Friday, 18 February 2011

Pedestrians too have a responsibilty towards Road Safety

My previous blog was on the pedestrians rights to pavements. But that also raises the issue of the pedestrians’ responsibilities while walking along the roads. While going around Europe I have observed that drivers invariably stop and always give pedestrians the right of way - and very courteously and patiently. Here too, at zebra / pedestrian crossings too, we find that motorists do wait, albeit only till the light turns green. Nevertheless I am certain that as we turn from a developing to a developed nation further changes on this front will be visible.

But what do we see on the other side? While driving around the city it is common to see people just walk across the road when convenient, ignoring the pedestrian crossing nearby. While driving across cities and passing through small towns and villages it is usual to find youngsters just charging across the road looking neither right nor left. While this is not acceptable, it was understandable in the early days of our freedom, as these youngsters were not well educated and did not understand the proper drill to cross the road. But we can no longer consider ourselves a fledging independent country, if we can learn to use the mobile, surely we can learn to cross the road? Here, on highways it is seen that the fence or girder is broken and folks squeeze in through a grilled road divider or jump across the median onto the main road. An unexpected or sudden crossing would result in the need for either a swerve or sudden brake application by the motorist, both of which have their attendant risks. Even in such cases however, it is the motorist who is considered at fault.

The Road Safety week, which is observed every year from 1st to 7th January, had its 22nd year in 2011. This year the theme suggested by the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways was Road Safety is a mission, not intermission. We are still in the first quarter of the year but the intermission seems to have been long past. The link on their website, to this week is also a blank, apparently the Ministry has not found anything to write home about on the performance (http://morth.nic.in/index2.asp?sublinkid=432&langid=2). Does it remain mere posturing?

A basic rule followed across the world (especially if there is no footpath), is to walk facing the traffic, thereby ensuring that the risk is visible. In India however, all of us walk with our backs to the traffic leaving the pedestrian to the mercy of the motorist and to our faith in God.

Several good steps have been taken in the past - highlighting the speed breakers is one such in Delhi and most of NCR but not, my sister tells me, in Bangalaru. Can this not be made mandatory across the country?

Can we not have prominent signboards across all accident prone areas stressing the responsibilities of the pedestrians?
And most importantly, can we actually have a measure across various parameters, of the success or failure of each observance of the Road Safety week?

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