The inauguration of the State’s first Safety Driving Education Centre is a step in the right direction. Road safety education has been a dire need in the State where the incidence of fatalities and injuries caused by road accidents has been alarmingly high. Indeed, this has been a discernible trend for over a decade, made worse by the absence of required interventions to ease the situation. The failure to even to rectify some basic issues coupled with poor enforcement has had a mounting impact on the disturbing incidence of road mishaps. Inadequate signage and reflectors on speed-breakers, road dividers and bridge approaches have contributed towards many fatal accidents in recent years. The absence of highway patrolling and enforcement has ensured that shocking infringements on the laws and rules of road safety are committed as a matter of routine by irresponsible drivers and with impunity. It is common to see large vehicles parked along the roadside with no parking lights – something that has led to fatal mishaps. The year 2020 witnessed 6,593 accidents in the State, leading to 2,629 deaths and 5,279 injuries – most of those being attributable to the lack of knowledge of road safety and violation of road safety norms. While all the stakeholders need to put up a coordinated effort to bring down the incidence of accidents, the Government has to discharge its basic responsibilities in the matter of raising awareness and enforcement.
Often, one is seen taking recourse to the argument that the high automobile density inevitably brings with it accidents. However, this is fallacious reasoning and the situation needs to be viewed from a broader perspective so that the factors fuelling the spurt in fatal mishaps can be addressed. And compared to the advanced States of the country, Assam’s vehicle density is considerably less. Reckless driving in the State has been too conspicuous a phenomenon to be missed – one that is causing a spurt in accidents. One only needs to visit our roads to see how a large segment of drivers – many of them being downright unqualified — operate in blatant disregard to rules of the road. It is time violations of speed limits or any other traffic rules and regulations were made a serious offence, eliciting severe punishments including cancellation of licences, at least for a reasonable time frame. A majority of the accidents do not occur accidentally but are induced by reckless and callous driving. Another imperative need is to sensitize our vehicle drivers on the safety requirements of pedestrians, cyclists, stray animals and every other person using the road. Regrettably, most of those behind the wheel tend to drive as if the road belongs to them alone. The message that the road is a public place and every driver is under a legal and moral obligation to respect the rule of the road and be mindful of the safety of other road-users has to reach all drivers.