All about safety on the road

THE SILVER Jubilee year issue of the National Transportation Planning and Research Centre's (Natpac) newsletter, `Mobility', runs the gamut of the road accident scenario in the State.

There are reasons for concern and consolation as well. While Kerala is the country's fourth most accident-prone State, the fatality rate is quite low here and is comparable to the rate in the advanced countries-0.07 deaths per accident.

While the accident rate per 1,000 vehicles is twice that of the national average, it is a matter of satisfaction that the accident rate has steadily come down from 37.01 in 1991 to 19.41 in 2000.

The rate of growth of PWD roads is very low compared to the growth of vehicles, which gives cause for concern. But it is also a fact that the fatality rate per 1,000 vehicles has also consistently come down from 8.9 in 1975 to 1.36 in 2000.

In the case of Kerala, human error accounts for the major share of road accidents. However, the bright side of this is that proper training of drivers to encourage defensive driving, can reduce accidents considerably.

Director T. Elangovan writes about the need for an efficient accident trauma care system in the State. Communication is a key factor, because the police should intimate the nearest first-aid centre, hospital or ambulance service within the first hour of the accident, which is also called the ``golden hour''.

He says first-aid centres should be developed within a radius of 15 km along the highways and still closer to accident-prone locations. In order to avoid the victim undergoing a ``second accident'' due to mishandling during transportation, ambulance services should be made available at the first-aid centre, PHC, police station and taluk hospital.

Chief Project Coordinator Mahesh Chand writes about the unprecedented increase in two-wheeler accidents in the State and the urgent need to reverse the trend. He points out that two-wheeler riders are comparatively young in age, are more risk-taking, often overtake from the left-hand side and over-speed in busy areas.

The writer stresses the importance of tarred road-shoulders for the safety of two-wheeler riders. In the State capital city, road shoulders of even one or two feet width can be seen, he points out. Such roads should be converted into ``fully paved'' roads with covered side drainage, which can serve as a raised footpath.

Principal Research Officer M. A. Joseph says much of the driving in the State is very aggressive and dangerous, particularly when it comes to overtaking. Buses and trucks are especially liable to ignore regulations and trust their size and speed to force other traffic to slow down or swerve to avoid collision.

Research Officer T. Ramakrishnan points out that a high proportion of road accidents occur at or near junctions. This is due to improper geometric design, congestion caused by mixed land use and lack of enforcement of rules.

The newsletter is replete with data sheets and there are a few cartoons too. A cartoon on senior drivers draws attention to the fact that the Motor Vehicles Act does not specify a maximum age for issuing fresh driving licences, though the minimum age is prescribed.

By M. Harish Govind

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