Road traffic accident is considered as one of the leading causes of death and injuries in India. In the year 2012 alone, as high as 1.39 lakh persons were killed and more than five lakh people got injured in road accidents in India. On an average, every minute one traffic accident takes place and every 4 minutes one person dies on our roads.
In terms of absolute number of accidents reported in different Indian states, Maharashtra ranks first in the country. This is followed by Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala in that order. Accident statistics in Kerala show that the state has recorded a total of 36,115 traffic accidents, with a death toll of 4,107 persons and injuries to 40,675 persons in the year 2012. The sad part is that nearly 60 percent of the casualties are of grievous nature. In other words, on an average, 100 road accidents take place every day in Kerala, resulting in death of at least 11 persons and 110 casualties per day.
Cause of accidents The primary cause of accident is attributed to human error followed by causes like poor road condition, mechanical failure, bad weather etc.Some of the human related causes are: over-speeding, wrong overtaking maneuvers, head light menace, drunk driving, use of cell phone while driving, overloading and carrying over sized cargo in vehicles etc. Since fatality and severity of accidents on highway are more, the focus in accident prevention and mitigation measures should be on highway driving.
Road safety management At present, safety management is mainly confined to the regulation of tr affic and crowd control. Cost-effective measures such as scientific design of junctions, segregation of traffic, speed regulation, parking restric tions,segregated bus bays, provision of pedestrian crossings, installation of signboards, delineation of road etc., should be advanta geously emplo yed.Road traffic accident is, no longer, a transportation issue. It is a major social, economic and public health problem in the country. The economic loss due to accidents is estimated at Rs.55,000 crores a year in India. This works out to 2.75 percent of Gross Domestic Product of the nation as a whole. This is the terrible price we have to pay for mobility of our people.
Wear Helmet Now Or Else Hell-met for Ever
Two wheeler accidents Two wheelers form more than half of the vehicle population in the coun try. Causality figures registered in some of the major hospitals indicate tha t at least one-third of the road accident victims were bike riders. It is dishe artening to note that two-thirds of the two wheel eraccidents involve youn gsters in the age group of 16 to 30 years. Since bike users are unprotected, they are exposed to high risk in road accidents.While on the road, these vulnerable road users are pushed to corner by bigger vehicles.
This calls for special attention in traffic management and enforcement of traffic rules.Most of the crashes involving two wheelers have occurred on road-side shoulder, sharp curves and near potholes. The impact is such that the rider is thrown out of the vehicle resulting in head injury. Accor ding to studies, more than 70 percent of the fatalities in traffic accidents are directly related to head injuries. Use of protective headgear (safety helmet) is themost critical element in prevention and reduction of head injuries.
Why do we need helmet? Although the provisions in Motor Vehicles Act mandates the use of protective headgear for two wheeler user as ‘compulsory’, there is stilla resistance to comply with the rules. Given the choice, bike users, especia lly ladies and young pillion-riders, would prefer not to wear helmet, because of the inconvenience it causes to them. Critics argue that helmet is not necessary in city rides where traffic congestion prohibits a person from travelling at desired speed.
Experimentation of free-fall from motorcycles carried out in the Europe and elsewhere revealed that even at speed as low as 17 km per hour (10 miles /hour), a fall from a two wheeler could result in serious head injury, eventually leading to death. Investigations of crash victims have shown that only 24% of protected riders suffered head injuries when they fall from a bike while travelling compared to 56 percent of unprotected riders. Dynamic impact to head is reduced by 50 percent with the use of protective head-gear.
There is a myth that helmet strap causes strangulation and/or neck injury in accidental fall. There is no scientific evidence to prove this. Evidences from thousands of crashes investigated around the world reveal that riders wearing helmet often survive in accidents to complainof neck pain, but those who do not wear.One of the major criticisms is that helmet obstructs vision of the rider. Most helmets’ facial shield do restrict vision by 5%. However, this is less than the obstructions caused by wearing spectacles or sunglasses.Standard helmet do not obstruct vision. Yet another complaint is that use of helmet impairs sound and buzzer signals of other vehicles. In fact, helmet only filters the unwanted noise, which is a main sourceof distraction.
Use of helmet gives protection from dust, heat, gaseous pollutants from exhaust pipes, wind and rain. Anti helmet groups argue that continuous use of helmet causes baldness, headache, allergy, giddiness, fatigue etc. The fact is that 5 to 25% of the people, in general population, suffer from these ailments. There is no evidence to prove that persons wearing helmet contract baldness or get other health problemscompared to those who do not wear. Whose responsibility is to protect?
Nearly half a million people are getting injured on Indian roads every year. A majority of the victims are two-wheeler users. With the increasing trend of bike accidents, there is a huge chunk of people in productive age group, become victim of road accident, and getting disabled in younger age. Use of helmet reduces the impact of severity of accident to a great extent. There is a huge price one has to pay in terms of loss of dear ones, permanent liability to the family member, loss of bread-winner, etc. There is a price the society has to pay. The Government has the responsibility to protect the life and welfare of the people. It cannot be expected to be a mere spectator when people get hurt and disabled due to accident. It is the duty of the police, NGO’s and social groups to create awareness to the most vulnerable road user – the two wheeler riders.
The simple deed to wear helmet can be life saving. It is suggested that safety gadgets like helmet, visor, reflective jackets (for night time rides) should be included compulsorily as a part of the vehicle cost. Similarly all new vehicles that come to market must be fitted with helmet-locksystem so that people need not bother about carrying it wherever they go. Strict enforcement on the use of helmet is a right thing to be pursued. All life-fearing persons should regard this as another opportunity to safeguard, not only their own ‘life’ but also the other road users. It is time every two wheeler rider don their helmet or else face the consequences. [ Contributed by: T. Elangovan]