Kerala’s unsafe roads in spotlight

Unsafe and inadequate road infrastructure and road accidents in the State claiming 12 lives daily and leaving 125 injured is in the spotlight as World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims (WDoR) is being observed on Sunday.

Despite the awareness and tough enforcement measures by the police and the Motor Vehicles Department, 4,303 were killed (11.78 deaths daily) and 45,458 injured (125 injured daily) in 40,181 road accidents in the State in 2018.

In the first nine months of 2019, 30,788 road accidents had been reported. Data from the SCRB, compiled by the Technical Support Group of the Kerala Road Safety Authority (KRSA), has revealed that 3,629 had lost their lives on the roads during January-October this year.

The solace is the decline in road accident fatalities during the last five months from July compared to the same period in 2018, says Secretary, KRSA, Rajeev Puthalath.

“Often drivers are blamed for road accidents and fatalities. The time has come when the State needs to have a serious look into the road infrastructure. Only the four-laned stretches of National Highways in the State qualify for the three-star rating of the iRAP (International Road Assessment Programme). Even the World Bank-aided Kerala State Transport Project (KSTP) corridors in the State will earn only two star,” says road safety expert Sony Thomas.

iRAP rating

iRAP is the umbrella programme for road assessment programmes worldwide that are working to save lives. iRAP star ratings are an objective measure of the likelihood of a road crash occurring and its severity.

“For getting three star of iRAP, the corridor should have median, footpath, and no rigid objects. Stretches with two star and single star are threat to vulnerable road users-pedestrians and motorcyclists. The United Nations and the World Health Organization are advocating at least three-star rating for roads,” he adds.

The design of roads can have a considerable impact on the safety of the road users. Measures such as footpaths, cycling lanes, safe crossing points, and other traffic-calming measures can be critical to reducing the risk of injury among the road users. “The State has to go a long way to improve the road infrastructure. Safety audit also needs to be carried out to address the issues,” he said. Still, governments’, stakeholders’, and society’s response to road accidents and victims is often inadequate, unsympathetic, and inappropriate.

The WDoR is commemorated on the third Sunday of November every year to remember those killed and injured on the roads, together with their families, friends, and others affected.

“Life is not a car part’ is the slogan for the WDoR 2019. The theme is based on Pillar 3 of the Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety — Safer Vehicles. Programmes will take place based on the theme.