Road Safety: A Perspective

As a Safety professional, I have been dealing with risk and hazards all thru my career, and yet I must confess that in my early years I did not see the road risks the way I see now. Even though the topic is also driven by the same terms ‘risk’ and ‘hazard’, this did not strike our mind those days because there was hardly any discussion in the society, organization, or media circles. You hardly saw such incidents reported by any media house, unless it involves a celebrity. And even in that case, the focus is on the celebrity and not on the cause of the death.

The times are changing for good, and we see more and more discussion happening on this topic especially in our part of the world. The subject is gaining attention and rightly so. Governmental
initiatives and actions, NGOs activism, corporate initiatives, and citizen movements are good signs and rightly picked up by media houses to bring them into the society as a topic to ponder upon. Far too many people have lost their lives due to either a skill or a behavior-based error on the road.

As per the World Health Organization (WHO)

  • 1.35 million people lose their life due to a road crash and around 50 million people suffer injuries arguably the lucky ones. However, many of these injuries leave them permanently
    disabled or cause them to lose their ability to work, communicate, support their family, smile, laugh, or dance.
    The above numbers translate into 3 deaths and 95 injured every minute. Imagine how many people would have lost their lives by the time you finish reading this article.
  • 93% of the world's fatalities on the roads occur in low- and middle-income countries, even though these countries have approximately 60% of the world's vehicles.
  • Road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death for children and young adults aged 5-29 years
  • More than 90% of road traffic deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.
  • In addition to the grief and suffering they cause, road traffic crashes constitute an important public health and development problem with significant health and socioeconomic costs. Road traffic crashes cost most countries 3-5% of their GDP.
  • Traffic injuries are the 9 th largest cause of death globally.

Road Safety is a business issue. Road Safety is a social issue. Road Safety is a Sustainability issue. Road Safety is an economic issue. Road Safety is an Issue. Period.

Many attribute these untimely deaths to their fate and karma. But the reason is the plying of unfit vehicles, fatigued drivers, reckless driving, poorly skilled drivers, unsafe road conditions, speeding tendency, usage of mobile, distracted driving, etc are few reasons behind the accidents and not fate.

Road traffic crashes are predictable and therefore preventable. It requires real-life skilling of drivers, mandating minimum safety features for vehicles, and accountability towards maintaining the road conditions. Some countries have shown significant reduction through an established set of interventions. At the structural level, enforcement of policies and legislation, focus on road engineering, scientific crash investigation, and accountability at the governance level. We need most importantly a sustainable program towards road safety involving citizens through mass engagement, communication, and education. COViD 19 pandemic has taught us how a focused campaign and apt communication can reach billions across the globe in a matter of weeks and months. Corporates, educational institutions, and Citizen Forums must take up larger responsibilities to create awareness and educate people at all levels.

To combat the problem, there needs to be close coordination and collaboration, using an integrated approach, across sectors and disciplines. Our roads need research, resolve, and response to save lives and limbs. These interventions are only possible with a firm political will and commitment, without which little can be achieved. The time to act is now. Road users everywhere deserve better and safer road travel.

Does all that mean we do not have an individual and collective responsibility?

NO, all this has to start at MY level, YOUR level, OUR level. While structural work might take a while, We
have to commit to some basics every time we hit the road:

I won’t drive when under influence of alcohol
I won’t drive when feeling unwell, drowsy, distracted, or fatigued
I won’t rush, instead will plan my journey with time in hand
I won’t use mobile phones for calling or texting. This certainly can wait
I won’t break the traffic rules meant to help me stay safe

MY Safety is MY Responsibility. Period

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