Need for speed kills more people in rural areas. Sadly, they have low access to emergency care

As per the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, about 64% of the road accidents happen due to over-speeding and 26% of drivers involved in road accidents did not have valid driving licences

Kushal Mishra
| Updated: March 14th, 2020

“Every day the trauma centre has about 45 per cent of accident cases from the villages. Just yesterday, an ambulance came carrying a boy who had met with an accident. His leg was brought in a separate bag. It was deeply disturbing. There are a lot of accidents in villages; more than the cities. You would know this just by visiting the trauma centre,” Shiv Kumar Yadav told Gaon Connection.

Shiv Kumar, 34, is posted as a security guard at the main gate of trauma centre of King George Medical College, in Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, which leads the country in the cases of deaths due to road accidents.

The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report also supports the number of rural road accidents superseding the cities in the country. According to the NCRB data, 55.5% (2,62,750 cases) of road accidents were reported in rural areas of the country in 2016, whereas, in cities, the figure was 44.50% (2,10,300 cases). 

Similarly, road accidents in rural areas were 54.9% (2,54,878 cases) in 2015, whereas 45.1% (2,09,796 cases) of road accidents had occurred in cities. While in 2014, 54.7 per cent (2,46,768) cases were reported in rural areas and in urban areas, the figure was 45.3% (2,04,130).

“After 9 AM, there is a line of ambulances outside the trauma centre. The villagers do not know where to show up in the hospital, so seeing such a crowd in the trauma centre perplexes them. We also help them somehow, but every day, there are a lot of cases of accident from the village,” said Shiv Kumar.

“Most of the accidents due to rash driving”

“About 30-40 per cent of the cases of road accidents are reported every day from the villages. Most of these cases are due to over-speeding (driving at a fast pace) and speeding in the wrong direction on the road. Such cases from villages mostly suffer from polytrauma – multiple fractures with a head injury. Such cases are also extremely precarious,” informed Dr Sandeep Tiwari, head of the department of trauma surgery at KGMU told Gaon Connection. 

As per the 2018 report of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MORTH), road accidents are on the rise in the country. While 4,67,044 road accidents were recorded in India in 2018, the number increased by 0.5% compared to 4,64,910 road accidents in 2017. 

The report brought out that about 64 per cent of the road accidents are due to over-speeding. More than three lakh (3,10,612) cases, out of the 4,67,044 road accidents in the country in the year 2018, were due to over-speeding, which resulted in the death of close to a lakh individual.

Cases of over-speeding are increasing with each year

It is quite shocking to note that the cases of speed-driving in the country are increasing year after year, while the pace of the government’s curtailing it is as slow.

According to a report by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, in 2015, there were more than 2.40 lakh cases of road accidents in the country due to overspeeding, the figures in 2016, 2017 and 2018 were more than 2.68 lakh, 3.27 lakh and 3.10 lakh, respectively. That is, until 2018, the cases of road accidents have increased year after year due to speed driving with very little improvement.

In the case of road accident deaths in the country last year, Madhya Pradesh was ranked fourth after Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra.

“Villagers are not aware of the rules on the road”

“Most of the accidents in rural areas occur on the highways. The problem is that the people living in villages do not know much about the road rules on the highway. In cities, we are putting speed radars in vehicles, like the school buses, to prevent over-speeding, but it could not be done as effectively in the villages,” Dr Ashish, DIG (Rural) posted in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, informed Gaon Connection over the phone.

“But we are constantly trying to stop over-speeding in villages. We have identified dark spots in such rural areas and are also sorting them out according to road engineering. In addition, sign boards are being put on the highways for warning. Our team has also been making farmers and villagers aware from time to time in mandis and in villages,” informed Dr Ashish.

Speed radars fitted, yet highway accidents from over-speeding on a rise

In response to an RTI of Supreme Court lawyer KC Jain it came to be known that 4,956 road accidents had occurred on the Yamuna Expressway from August 2012 to March 2018. More than 700 people lost their lives and more than 7,671 people got seriously injured in these incidents. 

The response also indicated that about 2.33 crore vehicles violated the speed limit on the highway. About 23.42 per cent of road accidents on the expressway were due to high speed driving. Over-speeding is still not being curbed despite the Yamuna Expressway fitted with proper speed radars, cameras and sensors.

Piyush Tiwari, founder of Save a Life Foundation, an institution working since many years on road safety and medical treatment of the poor, said: “So far as preventing over-speeding goes, let alone the villages, the condition of even most cities is very bad. In many cities, cameras are still being installed on trial basis, that too, at the main intersections of the city. They are not yet fully geared up to control over-speeding.”

He added: “It is not that the traffic police do not have enough equipment to prevent over-speeding, but it is just that they are not used and simply gather dust.”

Talking about Uttar Pradesh capital Lucknow, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had ordered installation of speed radars in the districts during the cabinet meeting in the month of June, this year due to the rising incidents of over-speeding.

In this regard, Purandu Singh, Superintendent of Police (traffic) in Lucknow explained: “Stopping over-speeding accidents is a major concern. Currently, the work of installation of speed radars at five major intersections in Lucknow is proposed and soon the challans for over-speeding shall begin. As of now, we try controlling over-speeding through portable hand speed radar. But most of the challans are issued yet for not wearing helmets.”

On the question of curbing over-speeding in villages, he said: “The local rural police have so much work related to law and order that they are not able to pay much attention to it. But as the city has speed gun-like equipment, the rural police can also have it issued from the circle headquarters.”

The above statement bears the truth of India’s rural traffic. In rural areas, the area under each police station is much bigger, the number of policemen in proportion to the public is often low. Most of the police forces are engaged in law and order.

Piyush Tiwari added: “For smooth running of the traffic, it is not necessary that there should be police or that people should be scared. If we have to stop over-speeding, three things we would have to accept — the first is that camera eyes which can catch everything are better than the eyes of the human beings. Secondly, the camera never takes bribes and thirdly, the camera never leaves for home at 9 o’clock at night but will work 24 hours. So, if these facilities are in place, the situation in the cities will also improve.”

The acute shortage of traffic police staff in the states

The major shortage of traffic police staff in the states is also a major problem. So, the big question is as to what initiatives will be taken to sensitize the villages when it is difficult to handle the situation in the cities itself?  

Dr Ashish, DIG (Rural) Bhopal, said: “There is still a shortage of more than 20 per cent traffic police staff in our department. Due to this we are not able to work as effectively in villages as the cities. This also remains a big problem.”

“Recently, a study was conducted on behalf of the administration, which had revealed that there should be 3,500 traffic police personnel in the traffic department in Lucknow, but you see that we have a total of 500 employees if we add 300 home guards also,” informed Lucknow Superintendent of Traffic Police, Purendu Singh.

He added: “We may have 800 employees, however, only 350 employees are available in their respective areas due to VIP and double shift duty. Since many years, we have been lacking in traffic police staff. The problem is that even though technology is used at intersections, people have such an understanding of traffic rules that still we need police personnel.”

Shortcomings in the training for driving licences

As per the report of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, for the year 2018, 26% of drivers involved in road accidents did not have valid driving licences. 

Piyush Tiwari, the founder of Save A Life Foundation, explained: “If you ask some people whether they know about the three-second rule, blind spot or the 65-yard rule, hardly anyone will know. The driving licence process is so ineffective that most people who drive on the roads and highways are not adequately trained. If you have to improve the traffic system, you have to compel people to uphold traffic rules.”

As per him, firstly, people are needed to be aware in order to stop the accidents. For this, he proposes a formula that he has already tested that he wants to be applied everywhere. “For awareness, children should be taken to the hospital at the school level, they should be told what happens if they drive fast, but such awareness campaigns do not take place in their country. Such campaigns are undertaken in countries like Germany where if one if caught overspeeding, one has to spend a day with road accident victims, so that when they see, they change for better,” informed Piyush.

The impact of increased fines evident — reduction in drunken driving

Recently, the Motor Vehicles Act was amended and the provision of new penalties was introduced in several states. Many states implemented it while many other states did not change the fine and punishment. 

In states where the new Motor Vehicles Act was implemented, the situation has seen a significant improvement with the increase in penalty amount, better implementation of laws and more media coverage to the issue in most metro cities. Experts have admitted that there has been a drop in drink and drive cases by 14 per cent between 2017 and 2018. Under the new Moton Vehicle Act, drunken driving on the road may be fined up to Rs 10,000 or a six-month jail, or both. Earlier, the Act had a fine of only Rs 2,000 or six-month jail term when caught for the first time.

In Uttar Pradesh, where the new rule was introduced, SP traffic Purandu Singh of Lucknow said: “The new law made a lot of difference and challans were made against drunken driving with a continuous awareness campaign on the part of the department. In October, close to 2,500 challans were issued in Lucknow. There was a fear of people being caught and fined and so far, no challan has been cut for a drink and drive case in November. People are learning and becoming aware.”

At the same time, there was no increase in the penalty for drunken driving in Bhopal. On this, DIG (Rural) Dr Ashish noted: “Drunken driving is still a challenge for us. The new law was not enforced here, the penalty remains the same. Nevertheless, we are constantly checking on the drink and drive cases and awareness is also being spread.”

Delhi: A good initiative to control over-speeding

A good initiative in the country’s capital, Delhi, is undertaken to check over-speeding on roads. The new Motor Vehicles Act was enacted in Delhi and a large number of speed detection cameras were installed at intersections and flyovers to prevent road accidents from over-speeding. This was done to control over-speeding and rash driving (frequent speeds and driving using brakes). 

Delhi traffic police issued a large number of challans for over-speeding on roads. Not only that, the traffic police also issued multiple challans to the same person in a day for violating the speed limit. The challans with photographs by speed detection cameras were dispatched to the drivers ‘ house and were disposed of by the court. 

In 2018, the traffic police had issued 13,281 challans for over-speeding in the month of September whereas their number came down to 3,366 in the year 2019.

Piyush Tiwari, founder of Save a Life Foundation, said: “A better effort was made to stop over-speeding in Delhi. While Delhi had earlier been fitted with only 12 cameras, more than 150 modern cameras were installed recently. Traffic rules were strictly adhered to and it also showed an impact on the people.”

He added: “The difficulty is that this facility has not reached the other cities to stop over-speeding and if it has, then the work is not happening. As cameras have been installed only on a trial basis in Hyderabad, Kolkata, but we are still ineffective in stopping high-speed vehicles in cities, in view of the increasing cases of road accidents. So, if the system is weak in cities, the situation in rural areas is beyond us.”