Need for improved road design

K Raveendran
The Brihat Mumbai Corporation (BMC) decision to appoint safety auditors to determine design faults in road construction that are mostly responsible for road accidents marks a change of approach to one of the long-neglected aspects of road safety in India. The civic corporation has identified hundreds of ‘black spots’ or accident-prone spots that have been found responsible for a high number of accidents due to poor road design. The new move is to eliminate design flaws causing accidents and execute alterations in the road designs with the help of global consultants.
According to World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, more than 150,000 traffic-related fatalities occur annually in India. Most of the accidents are caused by poor road conditions, loss of control by weary drivers of heavy vehicles and buses and unscientific traffic designs.
Only this week, a couple of terrible accidents involving long-distance buses plying between Bengaluru and towns in Kerala and a container-laden heavy truck took 20 precious lives, most of them young IT professionals travelling to their homes for an extended weekly holiday on account of Shivratri.
In one of the worst such accidents, a container lorry crashed into the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation’s Bengaluru-Ernakulam Volvo bus on the Salem-Kochi National Highway near Avinashi in the Tirupur district of Tamil Nadu in the early hours of Thursday. A probe into the accident found that the lorry driver would have fallen asleep or would have negotiated a curve at high speed. This would have caused him to lose control over the lorry, which jumped over the divider and entered the opposite lane, crashing on the on-coming bus.
Heavy vehicles causing accidents due to drivers dozing off momentarily has become a daily occurrence on our highways. According to a study by the Central Road Research Institute (CRRI) on the 300-km Agra-Lucknow Expressway, exhausted drivers at the wheel are responsible for about 40 percent of all road accidents. Although there was a move to mandate two drivers on heavy trucks plying long distances and the provision of a seat behind the driver’s seat for the spare driver to sleep, along with the construction of truck bays in every 50-60km stretch of highways, these could not be implemented due to pressure lobbies pushing the interests of truck owners.
It is heartening that Indian companies and their counterparts in Sweden, a major player in the manufacture of heavy trucks, are collaborating for increased traffic safety on the roads. The lessons learned through the effort, under the 2018 India-Sweden Transport Innovation and Safety Partnership (SITIS) will be utilized for development needs in different parts of the world to strengthen traffic safety.
Leading Indian companies and institutes with expertise in safety have come together to form the SITIS as a long-term platform for innovation and a centre for excellence on traffic safety research. The SITIS partnership will build deeper understanding of traffic safety in India, and provide insights into the core challenges facing many fast-growing economies with similar challenges and their potential solutions. This will provide a unique ability to inform and evaluate policy and technology priorities.
This demands an integrated approach where mobilizing stakeholders and implementing cost effective measures is a key challenge. SITIS aims to achieve this by bringing together organizations leading in the safety arena from Sweden and India. Road safety is critical in delivering the 2030 Global Goals for sustainable development (SDG) and enable an efficient transport system, and thus remove obstacles for societal growth and prosperity. Strong action for road safety is considered essential to support India’s ambition to cut fatalities by half in the next 10 years.
Members of this platform include partners such as; Volvo Group, Autoliv, Ericsson, Manipal Hospitals, Altair, Saab and Tech Mahindra, as well as universities and research institutes; India Institute of Science (IISc), Transportation Research and Injury Prevention Program, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (TRIPP, IITD), Chalmers University of Technology, RISE Research Institutes of Sweden; and the technical authorities Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI), and the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute (VTI). The platform will also engage the Vision Zero Academy at the Swedish Transport Administration, Niti Aayog and Sweden-India Business Council.
The cooperative effort is expected to utilise the great potential provided by the new technology paradigms: connectivity, electro-mobility, automation, digitization and AI – where India stands to leap frog in implementing effective technology and system-level measures to improve traffic safety. (IPA)