We started our journey with Intents Mobi with the objective to save lives on the road. From our day to day life, to the products we have been working on, road safety has been the common denominator. There are close to 5,00,000 accidents on Indian roads, leading to almost 1,50,000 fatalities, every year. That is close to 14 lives lost to road accidents every hour! And as more and more vehicles are added on the road, this number has shown an upward trend in the past few years. While more people buying vehicles is an indicator of economic progress, more vehicles on the road also leads to a gradual rise in casualties on the road in normal circumstances.
But the current landscape is far from what one can call normal. The whole world is dealing with COVID 19 crisis right now. With no clear resolution available yet, countries all over, including India, are choosing to put the day to day life on hold and ask people to stay put in their homes. And while that has caused lot more damage than just the mind numbing Instagram challenges and work from home fatigue, there have been some unintended upsides that are showing as a consequence.
As the numbers above would have expressed, our roads are unsafe. With the traffic movement reaching a minimal and only essential vehicles left on the road now, the incidents have dropped right off. With an average of over 400 lives lost on the road daily, the 21 day lockdown enforced in India could potentially save over 8,000 lives on the Indian roads.
The casualties on the road are caused by a wide array of factors, ranging from ignorance towards safety to over-utilisation of infrastructure and a lot in between. A third of the lives are lost because of vehicle users choosing to ignore basic safety gear like helmets or seatbelts. However, even before restraint systems or safety gear can come into play to save lives, there are external triggers leading to the accident in the first place.
Accident blackspots are often the result of multiple factors clubbing together, but more often than not, these are the outcome of infrastructure challenges like restricted capacity and bad roads. The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways lists some of these identified blackspots here and most of them tell the same story, missing traffic lights, no foot over bridges, lacking roads. With a large chunk of vehicles off the road, lot of the factors immediately go away.
And while it would appear rather shortsighted to try and find upsides in a difficult situation, the impact of the current situation, can potentially be beyond the current lockdown period. The present scenario might trigger a much broader, behavioural and cultural change. With a large number of companies forced to make do with remote working, and the economic impact of the COVID 19 crisis, there is a strong possibility that an increasing number of companies would choose to adopt flexible work practices to deal with the times that lay ahead. This, with potentially reduced stress on the existing infrastructure, could actually have a positive effect on road safety.
That said, we still have a serious crisis staring us in the face. And though it has highlighted some of the issues we need to power through, it has also highlighted the heroes among us, the people that create the backbone of our healthcare, order, supply chains and the good samaritans rising to the occasion. It is showcasing the power of people rising together in the face of adversity. And amidst what feels like a chaos to us, the truckers are still out on the road like it is any other day at work for them, despite the significantly worsened conditions, to keep everything else running. We are able to sit at home because they are not, so if you are in a position where you can, do your bit to help them, and even if not, at least join everyone else to #ThankOurTruckers.