Road safety concerns

The Union Road Transport and Highways Minister underscored the prevalence of faulty road engineering as a significant factor contributing to the alarming annual rate of 500,000 reported accidents in India. Speaking at the 82nd annual session of the Indian Roads Congress, the minister urged engineers to proactively address these issues to save lives, emphasising the critical importance of eliminating black spots on roads. The minister forthrightly elucidated the existing deficiencies and impediments intrinsic to road construction. It is unequivocally apparent that, notwithstanding the evident enhancement in road infrastructure over the past decade, the exponential surge in the incidence of accidents represents a grave and disconcerting predicament. The stark reality of more than 500,000 accidents and 150,000 fatalities annually is disquieting by any metric. Meticulous scrutiny further discerns that the preponderance of casualties and accidents transpires among two-wheeler users, with the demographic bearing the brunt being the young and employable cohort-posing an enduring loss to the nation.
The colossal toll of 3% of the GDP due to accidents is tantamount to the annual budget of numerous governmental departments. The paramount cause of these accidents, as attested by reports from various committees and corroborated by the minister himself, is the insufficiency of road infrastructure. Despite the majority of vehicles being equipped with augmented safety features and advanced braking systems, the escalating annual tally of accidents and fatalities persists. Engineers and contractors find themselves inept at fortifying roads, plagued by a plethora of black spots on every highway. Crucial safety measures are egregiously overlooked, primarily driven by a myopic adherence to cost-cutting measures. Rather than embracing innovative technologies, substantial compromises are wrought upon the standard of work, inevitably exacting a toll on commuters. In prior instances, the minister underscored the issues of delay and the substandard quality of DPRs. A well-conceived road, adhering to all safety protocols, fundamentally germinates at the DPR level. Engineers, regrettably, have failed to assimilate new technologies that could concurrently curtail costs and elevate road safety without compromising the requisite quality of work.
Foremost among the imperatives is the unequivocal integration of ecologically sustainable measures during the construction of highways, particularly in topographically challenging regions. The wanton felling of countless trees in the course of road construction poses an imminent threat to the environment, precipitating a precarious imbalance in the ecological equilibrium of the area. The adoption of technologies with minimal environmental impact becomes paramount, aiming to mitigate the deleterious effects on delicate ecosystems. The deployment of substitutes for conventional bitumen and the scrupulous management of debris assume significance in this ecological paradigm. The wanton disposal of debris directly into river streams not only amounts to environmental transgressions but also wreaks havoc downstream, especially during the inclement rainy seasons. The pernicious practice of penalizing companies for indiscriminate dumping, a measure often necessitated by the urgency of construction projects, underscores the gravity of the situation. The imperative to avert environmental catastrophe cannot be overstated, as the cost incurred in terms of ecological degradation is exorbitant and far-reaching. Consequently, the adoption of stringent measures to circumvent these deleterious practices is not merely advisable but an indispensable imperative.
The minister’s articulation of salient and imperative points necessitates a corresponding response from engineers and contractors. Urgency is paramount, demanding the implementation of comprehensive safety measures without any lapses. Human lives, being the quintessential consideration, must never be subjected to jeopardy merely for the economising of a few rupees. In a bid to rectify this situation, the government must proactively devise punitive measures to penalise delinquent contractors and engineers. In this digitised era, pinpointing accident-prone areas is a feasible task, facilitating a focused analysis of problematic zones. It is incumbent upon all pertinent departments to rise to the occasion, as only concerted endeavours can save human lives.