With the high incidence of accidents in the State, it is imperative that students and the general public alike are made aware of road safety rules.

It was just over a week ago (September 1) that three school children waiting for their bus were killed after a recklessly-driven private bus rammed into the bus shelter at Kannur. Many more kids walking home from school have been killed during the past two years in Kerala in such similar incidents.

Reckless motorists

While preventing such accidents might take time, a high level of care on the part of motorists, children, their parents, school authorities, members of the public and the police can certainly reduce their occurrence.

Some school text books exhort students to exercise caution while crossing the road (by looking right and left to see oncoming vehicles; by not crossing the road from behind/in front of a parked vehicle…), walking along the road side and so on. But children tend to learn more from their elders, many of whom are careless pedestrians and even more careless/reckless when driving vehicles. This, the pathetic condition of most roads and the lack of road ethics among many road users (both motorists and pedestrians), have together resulted in Kerala having the highest road accident and fatality rate in the country.

The traffic police and the Motor Vehicles Department train students in understanding traffic signals, signs and other aspects, but these enforcement agencies are slack when it comes to penalising rule breakers. Civic agencies do not paint pedestrian lines in busy crossing points, with the result that people randomly crossing the road are highly prone to accidents. Most footpaths in the State are not pedestrian-friendly and are encroached upon by vendors.

Taking steps

Mr. C. J. Johnson, a mechanical engineer who has presented papers in many road-safety seminars, says that children must make themselves more visible while on the roads. “They must wear bright coloured clothes, especially at dusk and at night. The bicycles used by children must be painted using bright or reflective paints, must have head and tail lights and also a proper bell.”

He suggested that all types of vehicles, especially goods carriers and buses, be painted using bright colours and have functional, clean lights and reflectors. Far too many accidents take place on Kerala's roads each year after vehicles ram into vehicles parked on the road sans parking and hazard lights at night. Autorickshaws and some taxis in the State are painted black, which reduces their visibility.

A first-aid booklet brought out by the Ernakulam district administration exhorts pedestrians to walk along the right side of roads that do not have footpaths, so that they are visible to drivers of oncoming vehicles. Utmost care and patience must be exercised while crossing roads, it says.