policing and enforcement of laws on the roads. But the fact is, most of our police personnel is also in the holiday cheer, with their primary motive not to reduce road-casualty, but to make a quick buck!

It is shocking how unsafe our roads are, especially on the most celebratory night of the year. But the sad truth is, if you want a safe passage into the next year, the roads are not the best route to take. A road to change, is most desperately needed!