Govt urged to announce traffic deaths as epidemic

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New Delhi, Oct 6 (UNI) Road accidents, which claim over 95,000 lives and maim many more people every year in India, are no different from epidemics like small pox and polio and require to be dealt with the same urgency.

This is the gist of a set of recommendations made to the government by a team of traffic experts from India and abroad.

The suggestions emerged at the two-day conference on 'Road safety-design, construction and design' here today.

The idea found ready support from the experts, who said governments all over the world should adopt 'Vision zero' -- no more deaths on roads.

''The idea 'Vision Zero' was born in Sweden, where it's had spectacular success in reducing traffic fatalities. Now zeroing out all traffic fatalities must become an explicit India and worldwide goal. Otherwise we have no prospect of taming the appalling roadway death toll -- 95,000 lives lost yearly in India out of 1.2 million worldwide,'' said Jean Beauverd, Chairman, International Road Federation (IRF).

Mr Beauverd said global eradication of epidemics like small pox and now towards eradicating polio had come through a worldwide commitment to finally control the disease.

''Similar commitment is needed to end traffic deaths,'' he suggested.

Prof Dinesh Mohan of the IIT, New Delhi said traffic deaths constitute an epidemic, which can be prevented.

''Sweden has succeeded, driving its yearly toll down to 440, lowest since the World War II. Annual traffic-related deaths of children, once 118, sank to 11 at last count. If Sweden can be successful, why can't we?'' he asked Prof Mohan, who heads the Transport Research and Injury Prevention Programme at the IIT Delhi, said India is the only country in the world which does not have any clear policy on preventing fatal road accidents.

''It has become imperative for the government to immediately announce a road safety policy and set a target for reducing road accidents,'' he added.

In Delhi 45 per cent of the total road users are cyclists and pedestrians and only 6-10 per cent people go to work in cars.

He said the entire focus of the Delhi government is on car users and no separate arrangements have been made or planned for pedestrians or two-wheeler owners.

''The overfoot bridges made for pedestrians in Delhi recently at six places are more of a problem for them, taxing their energy for climbing and approaching the bridges. Moreover there are 50,000 places where pedestrians in Delhi cross the road, and construction of six bridges will not solve the problem,'' he argued.

UNI

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