The recently submitted report by a panel led by retired High Court Justice T K Chandrasekhar Das to the Transport Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan includes various road safety measures and suggestions to reduce the number of road accidents.
The number of road accidents is on a rise in the state claiming countless lives every day. Even though finding a feasible solution to the problem isn’t simple, charting out ways to minimize such mishaps as much as possible is the duty of the government as well as the citizens. The report which was prepared after carefully analyzing the various aspects like the safety of roads, the vigilance of the drivers, the attitude of the authorities towards those violating law and the approach towards the accident victims deserves serious discourses and debates rather than lying still on the desk. Even though the recommendations put forth by the Commission may be deemed impractical and illogical by a few, the different aspects of the matter have evidently been handled up to the core. The government entrusted such a Commission in the wake of a tragic bus accident in Thelakkat, Malappuram on September 6, 2013 that resulted in the death of 15 persons. Beyond alleviating the pain and the rage inflicted by the impact of such mishaps, whether the government aims at serious analysis and resolvement of issues is dubious. Given that the report which was prepared after visiting 720 accident sites travelling 2000 km shouldn’t be dumped into trash bins, there should be opportunities for knowing the views of the people, the organizations related and the experts functioning in the field. Out of the 50, 000 road accidents in Kerala last year, 26, 000 were carried out by youngsters especially students due to which the minimum age for obtaining driving license for men and women has been raised to 20 and 21 respectively by the Commission.
There might be contradictory opinions regarding the illogicality of the male-female discrimination in the matter. Rampant opposition towards the suggestion of raising the age limit is likely to occur given the presence of two wheelers and cars in every household nowadays. The recommendations of the Commission could be considered if it proves effective in saving the lives of the youngsters who are on the road showing off, in their vehicles irrespective of day and night. But the suggestions of restricting the student vehicles to and from home and school with the ‘student vehicle’ label, is least likely to be followed. Adequate awareness on the matter and efficient safety system is what is required. The Commission and the concerned authorities might have realized that the Learners test for obtaining a driving license and the awareness classes conducted at least in some of the districts are not enough for creating capable drivers. Major changes have to be brought in the driving school system as well. Only those who come out of institutions that are recognized by the government and have sufficient educational qualification and training skill should be granted driving licenses. The concerned authorities should be following suitable steps to implement the idea of Public Transport Drivers Course spanning a maximum of 10 months, put forward by the Commission.
It’s not the lack of driving skills but not following even the basic principles of safety driving that leads to accidents. Over speed, drunk driving and the racing competition between the buses are usually the causes of road mishaps. The ruling government might not admit the role of roads in causing accidents. Even today we primarily depend upon the roads constructed during the time of British. A quest about the extent of road constructed by the ruling government in the state would only disappoint us. The number of vehicles has increased greatly within the past decade. The sluggishness of the government in making the available roads vehicle-friendly is what usually causes accidents. Even though the Commission suggests 4-lanes for national highways and 2-lanes for state highways, the reality that Kerala lags much behind in basic development compared to other states is inevitable. The Commission’s proposal of forming a special road safety force which is committed towards grabbing those who drive carelessly, in over speed and race with other vehicles, could be implemented. At the same time, the public reaction towards the idea of collecting a cess of Rs 1 per ticket for setting up the road safety fund is yet to be seen. The suggestions of facilities in the construction itself for speed control of two wheelers could also be considered.