By Arpan Pradhan

Motor vehicles were invented to ease the trouble of transport. However, in recent times, it has become a source of trouble with frequent road accidents. Once considered as a boon for humankind, today it has turned into a bane. Either it’s the need for speed or just for fun, reckless driving has most of the time ended up with fatality. And sometimes the mindlessness behavior of the people on the road is also to be blamed.

Rising number of road accidents and deaths due to it over the years have become a prime issue of concern. Deaths due to road accident injuries are becoming one of the major causes of deaths globally. As per the national report, 1.3 billion people are killed in road accidents only in India in a decade. And at the same time 50 million are injured. If this continues, it is assumed that road accidents will be the leading factor for death worldwide

It is learnt that road accidents have more than 85 per cent contribution towards annual death and more than 90 per cent of injuries and disability. In most of the cases it is recorded that road accident affects mostly males which leads to the financial hardship of the families. 

As per the report from the concerned department and NCRB, the number of deaths and injury caused by road accidents are on the rise. 

Apart from irresponsible driving and careless public on the road, the poor implementation of traffic rules and regulations by the incompetent authority or the traffic police may also be one of the causes for the rise in deaths. However, surprisingly, Sikkim registered a reduction on road traffic accident contrary to the globally rising number.

As per the data provided by the Department, during the last 5 years there has been a decrease in road accidents by 28.6% in the state of Sikkim.

Though the accidents have reduced, at the same the number of fatalities has increased. Main factor behind the road accidents is said to be youngsters driving irresponsibly. In Sikkim we can see the road accident victims are mostly male. The data prepared by the Department of Transport, Government of Sikkim clearly states that number of males killed is on the higher side.

Keeping in mind these statistics, it becomes imperative to introduce and increase the level of awareness on road safety not only among the drivers and the public, but it should also be made imperative for educational institutions to teach the students road safety measures. 

These accidents are preventable if we understand the major cause of road accidents that are happening and can be further prevented. 

It is said that road accidents are predictable and can be prevented in many ways. These days there are many safety majors and highly developed technologies and intervention which are effective in road safety and saving many lives which is tested and proven.

Lack of awareness among the people may also be one of the many reasons for road accident. Awareness regarding using of seat belts, following the speed limit rule, strict rule for drink and drive and various other safety majors may lead to decrease of accidents.

IMPACTS:

Road crashes are becoming a global health crisis and as such, require comprehensive measures to prevent them. It is important, however, to turn our eyes on the impact of road crashes at the household level. 

The families who has lost its earning member in road accidents are reported to have decreased their living standard and are facing hardship.

The impact on a family in losing a loved one is enormous, both in terms of emotional trauma and/or loss of income or caused disability, especially when many poor countries do not have strong enough safety nets for victims of road crashes.

A comprehensive list of crash consequences is given below:

Financial

Property damage, loss of income, medical costs funeral expenses, repair costs, increased insurance premiums

Social

Travel delays, use of community funds, loss of freedom, loss of licence, loss of job, loss of income or reduced income, shame

Legal

Loss of licence, criminal record, demerit points, loss of vehicle, legal fees, imprisonment

Emotional

Mental trauma, guilt and regret, depression, family trauma, reliance on friends and family, impact on relationships and quality of life

Physical

Pain and suffering, disability, death hospitalisation, harm to others, recovery and rehabilitation

CAUSES OF ROAD ACCIDENTS:

Driving at excess speeds, drinking while driving, influence of drugs, driving while tired which may lead to falling asleep, visibility, etc. are some causes of road accidents. Also sometimes pedestrians and motorcycle riders are the most vulnerable road users.

Major Risk factors:

  • Speeding
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol and other psychoactive substances
  • Non use of motorcycle helmets, seat-belts, and child restraints
  • Distracted driving
  • Drivers using mobile phones are approximately 4 times more likely to be involved in a crash than drivers not using a mobile phone.
  • Unsafe road infrastructure
  • Unsafe vehicles
  • Inadequate post-crash care
  • Inadequate law enforcement of traffic laws
  • Effective enforcement includes establishing, regularly updating, and enforcing laws at the national, municipal and local levels that address the above mentioned risk factors. It also includes the definition of appropriate penalties.
  • Drunken Driving
  • Distractions to Driver
  • Traffic Signal, Jumping
  • Avoiding Safety Gears like Seat belts and Helmets

WHAT THE DEPARTMENT HAS TO SAY:

“Road accidents have become one of the major causes of deaths these days and bears bad impact on the families who lost one of their members in accident”, said SD Dhakal, Secretary, Transport Department, Government of Sikkim.

He further added that Road Traffic Accident not only killing people but there are many who are injured and are bed ridden. 

“Our Department has been providing Ex-Gratia for those drivers who are killed in road accidents and the Government has been kind enough to hike the ex-gratia to ₹ 5 lakhs from 3 lakhs before”, he informed. 

Though this amount is not enough to run their families but it’s an immediate relief for the families in grieve, added the Secretary.

“We have been working on various factor on Road Safety on how we can sensitize people about all the safety majors during travelling and driving, it is in fact more important to sensitize people and that may lead to safe driving and may reduce the risk of Road Traffic Accident”, said Dhakal.

Road Safety not only involves the Department of Transport but various departments like Road & Bridges, Health, Hospital and most importantly the Police are also involved and we have to work in coordination for Road Safety and other related major he said.

The Deputy Regional Transport Officer, Karma Zimba Bhutia, said that the department is working hard in regard with the road safety majors and has designed various road safety programmes in order to reduce the risk of road accidents.

The Department works in fast mode in providing various relief to the victims of the Road Accident and work in coordination with other concerned departments to release the Ex-Gratia amount on time. The Transport Department has been graciously providing Ex-Gratia to the family of those killed in the road accidents.

As per the information received from the department, the Transport Department has successfully and graciously provided the Ex-Gratia amount of 79.5 in last ten years, to the families who suffered road traffic accidents.

The below table show the number of families benefited with the Ex-Gratia from the Department of Transport, Government of Sikkim, in last 10 years.

The Graph Below shows the number of Accident Deaths and Number of Road Traffic Accident. (Last 10 Years)

Proportion of Road Users Killed in Various Modes of Transport

Year wise difference in total number of Killed in Road Accident


Year wise difference in total number of Injuries

Total Number of Road Accidents, Person Killed and Injured (last 10 years)

If you can see the statistics of the Department in regard with the Road Traffic Accident it has reduced by almost 29% in last five years, which is a huge success for the department.

“This is a result of all the officials, drivers and public in general and credit goes to all”, said the Regional Transport Officer (East) Prem Vijay Basnett.

He informed that the Motor Vehicles Division under the Transport Department has full time functional State Road Safety Cell, the cell now has dedicated committee comprising of Nodal Officers and team for correspondence and working to cater the need for compliance of the directions of the committee on Road Safety, Supreme Court of India, Ministry of Road Transport & Highways and the State Government at all times. 

The Road Safety cell works in co-ordination with concerned council members and lead agencies. To create awareness amongst the masses, the Nodal Officers of all Road Safety Council and Legal Agency has been mobilized to independently engage resources, manpower, NGO’s and Public for active participation on road safety awareness programme and report the same to the State Nodal Officer for Road Safety for onward submission to the Committee on Road Safety, Supreme Court of India and the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways, Government of India, he further informed.


He told that to further expand the education of Road Safety in the State, the Road Safety Cell, Motor Vehicles Division will now publish trauma Care Manuals in collaboration with Health Department to impart basic first aid knowledge to any individuals, bystanders, public and every road users which shall be distributed free of costs.

The Road Safety cell with the materials from traffic police will also publish traffic manuals for new trainee drivers keeping in view of all the latest traffic norms, signals, sinages etc it will be beneficial to new drivers and a refresher courses to already professional drivers plying commercial vehicles in the state, it is learnt.

Transport department has already made it mandatory to install Speed Limit Device in all commercial vehicles, installation of panic button will be started soon, started breath analyser test, weigh in motion is already started which records number plate, photo of driver and records the speed of the vehicle are installed.

Basnett further informed that the road safety cell shall now involve gram panchayats at district level so that the education on road safety shall reach every sphere of rural Sikkim and make the public aware of the various issues to mitigate road accidents. The panchayats and its members shall actively co-ordinate with road safety cell to maximize the road safety education within their jurisdiction in co-ordination with concerned RTO/Dy.RTO/ARTO and MVI’s this will also expand the rural reach of the target of Road Safety Education.

PREVENTIVE MEASURES THAT MAY REDUCE RISK OF ROAD TRAFFIC ACCIDENT

The major concern about Road Safety is creating safe Road Traffic system that emphasizes involvement at all levels of the road traffic system—from road providers and enforcers (vehicle manufacturers, road traffic planners, road safety engineers, police, health professionals, and insurers) to road use. The Road Accident Prevention interventions fall into several broad categories.

Developing countries like ours are facing the problem of increased number of road accident and injuries because of rapid motorization, supported by poor road conditions, rapid population growth, lack of safety features in vehicles, crowded roads, poor road maintenance, and lack of police enforcement are some factors that effects Road Traffic Incidents.

In Sikkim the number of motor vehicle grew to almost seventy thousand vehicle now from just 21254 in the year 2009-2010 which is almost double and an increase of about 300 per cent in last ten years.

Improving public transportation systems can also reduce risk of Road Accident Deaths. Most of the time people in cars are less likely to be killed in a road accident than walkers, bicyclists, or motorized two-wheeler use.

It is also important the Planning and designing roads for safety. Improving vehicular visibility is also important. New Technologies of Speed limit can also help reducing the road incident. These developments include intelligent speed adaptation, in which the vehicle determines the speed limit for the road.

Setting road and safety rules, securing compliance, and improving transport policy. Setting and enforcing speed and blood alcohol concentration limits have proven to be perhaps the most successful interventions contributing to the decrease in injury. Speed limiting devices on vehicles, limits on engine power can also help.

One survey of studies found that, in developing countries, blood alcohol was present in 33 per cent to 69 per cent of fatally injured drive. Because blood alcohol tolerances vary across countries, comparison studies are difficult, and to date, no study has provided the evidence to benchmark the tolerance level at which reductions in accidents can occur in developing countries.

Lastly, although mandatory seat-belt-use laws have reduced traffic injuries in developed countries by very good percentage, such laws must be implemented as per the local situation. Car occupants contribute less than 10 to 20 per cent of traffic fatalities as per studies. Enforcing the appropriate number of passengers for these vehicles could also help.

COMMENTS FROM TRAFFIC POLICE

Senior Traffic ASP, Ongmu Bhutia has said that most of the Road Accident Cases that have been registered in the State of Sikkim are due to negligence and low visibility, and rash driving. She said that the Traffic Police also tries to sensitize people about various road safety majors but sometimes lack of awareness may also lead to these kinds of fatalities.

Road Safety Rules like Compulsory Helmets for Tow Wheelers, Appropriate number of passengers for particular vehiche, Installation of Speed limit Device to some extent, regular checking of vehicle for safety are enforced in the state, she informed.

REPORT OF THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over 1.3 million people die each year on the world’s roads, and between 20 and 50 million people are left injured or disabled. Unless immediate action is taken, road traffic accidents will increase from the ninth to the fifth leading cause of death by 2030, and will then be responsible for around 2.4 million deaths per year. The burden of traffic accidents, in terms of both mortality and morbidity, is rapidly increasing in developing countries due to rapid motorization associated with economic growth. The situation is particularly acute in India, a nation of more than one billion people, with India becoming one of the fastest growing economies in the world.

KEY FACTS

• Approximately 1.35 million people die each year as a result of road traffic crashes.

• The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has set an ambitious target of halving the global number of deaths and injuries from road traffic crashes by 2020.

• Road traffic crashes cost most countries 3% of their gross domestic product.

• More than half of all road traffic deaths are among vulnerable road users: pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists.

• 93% of the world’s fatalities on the roads occur in low- and middle-income countries, even though these countries have approximately 60% of the world’s vehicles.

• Road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death for children and young adults aged 5-29 years.

A new report by the WHO indicates road traffic deaths continue to rise, with an annual 1.35 million fatalities. The WHO Global status report on road safety 2018 highlights that road traffic injuries are now the leading killer of children and young people aged 5-29 years.

TABLE BELOW SHOWS THE RAPID RISING NUMBER OF VEHICLES IN THE STATE OF SIKKIM

 HELPING ROAD TRAFFIC ACCIDENT VICTIMS

First aid given to road accident victims during the first hour increases the chance of survival manifold and reduce the intensity of injuries. Many deaths and impact of injuries can be prevented with First Aid if causalities are treated as soon as possible. First aid is the initial care given to an injured person who met with an Road Traffic Accident. The timely care prior to the arrival of the medical help means the difference between survival and death. As it is not always possible that proper medical care reaches the victim within an hour. In that case people who are available on the spot may provide the first aid to serious victims. Providing proper first aid to an accident victim is not so complicated but one should be aware of the procedures and precautions. Most of the time instead of helping the Road Traffic Accident Victims people fear about police cases and other issues and keep them self away from it. And now a days people have become more insensitive that instead of helping they start taking photos and videos. This has to be changed. It is also directed that hospitals have to immediately provide treatment to road accident victims as soon as possible without asking for any legal or other formalities.

In a landmark judgment on March 30, 2016, the Supreme Court incorporated the guidelines for the protection of people who helped accident victims and took them to the nearest hospital for immediate treatment, and in the same also explicitly stated that lack of response by a doctor in an emergency situation pertaining to road  traffic accidents shall constitute “Professional Misconduct”, under the Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulation, 2002.

Disciplinary action shall be taken against such doctors. On the other hand, awareness and implementation of the guidelines and direction is evidently not enough yet, as the we can see many of cases where doctor and hospital refused to undertake treatment of the Road Traffic Accident Victims. To reduce the instances where cost concerns lead to delay or refusal of treatment to a road accident victim, an intensive awareness in needed.

Among the general public one of the misconceptions about road traffic accidents death is that most of the accident deaths happen due to serious injury and loss of blood. But reality is that most common cause of death in road traffic accidents are due to loss of oxygen supply. Mostly it happens because airway gets blocked due to great impact and shock to human body. Normally it takes less than four minutes for a blocked airway to cause death. 

THINGS TO TAKE CARE OF WHILE DRIVING IN THE HILLS

Since Sikkim falls under the hilly terrain it is more difficult to drive on hills compared to driving in the plain side. Hill driving is much more difficult task and should be undertaken by experienced drivers. Hill driving is different from driving in plain areas due to complex topography and twist and turns. Roads are designed differently in hills. The view of driver is restricted due to innumerous turns and suffers more fatigue due to Sharp turns of the vehicle.

This to note down while driving on hill:

MOTOR VEHICLE INSURANCE: 

Motor Vehicle Insurance is one the major ways for accident victims in India to be compensated is through motor vehicle insurance which can be categorized. Insurance covers any physical damage to the vehicle, and third party liability that provides for injury or death of others involved in the accident.

 The Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 made third party insurance compulsory for all motor vehicles. Under that law, the liability of the insurer in third party claims is unlimited, that is, he has to compensate road accident victims to the extent of actual amount of liability incurred.

REFERENCES

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