Traffic Answers…..
By Maxwell Pereira
maxpk@vsnl.com


Today we could talk about some oft repeated queries, the answers to which are not easy to come by. Things like "What are the major hazards on Delhi's roads: pedestrians? Animals? Bicycle riders?" And "To what extent better vehicle design and things like seatbelt wearing have helped to cut the statistics of deaths and serious injuries on our roads?

Delhi is perhaps the world's only city where there are a listed 48 different categories of road users jostling with each other for supremacy and road space. From elephants and camels and animal-drawn bullock carts, buffalo-buggies, horse-powered carriages and tongas, to a plethora of mechanized and non-mechanized, foot-powered or hand-powered modes of transport, including the ubiquitous uneducated migrant pedestrian and the cyclist who has no clue whatsoever to the ways of the city, the rules, or norms and regulations. And there are an estimated half a million or more cycle-rickshaws creating unquantifiable amount of chaos on our roads, while I believe they are viewed quite favourably for possible introduction and use on the streets of Oxford in England and New York in the USA. All these mixed traffic modes do create traffic congestion. And the cow and buffalo as the most favoured milch animals by the local populace - allowed to stray and usurp road space with impunity, I further believe have acquired world fame thanks to the tourists landing in India who find this a fascinating phenomenon and photo feature! Which, among these could I name as the major hazards on Delhi roads?.

With the opening of world markets and slackening of controls and imports in Indian economy in recent years, there is no car available anywhere in the world which is also not available in India. Or at least it appears so, witnessing the wide variety of latest vehicles from different parts of the world flooding Delhi roads every day. Hence gone are the days of ancient and outgrown technologies or vehicle designs. The road infrastructure, the traffic management information systems etc have however not kept pace, and may be it'll be a while before such things as are available for traffic management elsewhere in the so-called developed world do make their appearance here. Consequently, the new found unbridled power available to the Indian driver with the grip on his wheel could be a contributory hazardous factor no less that the variety of other factors which are detrimental to safety on our roads.

A preponderance in the number of accidents involving a particular brand of vehicle, does incite the traffic police now and again in their effort at reducing the number of deaths and injuries on the road, to address the concerned authorities to commission appropriate studies to determine whether or not the vehicle design or characteristics of that vehicle brand are indeed responsible or a contributing factor to the accident. In fact such an exercise has been undertaken by the traffic police recently in respect of a particular brand of vehicle introduced in Delhi within the span of the last two years, due to its uncanny propensity to turn turtle or topple on its side at the drop of a hat each time it takes a road bend at speed.

The concept of wearing seat belts by motorists in India is a recent year-old phenomenon, thanks to a proactive intervention on the part of our judiciary. It is being vigorously enforced in Delhi and a 98% adherence is estimated. The impact of seat belts on the road accident scenario though, is yet to be studied by research organizations. For the present, while agreeing with the view that motor vehicles constructed with a scientific design and equipped with adequate safety measures can promote more safe and efficient traffic, the seat belt law is seen as yet another means to inculcate a sense of road discipline among road users.

 

850 words: dated 24.08.2004.
Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http:// www.maxwellperira.com and maxpk@vsnl.com

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