NEW DELHI: Walking, always an unsafe way to commute in Indian cities, has become more hazardous in recent years. The number of pedestrians killed on the roads rose by a steep 84% between 2014 and 2018, with average daily fatalities going up from 34 in 2014 to 62 last year.
According to the road accident report of the Union transport ministry, 12,330 pedestrians were killed across the country in 2014. The number steady rose to 13,894 in 2015, 15,746 in 2016, 20,457 in 2017 and 22,656 last year.
Road safety experts said the rising fatalities show that the first right of pedestrians on the road has neither been understood nor given precedence while planning roads or while preparing traffic movement plans. Pedestrians and cyclists accounted for 15% and 2.4% of all road deaths, respectively.
Globally, pedestrians are treated as the most vulnerable road users and their protection gets highest priority.
The road accident report of 2018 showed that West Bengal topped the list of pedestrian fatalities with 2,618 deaths, followed by Maharashtra(2,515) and Andhra Pradesh (1,569). In Delhi, pedestrian accounted for 420 deaths, more than one-fourth of the total road fatalities.
“In the western world, a lot of thought goes into making vehicles safe. In countries such as ours, we need to focus more on protecting pedestrians. We have a high number of pedestrian deaths in urban areas and with urban areas expanding rapidly, we are witnessing more such deaths. Though the Motor Vehicle Driving Regulation gives the first right to pedestrians at uncontrolled pedestrian crossings, it’s neither respected nor enforced. The entire traffic engineering followed by consultants, concessionares and government is focussed on motorisation,” Rohit Baluja, a road safety expert, said.
He added that almost all footpaths were encroached upon across cities and pedestrians were forced to walk on main roads.
Municipal bodies and other road owning agencies usually take just cosmetic action on removing encroachments and clearing footpaths, mostly after court orders.
In some cases, city authorities have developed walking-friendly stretches but these have been mostly confined to a few upscale localities.
“While governments have failed to take care of the needs of pedestrians while planning roads, there is hardly any training of drivers on how to respect the pedestrians’ right of way. We see people speeding when they are about to approach a zebra crossing. Making roads safe is a shared responsibility rather than simply blaming police and other enforcement agencies,” said Amar Srivastava, president of Indian Road Safety Campaign, a not-for-profit organisation.
The latest road accident report has estimated that vulnerable road users, which include pedestrians, cyclists and two-wheeler riders, accounted for nearly 54% of road accident-related deaths.
Date: November 21, 2019