Pune: "There is no cure for the Coronavirus infection right now. We may find one in a couple of years. We may contain its spread through effective vaccination. However, are we going to win our war against road accidents?" a city-based NGO, Parisar working on sustainable transportation system has raised this question and urged the authorities concerned to improve road safety.
Parisar has highlighted the issue of road accidents in the background of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has appealed to the authorities to spread awareness about road safety on the same lines the way the entire world and India is doing against the COVID-19.
Over 53 lakh people have been infected, and over three lakh have died due to the virus till date. These numbers are rising with every passing hour. However, around 12 lakh infected people have also been recovered by now. The corresponding figures for India are over one lakh infections, over 3,000 deaths.
Governments and political institutions across the world have geared up to combat the spread of the virus right from the beginning. Measures are being taken on a war footing by all the government agencies such as healthcare personnel, police, urban local bodies and non-governmental agencies. In India, the central government started the countrywide lockdown after the COVID-19 was declared a pandemic that has been extended up to May 31.
1.5 LAKH DEATH PER YEAR IN ACCIDENTS
Parisar Advocacy Coordinator Sandeep Gaikwad said, "In this context, it will be worth its while to look at one more serious threat to human lives and survival - road crashes."
The latest Global Status Report 2018 states that over 13.50 lakh people died in road accidents in the year, which means 3,700 people died in accidents every day in the world. The number of people who get injured or severely injured, leading to lifetime disabilities is several times more. Also, road accident is a major cause of death for the age group 5-29 years.
In India, almost 1.5 lakh people are killed every year in road accidents besides a vast number of escape death with serious injuries. That is road crashes account for 400 deaths daily in the county. It is estimated that road accident cripples the GDP by almost 3 per cent.
SIMILARITY BETWEEN COVID-19 AND ROAD ACCIDENTS
Gaikwad admitted that one health emergency could not be compared with the other, as causes, context and cures for each one are different. There are no two opinions regarding the seriousness of the coronavirus spread and the need to contain and curb it with appropriate measures. But there are some striking similarities between these two problems. Both are dreadful and destructive in their ways. They threaten human lives and existence. Hence, both are potential dangers for the future of humankind.
The central government planned its measures at multiple levels even when the virus spread was at a nascent stage. Safety measures are in place at multiple levels, from the individual, family, social, religious, cultural to political levels, along with the governmental measures. This explicit sense of urgency and need for preparedness is needful, but it is never seen in tackling an equally important problem of road crashes.
On the contrary, the emphasis remains on the widening of roads and construction of huge flyovers and danger-prone expressways. Public awareness is minimal and misses the root cause of the problem. The corona pandemic has led to more research and studies to find a cure for the same; however, little effort is ever made to scientifically analyse the problem of road crashes and get conclusive measures to curb them.
PARISAR POINT OF VIEW
All are aware of how to protect oneself from the coronavirus. The dos and don'ts are well imbibed on our minds - observe physical distancing, use a face mask, wash hands with foamy soap frequently, cover the mouth while coughing or sneezing and avoid physical contact with patients suffering from lung ailments. Similarly, one can prevent road crashes by being mindful about a few safety measures - control your speed, use a helmet, use seat belts, strictly no drink and drive, and observe traffic rule. These key steps will put a check on the road crashes and will reduce the harm even when they take place. Only if these measures are enforced, we will reduce road crashes substantially.
But when will the government pay attention to their enforcement? The way one protects oneself from a viral infection with a few precautionary steps, one can also reduce fatality and intensity of road traffic injuries. The COVID-19 was an unknown virus until recently. Hence, it is referred to as 'novel' coronavirus.
We neither have enough knowledge about it nor have a vaccine ready to stop it. Although this virus has caught the world off-guard, it refused to get bogged down by its attack and countries are determined to fight against it. Individual and collective measures have shown positive results and have succeeded in checking the pace of its spread. If one can fight with a resolution with a new virus, why can't countries use the same zeal to fight an old problem affecting the world? In India, over 14 lakh people died in road crashes in one decade (2008-2018). Isn't this number shocking and calls for strict enforcement of safety measures by the government?
ROAD FATALITY RATE HIGHER THAN COVID-19
According to a Parisar study, "The fatality rate estimated for COVID 19 in 3 per cent. While 3 out of 100 Corona-infected persons are likely to die, 37 deaths occur per every 100 accidents. The urgency and intensity are incomparable. A general apathy has become an excuse to push the issue of road crashes under the carpet.
"The perception is that 'people don't care for their own lives', 'people don't want to follow traffic rules, 'they lack the discipline', 'public awareness is a must'. In this pandemic period, however, people do care for their lives, they follow the rules, and they seek self-awareness. With a systematic and whole-hearted effort, it is not impossible to convey a sense of urgency and mindfulness regarding public safety. With the same logic, the problem of road crashes have to be tackled."
GIVE EQUAL IMPORTANCE TO ROAD SAFETY
Parisar further states, "The lockdown has shown us how much we all care for the life and well-being of our loved ones, our community and society at large. To prevent the spread, we have isolated ourselves for over 50 days. We maintain a safe distance when we go out for shopping, and we properly wash our hands frequently. As we know, this is the most sensible thing to do. Can't we be equally grounded and responsible for our road safety?"