Transport safety : The challenges
Mr. Ajit Kadam, EHS Expert, Director – Engineering, Spectrum Pharmatech Consultants Pvt. Ltd., Thane.
Holds Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering. Certified Auditor, Certified IH Assessor and Machine Safety specialist. Has worked as Maintenance & EHS Manager with Johnson & Johnson from 1997 to 2004.
Transport has become an integral part of our day to day life as we are getting more & more industrialized. Rapidly growing population & vehicular density is only adding to our transport & safety woes as our infrastructure is not growing as rapidly. Being a developing nation we are facing our own set of issues & challenges in terms of Transportation Safety.
From official statistical data published by NCRB there are lacks of people being killed every year in different types of fatalities happening due to challenges present in Transport Safety system of our country, Unlike western countries we face lots of system deficiencies in Road Safety implementation, inadequacy of infrastructure to support the growing vehicular densities in most of the metro cities & our national highways.
I as a safety professional had underwent the defensive driving techniques training imparted to us by SSDC (Singapore Safety Driving Centre) and strongly felt that we all need to develop the defensive mindset which will help us do our part as a responsible citizen to improve road safety & transportation safety in India.
Transport Safety covers all kind of Transports including Road, Rail, and Sea & Air. In this presentation I am focusing more on the Road Safety as it’s still the cause biggest number of fatalities among all others.
As a part of knowledge sharing I will be delivering a small presentation at V.P.M.’s Polytechnic on Transport Safety to increase the awareness & I am sure you will help me spread this knowledge among your friends & near & dear ones to show our commitments towards making our roads safer.
Following are the Key Elements of Transport Safety –
- Drivers & Behavior
- Roads & Infrastructure
- Traffic Controls
- Driving Conditions
Vehicles play a critical role in the overall road safety scenario. There are several factors about vehicles which have direct impact on the Road Safety statistics. Primarily age of the vehicle & vehicle maintenance are critical factors out of them.
For example poorly maintained vehicles are likely to have more on road breakdowns & can cause road accidents due. Very often it is being seen that the tail lights of vehicle not working & have poor braking systems which are disastrous from road safety perspective. Fuel adulteration in rural areas is another major concern as it also leads to vehicle breakdowns due to poor fuel quality. Adulterated fuel not only causes the safety hazard but it also contributes towards pollution due to vehicular emission.
Inflation of tires, braking efficiency, and working of headlamps & tail lamps conditions of rear view mirrors shall be checked daily by the drivers.
Similarly the safety standards required to be met by the vehicle manufacturers are also not at par with those practiced by Western Countries. This is because of the cost sensitive Indian markets. All said & done we as a country should not compromise on basic vehicle safety standards. ABS, EBD, ORVM, Break Assist should be a standard mechanisms of all the vehicles sold in Indian market.
Vehicle type also plays a critical role. Special vehicles such as trailers & tankers need a special skills to drive the vehicles. Such vehicles can have lots of blind spots during turning & are to be driven with extreme care.
2.0 DRIVERS & BEHAVIOR
Drivers & their behavior play an important role in achieving the road safety. Following are important characteristics of the driver that can influence his ability to contribute towards road safety.
- Age Of The Driver
- Educational Qualification
- Medical Fitness
Underage drivers lack the maturity & can cause major accidents on road. The qualification of drivers decides his capacity to read the road safety instructions & signs resulting in improved road safety. However lack of it can create concerns. Minimum literacy level is an essential for any Driver.
Medical fitness is very important for the driving. The gross & fine motor co-ordination is very critical from driving & road safety perspective. Medical defects such as full or partial vision impairment, color blindness can be too dangerous for driver and others sharing the road. Similarly heart ailments or any other sort of ailments which can affect person’s driving ability shall not be overlooked. Thus Medical Fitness is very important & crucial for any Driver.
Experience of a particular terrain, weather conditions & handling different type of vehicles is an important factor. Driver must have a working experience & suitable skillset to handle the vehicle in given situation. For example driving in a hill Sections needs a definite skill sets. Night driving too needs a special skills & person should actively practice the same. To handle the loaded trucks & tankers Driver needs a very special experience as moving liquid mass has definitive impact on vehicle’s drivability & movement. Similarly the braking distance also changes with the change in load of the vehicles.
Following are the behavioral factors –
- Driving Under Influence
- Lack of Sleep/Insomnia
- Reckless Attitude
- Driving Skills
- Sense Of Social Responsibility
All Driver’s shall be mentally fit to drive the vehicle. Hence their psychology & mindset deeply affects the on-road behavior of the Driver. If any driver is driving under the influence of any drug or alcohol, there are greater chances of fatality. There are many recent examples of Drink Driving disaster cases recently in India which has caused several innocent lives. Similarly driver’s using some specific medications shall also avoid driving as dizziness or sleepiness due to medication can have direct impact on the driver’s driving ability. Apart from that Driver must feel social responsibility & follow the traffic rules seriously to avoid the road fatalities.
3.0 ROADS & NFRASTRUCTURE
Roads & Infrastructure is another important element in achieving Road Safety. India has a rural road network of over 3,000,000 km, and urban roads total more than 250,000 km. The national highways, with a total length of 65,569 km, serve as the arterial
Network across the country. Roads carry about 61% of the freight and 85% of the passenger traffic. Highways total about 66,000 km (2% of all roads) and carry 40% of the road traffic. The ongoing project of four-lanes the 5,900-km Golden Quadrilateral connecting Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and Kolkata is nearing completion.
The ongoing four-lanes of the 7,300-km North- South East-West corridor is to be completed by December 2009. The National Highway Development Program, involving a total investment of US$ 55 billion up to 2012, has been proposed for constructing 1,000 km of new expressways, six-lanes 6,500 km of the four-lane highways comprising the Golden Quadrilateral and certain other high-density stretches, four lanes the Golden Quadrilateral and NS-EW corridors, four-lanes 10,000 km of high-density national highways, and upgrading 20,000 km of smaller rural roads into two-lane highways.
The Roads & Infrastructure is critical from Road Safety perspective. Due to lack of well-developed public transport Indian people are more dependent on private mass transport which often is poorly maintained.
Vehicular density in metro cities is another critical factor. The total motor vehicle population has increased from about 300,000 in 1951 to about 73,000,000 in 2004. The actual number of motor vehicles in the country may be 20-30% lower, as registration procedures do not remove many of the out-of-service vehicles from the records. This issue is dealt with in more detail in a later.
Similarly maintenance of roads is also very critical for Road Safety. We often read the road accidents caused due to pothole ridden roads & several open pits on road undergoing construction works. We need to implement strong safety measures to control the traffic on roads undergoing the maintenance works & the roads networks used shall be maintained properly. India’s killer roads claimed the lives of 75,000 people aged between 15 and 34 years last year. Over 82% of these victims were males, according to the Road Accident Report for 2014 prepared by the road transport and highways ministry.
“The detailed age profile of road accident victims for calendar year 2014 reveals that the age group of 15-34 years accounted for 53.8% of the total road accident fatalities, followed by the age group of 35-64 years accounting for a share of (35.7%),” the report says. The latest estimate by the World Health Organization also shows that globally, world road traffic injuries are the number one cause of death among young people aged 15-29 years. Annually, about 3.4 lakh youngsters in this age group die in accidents. “This shows that there is a need to pay attention to making young people more aware of road safety issues. Families should play a big role in sensitizing them on how to behave safe on roads.
Similarly on all our Highways & City’s we lack the emergency medical helps & in most of the cases victims lose their lives due to lack of Medical help reaching to them during golden hour of an emergency. The social outlook of people & the law enforcement agencies causes the people to run away from the accident spots & prevents helping victims. There is an urgent need for improved emergency response networks and the facilities such as an air ambulance to save the time to carry the victim’s to hospitals and responding with medical treatments as soon as possible.
4.0 TRAFFIC CONTROLS
In India we have long way to improve our traffic controls. Our city planners & urban designers have to take lots of clues from our western counterparts. Our road networks often lack the automatic signals & round about which are critical for the roads with heavy traffic. At many places we have the junctions on highways which can simply be converted into a round about exit route avoiding any direct road crossing causing major accidents. Beyond this there is lots of contribution from driver’s as well as there is a tendency of drivers to jump the signals very often.
5.0 DRIVING CONDITIONS
Driving conditions is another important factor in Road Safety. India being a large country we have different weather pattern & climatic conditions across the states. It is very essential for Driver to recognize these conditions & tune up his driving skills to suit them.
In some part of country there are extreme summers raising temperatures up to 48-50 degree Celsius & some part of countries have extremely cold weather reducing temperatures near 0 degree Celsius. The vehicles need different kind of accessories & fitment to keep functioning in such contrast weather conditions & Driver’s too need a specific skill sets to work in such an extreme conditions.
Some part of country receives heavy rains. The cautious driving approach is required to drive the vehicles in monsoon seasons as due to water film formation on road surfaces there are major chances of vehicle skidding. Alternately vehicle tires are supposed to be in good working conditions for effective breaking.
Similarly there is huge difference in daytime & night time driving conditions. Night driving does needs a very special type of driving skill sets & shall be avoided as far as possible. If essential then Driver must ensure that he has had enough sleep in previous shift & is fit to drive the vehicle. It is essential that all drivers shall use dipper lights to avoid the spot blindness for the drivers coming from other sides & which can cause serious accidents.
6.0 FUTURE CHALLENGES
It has been observed that our transport situation has worsened in recent past due to all above reasons. The traffic fatalities have increased by 5% per year from 1980s to 2000s. Still we lack a clear policy OR vision to control this ever growing risk which is causing millions of rupees of loss in GDP & affecting many individuals & families.
Statistical data shows that the vehicular population has grown from 0.3 million to 73 million in the span of last fifty years. From 70’s our national rate of transport related fatalities has sharply climbed up & it continues to grow further. Unless we deal with it proactively & rollout strong policies to control this scenario, followed by flawless implementation, we will be fighting a losing battle.
With technological advancement & improved industrial standards we should be able to take the corrective steps to improve the transport safety scenario in our own country. We also need to cater the Infrastructure, education & geopolitical challenges to make our part of world more safe & responsible. Majority of accidents are caused by Human Errors & are preventable in nature. If we all can work together towards the noble cause of improving our road safety standards & use different approach towards our transportation, we can save many lives & can make our world more safe & livable.
We have to deal with following Future Challenges –
- Controlling Vehicle Density in Metros
- Improving Road Infrastructure
- Maintenance of Roads
- Improved Traffic Controls
- Emergency Services Improvement
- Driver Awareness Drives
- Stricter Law Enforcements
To improve the road safety in India there are lot many things which are to be contributed by Indian government. However there is single factor which is in hand of the road users which is our behavior. As per Henrich triangle there 88% of accidents are caused due to unsafe act, 10% due to unsafe conditions & 2% due to natural calamities. That means 98% accidents are caused due to human factors which are easily controllable. If we all do bit from our end to contribute towards road safety simple by improving our behavior, we can surely make our roads much safer & save many lives. We need to inculcate the defensive mindset which means we have to drive on road assuming that the others are going to make mistakes. This will leave us with better chances of creating safe roads.
Government Motor Transport Statistics – govt.data
UMTRI – Road Safety Challenges & Opportunities In India