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Roads are the key
element to the development of a country’s economy. It constitutes the basic
infrastructure that accelerates the developmental process by providing
connectivity and also by facilitating the routes to trade and commerce. Its
vitality is further manifested in terms of its role in inter modal transport
development establishing links with airports, railway stations and ports. In
addition, roads promote national integration, which is particularly important
in a country like India, where it is the second most important mode of
transport, covering every nook and corner of the country where even railway
cannot cater.

Since India’s
independence in 1947, there has been a tremendous increase in the road network,
but this increase failed to keep pace with the growth of road traffic. While
India’s network grew at an annual rate of 4% since 1951, the number of vehicles
plying on road increased at the rate of 11%.

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Hence despite
their importance to the national economy and integration, the gross inadequacy
of the Indian road network is starkly characterised in terms of its inability
to handle high traffic density at many key locations and poor riding quality,
thereby leading to large scale road accidents in the country.

The dictionary
meaning of accident stand as the undesirable and unfortunate happening, often
driven by unintentional reasons, resulting in harm, injury, damage or loss. The
World Health Organization (WHO) defines road traffic crash as “a collision or incident
that may or may not lead to injury, occurring on a public road and involving at
least one moving vehicle”.  A traffic accident can be described as the failure
of the entire system involving road, vehicle and the driver
to perform one or more operations necessary for completing a trip without
any injury or loss. Involvement of the roads in the accidents are specifically
critical on account of the insufficient maintenance of the road network and
lack of efficient and systematic enforcement of
the required rules and regulations (Yannis, 2007). It has become a common cliché that accidents are not natural
but are caused’ in the area of traffic safety. So if these accidents are caused,
then surely the causal factors could
be identified and approximate remedial measures can be developed and implemented to the possible
extent (Srinivas Rao et al 2005).

Road accidents
constitute one of the major causes of death, injury and disability in both the
developing and the developed countries. Such injury is the leading cause of
burden and disease among the males (WHO 1999). 
Road accidents specifically deter civic health and the progress of the
developing countries in many different arena, as these deaths are often
characterised as neglected public health problems in the third world countries.
In addition to that, trauma from these
accidents are frequent and have varying impacts to victims from different age
groups. Such injuries and deaths can cause the entire track of an individual’s
life to change. While analysing road traffic injuries Martha Hijar et al (2004) strongly states that it
is important
not to forget that the public health problem has clear and profound
repercussions in daily
life as a cause of death and also generate consequences and
disabilities, since in most cases, the victims do not die, but are
impaired and need to
adapt the changes in rules in their daily activities during several weeks or months,
and in some cases permanently as a consequence of the accident. These accidents
are in no way normal and largely owe their occurrences to the inefficient and
inadequate safety measures, as evident from the fluctuating numbers of road
accidents and road accident related deaths in most of the prominent
metropolitan cities of India like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai almost every alternate
year.
As a result, road safety has
occupied a prominent position among the list of present day growing concerns.

The impact of the
road accidents on the developing countries than that of the developed countries
is further illustrated by the fact that as per the World Health Organization,
75% of the deaths resulted from traffic accidents occur in the developing
countries although they own only 32% of the motor vehicles in the world. The
annual fatality per 10,000 vehicles ranges from 20 to 200 in low and medium
income countries, the range for developed countries varies from 1.5 to 5. The estimated global economic cost of traffic
accidents is $518 billion per year. The share of the developing countries is $100
billion which accounts for 1 to 3% of their gross national product (Peden et al
2004).

While
the situation is improving for many of the developed as well as developing
countries, India on the other hand seems to be trapped in a contrary scenario. Road accidental fatalities
doubled in a span of just
16 years, from 56,000 in 1992 to 1,14,600
in 2007. In comparison to 1997, fatalities
and injuries in 2007 are higher by
40,000 and 1,55,000, respectively. (Singh 2009) India is estimated to have the second highest number of road
accidents in a year, according the World Road Statistics 2010 data. During 2010, there were 4,97,686 road accidents which resulted in
the deaths of 1,42,483 persons and injured 3,55,203 persons in the country. In a dubious distinction,
India is the only country in the world to face more than 13 fatalities and 53 injuries every hour
as a consequence
of road accidents (Singh 2009). 2013 was another remarkable year with more than
1,37,000 road
accident related deaths in its record, surpassing the total number of killed people
in all our wars. There is one death in every 4 minutes due to road accidents in
the country. (National Crime Records Bureau, 2013). Following the release of the Ministry’s
annual publication ‘Road Accidents in India-2016, it has been
found that road accidents in the
country may have decreased by around 4.1% during 2016, with the year seeing
4,80,652 road accidents as against 5,01,423 in 2015 but fatalities resulting
from these accidents have risen by about 3.2% during the same period. In the
year 2016, 13 States namely Tamil Nadu, MP,
Karnataka, Maharashtra, Kerala, UP, AP, Rajasthan, Telangana, Gujarat,
Chhattisgarh, West Bengal and Haryana comprised for 86 per cent of the total
road accidents in the country. Similarly, 13 States such as UP, Tamil Nadu,
Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan, MP, AP, Gujarat, Telangana, West Bengal,
Punjab, Haryana and Bihar contribute 84 per cent in the total persons killed
due to road accidents during 2016. Talking about the Million Plus Cities, it can be said that the fifty
Million-Plus Cities in the country accounted for 18.7 per cent in total road
accidents in the, 11.8 per cent in the killing of persons involved in road
accidents and 16.7 per cent in total number of injured persons in road
accidents. Accident severity for the combined 50 Million Cities was estimated
to be19.8 in 2016 as against 14.9 per cent in 2015.

All these statistics can be largely
attributed to the condition of the urban transport facilities, which in most of
the Indian cities are inadequate and deteriorating over the years. Since the
development of public transport system has not kept pace with the traffic
demand both in terms of quality and quantity, the use of the various modes such
as personalised transport, mainly 2 wheelers and 3 wheelers and intermediate
public transport has grown and is growing at a rapid speed. Roads and footpaths
of today are heavily encroached by parked vehicles, hawkers and roadside
business putting the pedestrians’ life at a great risk. Besides, it is worthy
of note that the road surface in most of the Indian cities is substandard. In
addition, missing lane markings, traffic signs, inappropriate constructions and
intersections with highly required geometric corrections are also responsible for
increased road accidents in India.

In
2015, with an approximate annual number of 10,000 vehicular accidents and 5,500
deaths due to these accidents, West Bengal ranks 4th with 52%
fatality rate as against the national fatality rate of 28% and is ranked among
the top 13 accident prone states in the country. Kolkata being one of the most predominant urban centres of the state and a primate city in
Eastern India, with a population of 44,86,679 (as per 2011 census) does
not lag far behind in terms of road accidents and inadequate road safety
measures. As the economy of this area is
entirely dependent on the industrial and service sector with an ever increasing
population in informal sector mainly in the form of rickshaw pullers, it is
well known that this type of economy relies on quicker means of transport, thus
vehicle pressure on the road is huge, this consequently increases the
occurrences of accidents and is further aggravated by the fact that only 7% of
the city’s land area is covered by transportation. The intra city journeys within
the city are generally nightmares to the inhabitants and the daily commuters. As per National Crime Records Bureau of the year 2014, the city
has recorded the highest percentage increase in road accidents among all the
major cities in India with its contribution to a total of 4789 accidents, a
phenomenal jump of 13.9% as compared to 2013. Out of this 431 people lost their
lives on the city roads while 4832 were left injured. The total flow in the
Kolkata Metropolitan Area as per the annual review of the Kolkata Traffic
Police for the year 2014-15 was found to be 1,432,362 vehicles. The road
network is very much congested with a total length of 4000 km spanned in an
area of 207 sq.km. A total of 412 fatal and 1357 serious injury cases were
reported in 2015. A number of entry points like Dunlop, Howrah Bridge, Sealdah,
Khidderpore, Ultadanga etc. can be identified easily owing to their large
number of daily outflow and inflow. Hence looking at the prevailing scenario and condition of
accident around the world this sudden occurrence can appropriately be termed as ‘Social hazard” (Paul et al 2013).

Accidents
are caused by a combination of different factors: even if one factor is
removed, the number of accidents is possible to be reduced to a certain level.
Personal factors like health of a person, lack of counteraction on the part of
drivers as well as the other vehicles and the public, not following the
road rules etc., are responsible for accidents (Keay and Simmonds 2006; Kaysi and Abbany
2007; Haileyesus et al 2007). Material factors like unsafe road
conditions, irrational behaviour and acts of the road users, failure of
vehicles, poor maintenance etc., are also responsible for accidents.  

In a
congested city like Kolkata, pedestrians
constitute the most vulnerable group to accidents. Even the zebra crossings
pose sufficient danger to them considering the actions of the motorists. This
is further aggravated by the large number of unregistered auto vehicles in the
city. Out of 53 mega cities, Kolkata (214 deaths)
followed by Chennai (206 deaths) have reported maximum cases of road accidents
at pedestrian crossing. Thus
this increasing vulnerability of the pedestrians can be largely attributed to
the conflicts and misinterpreted communication between the pedestrians and
vehicle drivers. The narrow lanes the city coupled with large residential
density adds to more of such problems. The occasional meetings and rallies
which Kolkata’s roads boast of cannot be ignored as well while speaking of the improper
road management and resultant number of accidents. Therefore, the excessive
increase in road accidents in Kolkata especially in the recent times can be
mainly due to the large scale growth of motor vehicles, which in turn grew to
cater the demand of the increased population and also due to the change in economic
and social behaviour of the people. So, the entire structure of accident incidence is a multifarious
observable fact. Thus it is imperative to
address the safety measures. The safety movement in India was started in Bombay
in 1922, which in due course became
the first safety association of India. The national safety council was started
in 1966 as per the industrial safety, organized by Management of Transport
Corporation and Trade Union (Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation Manuel).
The vitality of safety measures is increasingly realised on account of the
experience of the present day growing number of road accidental mishaps. The
most important safety measures include adequate personal protection like
wearing of helmet, seat belt etc., proper training of vehicle handling,
education of safe driving and of course regular maintenance of vehicles.

The
government of West Bengal has been running “Safe Drive Safe life” campaign to
create awareness about road safety among the inhabitants and the road users of
the state. Decisions have been made to install speed guns, watch towers, CCTV
cameras, beside separate lanes for buses and bikes.  Green corridor has been constructed in
Satragacchi and discussions are going on regarding the construction of clean
corridors for emergency situations. Initiation of cancelling driving license on
violating traffic rules for more than three times have also been made. But the
how far these measures have been properly implemented with regularity, is a
subject of concern.  Reports of increasing
number of unregistered vehicles, handicapped installed CCTV cameras at major
road junctions, presence of manual traffic signalling system, denial of access
of the Green Corridor and above all the positive trend of rates of accident in
the city further make the subject more evident. But these problems of adequate
and irregular safety measures in the city is also due to the fact that there is
substantial under-reporting as many accidents are settled privately. Presence
of fewer data on accident reports at police station indicates the ignorant
attitude towards accident reporting, which in turn is fuelled by the lack of standard
accident-reporting format. However, a further detailed study of the accident
scenario in the city followed by appropriate planning strategies to curb the
situation can shed further light into the entire picture and enhance a better
understanding of it.

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