In India, road accidents have become one of the leading causes of death. In 2014 alone, there were 489,400 road accidents, two-wheelers being the deadliest vehicles accounting for 27.3% of these, with cars and jeeps following close at 22.7%. 137,000 people were killed, which is more than a hundred times the number of people killed in terrorist attacks in 2014. India’s capital city Delhi has the most number of cars and the most number of casualties – 5 citizens every day- becoming victims of car accidents, across all Indian cities.
Interesting, the accidents are not evenly spread across the country:
The 13 States of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Telangana, Chhatisgarh, West Bengal and Haryana accounted for 86.3% of all road accidents. Lakshadweep was on the other side of the spectrum with only one reported accident last year.
In addition, the young seem to be most at risk. More than half (53% to be precise) of fatalities comprise of youth in the 15-34 years’ age group.
Following are some main causes of road accidents in India:
1. Over speeding
More than half of the accidents (55%) and deaths (56.2%) on Indian roads last year were caused by drivers speeding unreasonably. This is because at higher speeds, the driver has less control over the vehicle, and needs more time and distance to slow down- which is not easily available on congested Indian roads. Higher the speed, greater the risk of a collision, and greater the risk to human life. This is why it is recommended to drive at a speed where you have control of your car, especially within city limits, where there are other vehicles and pedestrians present.
2. Distractions to the driver
Distractions, no matter how minor, can cause major accidents since they result in the driver’s attention being diverted away from the road. As you may already have guessed, one of the biggest causes of distraction these days is the use of mobile phones while driving. While headsets and earphones are a boon, they still serve as a distraction, since part of your attention is on the call- especially if it’s about something urgent or important.
Other distractions, inside and outside the vehicle, could be in the form of co-passengers’ conversation, animals or pedestrians suddenly stepping on to the road, music in the car, attractive banners/billboards on the side of the road, etc. No matter how comfortable and confident you are of your driving skills, it’s essential you make an effort to keep your eyes and ears on the road.
3. Jumping red lights
Another common occurrence is jumping red lights and speeding up just before the intersection when the light is about to turn red. Both these can cause great harm to human life since other vehicles and pedestrians crossing the road expect you to slow down, and this can lead to extremely dangerous accidents.
4. Drunken driving
With recent cases being widely publicized by the media, and more severe punishments being meted out by the judiciary, drunken driving is slowly reducing. However, in 2014, 10.5% of road accidents and 6.8% of the resultant deaths were attributed to the driver being under the influence of alcohol or drugs. High alcohol levels reduce the ability to concentrate, hamper vision, and entice drivers to take risks, causing reckless driving. Studies show that with every increase of 0.05 blood alcohol concentration, the likelihood of an accident doubles. Awareness campaigns carried out by the government and NGOs are stark reminders not to drink and drive. If you are drunk after a night out with friends, family or colleagues, either ask a teetotaller friend to drive you home, or order yourself a cab, or, if you had planned to do so beforehand, hire a driver for the night.
5. Non-adherence to traffic rules
Traffic laws, including the mandatory wearing of seatbelts, have been put in place, and all drivers should adhere to the same. Breaking rules by driving in the wrong lane or overtaking wrongly can cause major accidents.
One of the most inhumane aspects of road accidents is the increasing occurrence of hit-and-run cases, where the driver of the vehicle at fault doesn’t stop to check on the person(s) or vehicle(s) impacted, and flees from the crime scene. This category of accidents saw a sharp increase of 7.6% from 2013 to 2014, with 53,334 accidents causing 19,569 deaths last year. These incidents are especially tragic because of is the large percentage of these fatalities that could have been avoided had the negligent driver stopped and ensured that the required care was immediately given to the victims.
With 56 road accidents and 16 resultant deaths every hour last year, RTOs (Regional Transport Office) are becoming stricter about issuing licenses and insurance companies are increasing renewal premiums for policy holders if their claim is based on an instance of drunken or reckless driving. Similarly, there are increasing efforts made by the government and NGOs to make the public aware of the dangers of negligent, drunk and reckless driving.
The real power, however, lies in the hands of the person driving the car, who always has the choice between driving safe or risking their own lives, along with the lives of people in the car with them and the people on the road. The lesson to take away is that no matter how confident you are of your driving abilities, no matter how lucky you may have been in avoiding car accidents up to this point, believing it could never happen to you, is not advisable. It need not necessarily be your fault, but if an accident happens, pointing fingers is not going to assuage the pain and damage caused.
"The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me"- Ayn Rand -
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