Three years after the State formulated Road Safety Policy there is no sign of reversal in the trend of growing incidence of road accidents. In 2009, nearly 1,000 people more died in road accidents in the State compared to 2008.
According to the policy document of April 2007, the medium-term objective is to achieve 20 percent reduction in the number of persons getting injured and killed by 2013, keeping 2006 as the base year. The document, in its section on vision, talks of stopping and reversing the increasing trend in number of accidents, number of deaths and number of injuries through comprehensive measures covering engineering, enforcement, education and emergency care.
Going by the official data, the number of persons getting killed in accidents last year went up by around 25 per cent compared to the base year.
The need for increased attention to road safety assumes relevance in the wake of Monday’s accident near the Vaigai dam in Theni district in which 10 women died.
Asked whether the target stipulated in the policy document was realistic, given the trend, S. Machendranathan, Transport Commissioner and Principal Secretary, replies that there is a need for fine-tuning strategies of the department. Emphasising the importance of in-depth data analysis of road accidents, he says the Transport Department and Police Department have started working together in this regard. Drunk driving and over-speeding are the areas that require greater attention.
N.S. Srinivasan, chairman of the Transport Advisory Forum and veteran expert in traffic and transportation, says the Western experience shows that such a target is achievable. The government should identify thrust areas and work for reduction in the rate of accidents in these areas. Pointing out that a substantial number of pedestrians are killed in road accidents, particularly in urban areas, Dr. Srinivasan says the authorities should address this area too.
Since August, the government has introduced a road safety tax on new automobiles during registration. This has been done to provide immediate relief to the victims of road accidents and take up various measures to promote road safety. An amount of Rs.250 has been fixed for motor cycles; Rs.1,500 for light motor vehicles and Rs.2,500 for Other Motor Vehicles. Between August and January, a sum of about Rs.28 crore was collected.