Road safety : The lifeline
Mr. Amar Dalvi, Sr. Manager & OHS Head, Interio Division, Godrej & Boyce Mfg. Co. Ltd., Mumbai.
Holds Bachelor’s Degree in Chemical Engineering & Diploma in Chemical Technology and additional qualification of NEBOSH-IGC certified by U.K. Safety Council. IRCA Certified Lead Auditor for OHSAS 18001:2007 & Certified Internal Auditor for OHSAS 18001:2007 & ISO 14001:2004. Completed Advance Diploma in Industrial Safety course.
Everyday many people are involved in road accidents. Some are killed. Many more are injured. Vehicle accidents are a very big cause of death in our society, and where the government is often called upon to improve safety.
Road safety is very important in our day to day life as we complete all the tasks of our life from morning to evening with the means of transport. In modern day transportation has become necessary and play important role in life. So road safety is very important.
Type of vehicles playing on Indian roads along with their wrong usage according to their capacity is a matter of great concern for road safety. These vehicles create traffic chaos and are a cause of road crashes.
Road traffic injuries have become a serious health burden all over the world in general and in cities of low and middle-income countries in particular. Mumbai, the financial capital city of India, records the highest number of road traffic fatalities of all cities in India. This study evaluates the effectiveness of the mandatory seatbelt law enacted in Mumbai in 2002 in terms of observance of the law and estimated reduction in fatalities due to road traffic crashes. Seat belt use was monitored by road side observations at one location in 2001one year before the compulsory use law. Road side observations on belt use were taken every year in March/April for the period 2002-2005 after the notification of the compulsory use law. Seat belt use by front seat passengers averaged 72% for the four years 2002-2005 (drivers 79%, passengers 58%). Belt use by front seat by passengers was about 25% lower than that by drivers in all the years. Since car occupants comprise only 2%-3% of the fatalities in Mumbai, the belt law may have resulted in an overall fatality reduction per year.
The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Government of India, prescribed that front seats of all motor vehicles must be equipped with lap and shoulder belts with effect from April 1994. Motorcycles and three-wheelers with engine capacity less than 500 cc were exempted. All vehicles sold in India after this date has been equipped with belts in front seats. Use of belts by front seat occupants was made mandatory nationally five years later on 18th March 1999. Installation of seat belts on all seats in cars was mandated in September 2000 but the use of seat belts by rear seat occupants is not yet governed by any national law.
Since traffic is a state subject in the federal structure of the Indian constitution, traffic regulations have to be notified and enforced by each state. The Mumbai Traffic Police made use of seat belts by front seat passengers compulsory with effect from 15th February 2002 and initiated enforcement of the same. Non compliance of the seat belt regulation would be punished with a fine. The Mumbai Police fine about 2-3 percent of the motorists every month for non-compliance. This study evaluates the effectiveness of the mandatory seatbelt law in Mumbai in terms of observance of the law and estimated reduction in fatalities due to road traffic crashes.
2.0 MUMBAI – VITAL STATISTICS
Mumbai, the financial capital city of India, had an estimated population of 6.22 million persons in 1981which has grown to 16.96 million in 2008. In the same period the total number of vehicles registered in Mumbai has grown from 0.6 million to 5.6 million.
The official statistics overestimate the number of registered vehicles because owners do not have to register their vehicles every year. Therefore, out-of use vehicles remain on the record. Recent studies have estimated that the actual number of private vehicles on the road in Mumbai is 60-70% of the official statistic. This means that the number of vehicles in Mumbai in 2008 can be estimated to be about 3.6 million giving us a figure of 21 vehicles per 100 persons in the city. These data show that cars and jeeps constitute less than a third of the vehicles in the city and motorcycles almost two thirds.
3.0 SEAT BELT USE BY DRIVERS AND PASSENGERS
Only front seat passengers were found to be using belts after the announcement of the mandatory use law in 2002 by the Mumbai Police. Belt use by front seat occupants increased from 12% to 70% after the announcement of the law. Use of belts by rear seat passengers was found to be negligible in all four years. Seat belt use by front seat passengers averaged 72% for the four years 2002-2005 (drivers 79%, passengers 58%). Belt use by front seat by passengers was about 25% lower than that by drivers in all the years.
4.0 GENERAL OBSERVATIONS
The observers collecting data also made qualitative observations during the period of study. As mentioned earlier, belt use by rear seat occupants was negligible. Almost none of the children (say under 10 years) were restrained whether under in the front seat or the rear seat. Many of the occupants did not have the belts secured snugly, however, it is not possible to estimate this number in this study. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some drivers drape their belts around them and do not buckle them in. However, are not able to estimate this proportion.
Pedestrians must be aware of these potentials for danger whenever they take to the roads, and must do their part to follow safety laws. A pedestrian can be responsible for their injuries when they ignore the “walk” signal at an intersection or choose to not use the designated crosswalk areas to cross the road or intersection.
A pedestrian is also likely to be involved in an accident when he or she darts in front of a vehicle, doesn’t wear the reflective gear at night, or disrupts the normal flow of traffic. Always look both ways when you’re about to cross. Also, you should always use Zebra crossing. Stay on the pavement and never stand to close to the kerb. Use your eyes and ears, look out and listen out for any vehicles around you. Do not cross at road bends, your visual field is limited in this part of the road. You cannot see incoming vehicles, and drivers cannot see you. Always wait for the bus to stop completely, be alert of oncoming traffic when you step out of a vehicle. Be seen, Be Safe. Try and carry some reflective materials so that drivers can see you from a distance. Stop signs should never be ignored, but when they are, serious car accidents are often the result. Each year, thousands of car accidents occur because one driver ran a stop sign. Many rollover accidents and side-impact car accidents result from drivers that run stop signs. You should always look both ways when proceeding through a stop sign.
As the roads are very busy nowadays, we should be very careful when crossing one. It is safer to use a pedestrian crossing or an overhead bridge whenever one is available. Using a bicycle can be dangerous too. We must pay attention to the road and never cycle too far out to the middle of the road. We must obey all traffic rules. Also, we must make sure our bicycles are in good condition with working brakes, lights etc.
5.0 ROAD SAFETY –
- Thrust of road safety is 4 E’s i.e. education, enforcement, engineering and environment.
- 80 % of road accidents are due to driver negligence and fault, so there is a need to monitor driver competency. There is also need to check training school regarding their infrastructure, equipment, quality control, qualified driver training instructors, strict code for issue of driving licenses, regular and random health checkups of drivers along with counseling sessions, checking for any drug and alcohol addiction, overloading, over speeding and refresher training for existing drivers.
- Need for parking spaces and truck terminals outside the cities to reduce traffic crashes.
- Need to avoid using mobiles while driving.
- Need to use helmets and seat belts while driving.
- Need to inculcate road safety culture.
- Need to count traveling time for reaching the destination.
- Need to design roads in a way that even if a person is wrong the system does not permit him to do that wrong.
- Need to strictly enforce yellow colour code for school buses and to regulate their speed.
Seat belt use rates for front seat car passengers increased from a nominal 12% in 2001 to over 70% as soon as the a mandatory belt use law was enforced in Mumbai in 2002. The use law is enforced by fining car users on the spot or by sending a notice by mail.
The experience in Mumbai shows that once the Police officials send a clear signal that a seat belt law will be enforced and car users fined for non-use, it is not difficult to reach overall use levels of about 70% even in less motorised countries like India.
Belt use rates have not changed significantly in the 4 years that the law has been enforced and neither have enforcement methods changed.
Since car occupants comprise only 2%-3% of the fatalities in Mumbai, the belt law may have resulted in an overall fatality reduction of less than 1%, estimated 11-15 lives per year. This is assuming that front seat occupants comprise about 68% of all car passengers and belt effectiveness in reducing fatalities is 45%-60%.
Since the number of lives saved is a small proportion of the total, it may be more cost effective to mandate passive measures like air bags in low and middle income countries.
These are some things we can do to avoid accidents. However, there is no guarantee that we will never be involved in one. The important thing is to stay alert at all times while using the roads. We must know what is happening around us. In that way, we can take necessary action to avoid danger whenever we see one. Road safety is very much up to how we use the roads. Use them carefully and we may be able to use them for a long time. Use them carelessly and we may never be able to use them again. Stop accidents before they stop you as life doesn’t have Reset button.