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The Driver in the Bottle

India has one of the world’s highest number of traffic-related deaths and drunk driving is a leading cause for the alarming statistics. Our writer enters a world where people obsess about ways to keep drunks off the wheel: from pranayama to electro-chemical sensors to fines to good old-fashioned jail time.

Bangalore bus driver Pradeep AR knew how to hide his whisky. He would select a smooth young coconut, insert a straw, quickly drink about half of the sweet water, and then pour the booze inside the shell.

He didn’t drink on duty, says the 28-year-old driver. But his hands shook. Eight days a month, he couldn’t manage to get up for work. He was spending about a third of his income on Raja Whisky and Original Choice, and when he couldn’t afford that, a plastic packet of the cheaper stuff.

Still, he liked wearing a uniform, and was touched by the respect that he got from many of his passengers and co-workers. This was a lot better than his previous job, working for a cement factory, getting dust all over his face as he unloaded the lorry. He didn’t want to lose his seat behind the wheel. So he decided to heed his supervisor’s warning: go to rehab, or don’t come back to the depot.

In most places in India, bus companies have shown little interest in protecting passengers, cyclists and pedestrians from the dangerous consequences of a driver’s taste for liquor. In Bangalore, however, the Karnataka State Road Transportation Corporation (KSRTC) and its affiliates have made rehab a priority.

Disturbed by absenteeism, low productivity, and shocking loss of life in road accidents, the bus company runs its own 40-day programme where men like Pradeep can try to steer a new course in sobriety.

In a hospital on the south side of Bangalore, a stringent detox regimen is accompanied by medical lectures, psychological counseling, volleyball, table tennis, yoga and a bit of gardening. Patients may not carry cash or cellphones. Other than Sunday trips to local temples, the men are confined to the pale green walls of the clinic. These walls don’t trade in subtlety: one crude mural shows a weeping wife, gossiping neighbors, and a dead husband sprawled next to a few empty liquor bottles.

Aside from drivers, the patients include conductors, mechanics and guards. Once in a while, an employee will run away during the first painful days of detox. (The security here is not quite as strict as some of the shady private rehab clinics around Bangalore, which specialize in lockdown and intimidation.) But his supervisor will usually manage to track him down and compel him to return with the next batch of patients.

Pradeep and the other detoxed employees sit before a blackboard, watching psychiatrist Mamatha Shetty circle “liver” with a stick of chalk. Together, the class makes a list of physical ailments linked to alcohol. They have been over this ground before, and it still sticks in Pradeep’s mind, he says, how badly his old friend Raja Whisky could have damaged his liver and kidneys.

In another room, the fifteen men in Pradeep’s batch kneel on a striped carpet. They follow the instructions of Prakash Yogi, a grizzled yoga master, running through a series of pranayama exercises. He advises them to avoid alcohol and rise above negative thoughts. “The mind is the main cause of bondage and liberation,” he tells them.

Perhaps he has a point. But it’s also true that his pupils must contend with tough schedules and terrible roads which have an oppressive character all their own. “If the roads are good and it’s not bumpy, maybe I wouldn’t feel like drinking,” says Shashikant Dhage, a slender 32-year-old bus driver from Gulbarga. While the national highways earn his praise, interior roads remain treacherous.

Another driver, 41-year-old Shivaswamy, recounts how he’d drive from 5:30 am to midnight for two days in a row, covering 1,200 kilometers. He needed the overtime pay. And more and more, he found himself needing nine pegs of whiskey to get to sleep. The soft-spoken driver insists that he never caused an accident. But he realized that he was having trouble steering the bus. Like Pradeep, he could see his hands shaking.

Not Just Bus Drivers

Health experts and traffic technocrats argue that alcohol is a critical variable in road accidents in India—yet one that remains poorly understood. More commonly cited factors are speeding, fatigue, and badly engineered roads. But with heavy drinking habits taking hold in all social classes, road safety appears increasingly elusive.

Nearly 180,000 people lost their lives in road accidents in India last year, according to estimates from the Bangalore-based World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Injury Prevention and Safety Promotion. A whopping ninety lakh people were left injured. In 2010, India overtook China in the worst road traffic accident rate in the world, according to the WHO’s first Global Status Report on Road Safety. And the number of deaths on the road is increasing by eight percent each year, according to researchers from the Transportation Research and Injury Prevention Programme.

Why isn’t more attention paid to the booze factor?

One explanation is lack of documentation. Many Indian hospitals don’t have breathalyzers or other detection equipment, and even if they do, neglect to test for alcohol intake when an injured body or corpse arrives. “A dead man is forgiven,” says Praveen Sood, Additional Director General of Police (ADG) in Karnataka. “It is culturally incorrect to check his blood and tell his family that he was drunk and that’s why he died. We are a sentimental people.”

In the absence of comprehensive data, India’s insurance industry has not seen fit to create a deterrent by linking premium hikes with drunk driving violations, as occurs in other countries. Driving licenses are rarely cancelled, and even suspensions are few.

Yet much is known about India’s perilous drinking habits. Binge drinking among youth is on the rise, coupled with the euphoria that comes from driving fast in impulsive late-night escapades. “There is no regret, even when they have bashed up their dad’s car,” notes Paul Lobo, director of Higher Power Foundation, a private rehab center in Bangalore. “They are busy chasing the next high.”

Studies show that male drinkers of all ages much prefer hardcore spirits to lighter beverages like beer and wine. Solitary drinking at bars on weeknights and mornings tends to be the pattern, rather than drinking at home. In rural areas, such habits endanger inebriated pedestrians who wander onto highways on their way back to their beds.

“On the highways, it is a deadly combination of drinking and driving, over-speeding and poor visibility,” asserts Dr. G. Gururaj, professor of epidemiology at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) in Bangalore. According to figures from the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, nearly 64 per cent of India’s crash fatalities occur on the highways, yet experts concur that there is no enforcement of drunk driving laws there. Police plead lack of manpower and technical resources to conduct surveillance on such vast stretches of road.

Meanwhile, state excise commissioners have largely ignored pleas from the central government to remove booze shops from the edge of the highways. State budgets rely heavily on alcohol revenues, spurring reluctance. “The state governments have not realized that they are spending more on managing alcohol-related problems than what they are earning from alcohol sales,” Gururaj observes.

In cities, light fines have had scant impact. And many of the breathalyzers purchased by police departments are cheap Chinese-made gadgets that provide “erratic readings,” according to Ridhu Sehgal, partner in Integra Design, a New-Delhi based firm that sells road safety products, police car fittings and mobility solutions for the physically challenged.

Last month, the Puma Social Club, a lounge in Bangalore, took the novel step of installing a breathalyzer that will give patrons a reading designed to tell them if it’s safe to drive home. This has, as the owners ruefully noted, spurred some giddy young drinkers to compete to see who has the highest level of alcohol in their bloodstream.

So far, there are absolutely no takers in India for alcohol ignition interlocks, which would automatically prevent a car or bus from starting if a drunk driver sits at the wheel and sets off electro-chemical sensors. “There is a general bias against anything that restricts the freedom of people driving their own cars,” Sehgal says. His firm has been trying to promote the Alcolock, a device assembled and tested in Canada.

Yet Dinesh Mohan, professor emeritus at the Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi, argues that there could be broad public support for installing such technology in public transport, given the right amount of attention.

Crackdown

Some cities are spearheading a crackdown on drunk drivers. Jail time is no longer unusual in Mumbai, where 50,234 people have been confined on the charge of drunk driving since mid-2007. “Punishment of even one or two days of imprisonment sends a very strong message,” says Vivek Phansalkar, Joint Commissioner of Police in Mumbai. An after-dark breathalyzer campaign has also instilled some hesitation to imbibe without a designated driver who stays sober. “Fear of getting caught is most crucial. There is no let-up. We are changing times, changing locations. The surprise element is there,” says Phansalkar.

In Bangalore, police have lobbied city pubs and trendy lounges to help their wobbly clientele to call a cab. “We are trying to bring the bars around to the idea that ‘your customers should remain alive, so you get more business’,” says ADGP Praveen Sood. Clearly, this is not a replay of a Gandhian prohibition campaign.

Even a small city like Visakhapatnam has quadrupled its drunk driving cases over just three years. The authorities there have found that the majority of drunk drivers are in their twenties, or merely teenagers. In January, Visakhapatnam police launched a campaign called “Arrive Alive,” and have tried to bring that message home to college students, together with counseling for youngsters and their families.

Yet much more remains to be done in urban areas, emphasizes Rohit Baluja, president of the Institute of Road Traffic Education. “Campaigns against drunk driving are going on in eight or ten cities. Even there, it is done sporadically, not wholeheartedly,” he complains.

As for bus companies, none have chosen to follow the lead of KSRTC and systematically send drivers to rehab, according to the Association of State Road Transport Undertakings (ASRTU). One place to start might be Andhra Pradesh, where the AP State Road Transport Corporation recorded 2,146 fatal bus accidents from 2008 to 2011. Or try Maharashtra, where the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation recorded 1,214 fatal accidents during the same period. The Uttar Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation could also take a shot at rehab, with 1,169 fatal accidents recorded in those three years. Alcoholism is “one of the very primary things in transport that needs to be addressed,” says ASRTU executive director Ananda Rao.

Back in Bangalore, psychiatrist Mamatha Shetty also tries to explain the psychological symptoms including alcoholic hallucinations. “Even if nobody is talking, you think someone is talking,” she tells patients. “You get some smell. You get some taste. Hearing voices is very common.” The drinker often responds angrily to the voices in his head, those scolding, excoriating voices. And the neighbors gawk, just like they do in the mural.

Are such sessions effective? That remains unclear. Over forty days, each patient spends very little time one-on-one with the psychiatrist, and not all of them are ready to talk about their problems. Some prefer to blame demanding wives or hard-drinking buddies rather than engage in any introspection.

According to Shetty, worldwide relapse rates are 40 percent to 60 percent, “and KSRTC is no exception.” But company officials cite a success rate of nearly 60 percent — drawing on follow-up data from local supervisors–and emphasize that those who keep guzzling are sent for another attempt at rehab at NIMHANS. “We are really proud of this type of programme,” says KSRTC chief executive officer N. Manjunatha Prasad.

Meanwhile, counsellors urge participants to take pride in spending more money on family needs, instead of alcohol. Shivaswamy, for example, says he intends to put Rs. 5,000 monthly into a fixed deposit account to pay for his son and daughter’s education. Pradeep, a bachelor, says he intends to send Rs. 8, 000 home to his parents in his village each month.

Redirecting funds spent on alcohol could make a big difference in many corners of India. Much more research remains to be done on the economic consequences of heavy drinking, beyond the commonly cited figure that it soaks up 3% of the country’s GDP. In fact, many heavy drinkers are spending nearly 50 percent of their income on alcohol, according to a 2012 NIMHANS report. That leaves a lot less to spend on food, health, and education.

Those spending habits also impose a broader burden. The same report says that “a third of the population surveyed had experience of having to work extra hours to cover for a colleague or a workmate’s drinking.”

Former rehab patients swing by the KSRTC clinic to provide upbeat testimonials. A crew restroom caretaker, B.V. Nagareddy, credits the programme with giving him the motivation to save money to send his two children to study for MBA degrees. Fifty-six year-old mechanic M. Devadas, now sober, tells the assembled men to pay close heed to Prakash Yogi’s advice to avoid liquor. He compares the yoga master to a succulent blossom. “We should be like honeybees, and make honey from the flowers,” says Devadas. “Take this and make good use of it.”

But outside these pale green walls, a different sort of nectar beckons.

Margot Cohen is a writer from New York. Her interest in India follows previous reporting stints in Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines.

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The Long Short Walk: Second UN Global Road Safety Week, 6 May to 12 May 2013

THE LONG SHORT WALKS (TLSW) were conducted in the North Indian Cities of Chandigarh and Karnal, Haryana as part of the Five of these activities were done with the support of Police Departments of the cities, School and College Continue reading

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Road deaths set to soar unless transport policies change radically

Road deaths will dramatically increase in the world’s poorest countries unless governments and multilateral development banks swiftly and radically overhaul their transport policies, according to a new report.

Already, 1.3 million people lose their lives on the world’s roads every year, with road accidents now one of the leading causes of death in the developing world.

In its new report, the Make Roads Safe campaign, a global coalition co-ordinated by the FIA Foundation, warns that deaths will see a “relentless increase” if sustainable transport policies are not put at the heart of debates on development after the millennium goals expire in 2015.

The rising death toll will largely affect the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. According to India’s National Crime Records Bureau, there are about 134,000 recorded road deaths in the country every year. The Make Roads Safe campaign predicts that India could add 90,000 deaths by 2016 if transport policies remain unchanged.

“The message we must take from this report is that road safety is one of the biggest development challenges facing the international community,” said the report’s author Kevin Watkins, from the Brookings Institution.

“The basic problem is that road and transport planners in developing countries and the powerful multilateral development banks continue to think of transport systems as a question of journey times, speed and cost, and neglect to put people first.”

Despite the criticism, multilateral development banks say efforts are being made to ensure that sustainable transport is considered central to any new infrastructure projects funded by bank loans. At the UN’s Rio+20 conference on sustainable development in June, eight of the world’s largest development banks announced they were to jointly invest $175bn in sustainable transportation systems over the coming decade.

“At the World Bank, we are committed to working on road safety as part of our strategy for safe, clean and affordable transport for development,” said Jose Luis Irigoyen, director for transport, water and IT. “Our new projects in countries such as Argentina show the right direction, which is a more holistic approach. We will continue to work … to ensure that road traffic deaths and injuries are never a price to pay for development.”

The report also says unsustainable transport policies pose a major threat to efforts to tackle air pollution and climate change. A huge increase in the numbers of cars across the world will inevitably increase the number of people dying from air pollution. Outdoor air pollution already kills as many people as traffic accidents, with up to 90% of the pollutants for these deaths – such as carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide – coming from petrol-fuelled vehicles.

Even though many existing transport policies are focused on economic progress, traffic congestion loses up to 3% of the GDP of many major cities.

The Make Roads Safe campaign says responsibility for the failure to make transport sustainable lies at the door of national governments and the multilateral development banks.

Many governments have failed to implement sustainable policies or even enforce existing road safety legislation, yet development banks that spend billions of dollars every year financing road building systematically neglect safety, and put speed and economic efficiency over the safety of people.

“Over the past few years we have been hearing a lot of encouraging mood music from the World Bank and other multilateral development banks around road safety but precious little action,” said Watkins.

“A simple proposition such as ensuring that no transport-related proposal goes to the board unless it … [includes] a clear target for reducing road deaths and meeting basic safety standards would make a huge difference yet this still fails to be done. They need to get off the fence and start taking responsibility for tackling a growing problem, which their institutions are clearly reinforcing.”

The report calls for the inclusion of sustainable transport and road safety within the post-2015 sustainable development goals, targeting a 50% reduction in global road deaths by 2030. It wants an extra $200m (£130m) spent each year on aiding the development of national road safety strategies in the poorest countries.

At what it calls a “crucial” time for halting a surge in road deaths, the Make Roads Safe campaign is urging donors, governments and development banks to build on the consensus at Rio+20 that safe and sustainable transport must be an essential component of development strategy. It says that the current debates on a post-2015 development agenda provide the opportunity to reframe transport policy around safety and sustainability.

“This is the first year that we have seen the big development banks really sitting up and making sustainable transport an active part of their agenda,” said Cornie Huizenga, joint convener for the partnership on sustainable, low carbon transport, who lobbied on sustainable transport at the Rio+20 conference last year.

“There is a growing realisation that with rapid global urbanisation we are facing critical choices about what kind of transport infrastructure we need to have, and that the old model of simply building roads isn’t going to work on any human, environmental or economic level.

“For the first time I am genuinely optimistic that sustainable transport can and will be included in the post-2015 development agenda, although obviously we have huge challenges ahead when it comes to getting our voice heard amid the competing demands of the different sectors such as energy and agriculture to have their agenda represented in a set of new sustainable development goals, but I do think the momentum is building.”

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Reduction of road fatalities in Spain in 2012

2012 was the 9th consecutive year in reducing road fatalities in Spain, achieving a new record.

The number of fatalities was 1304 with a reduction of 180 people in comparison with 2011. As average there is a reduction of 4 fatalities per day.

Most of the fatal accidents happened between during the day time involving run-offs in conventional roads. The number of accidents involving vulnerable users such as pedestrians has been reduced while number of accidents involving motorcyclists was quite similar to previous year. However, number of fatalities of cyclists increased.

As regards road safety devices and victims, the percentage of fatalities involving drivers not using seat belts was 22%, while the non-use of helmets for motorcyclists represented only 4%. However, despite numerous awareness-raising campaigns to use helmets, the number of fatalities of moped users without helmet was 31%. In Spain, the use of mopeds is very common due to favourable weather conditions.

In general, these numbers are positive considering the 364,8 millions of long-distance journeys completed in 2012. Spain represents a positive example in road safety as result of the coordination between different actors involved in mobility for the last years.

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Global Status Report on Road Safety 2013

Road traffic injuries kill nearly 1.3 million people annually. If current trends continue, road crashes are predicted to become the fifth leading cause of death by 2030.

Until recently, the extent of the road safety situation around the world was unclear. In 2009 WHO published the Global status report on road safety as the first assessment of the road safety situation at the global level.

Monitoring tool

In March 2010 the UN General Assembly proclaimed the period 2011-2020 as the Decade of Action for Road Safety. The goal of the Decade is to stabilize and then reduce the forecast level of road traffic deaths around the world. Global status reports will serve as tools for monitoring the impact of the Decade.

Global Status Report on Road Safety 2013

In 2011 WHO began work on the second such report. The objectives of this new Global status report are:

  • to indicate the gaps in road safety nationally and thereby stimulate road safety activities
  • to describe the road safety situation in all Member States and assess changes that have occurred since the publication of the first Global status report.
  • to serve as a baseline for monitoring activities relating to the Decade of Action for Road Safety at the national and international levels.
  • Data collection will begin in early 2011 and will be carried out in all WHO Member States that agree to participate, working through WHO Regional and Country offices. The Report will be launched on 14 March 2013.

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How Australia reduced road death toll

The number of deaths on South African roads is staggering. With about 14 000 people killed on South African roads each year the cost of this tragic harvest is impossible to calculate. There are war zones in other parts of the world that offer better odds of survival.

I hesitate to point to Australia’s experience in curbing the impact of road trauma. Frankly, I believe our experience is far from the international benchmark and we have a lot of room for further improvement.

However, I know that many South Africans do cite the improvement in road safety that has been achieved in Australia over recent decades as a possible model and there may be some lessons to be learned.

The South African experience does have to be viewed in context. Around the world, approximately 1.2 million people will be killed in road crashes this year. More than 90 percent of these road fatalities will occur in the world’s poorest countries and the African continent shows the highest levels of road deaths per 100 000 population. Indeed, the World Health Organisation projects that without action to change current trends, by 2030 road trauma will increase dramatically and rise from ninth to fifth on the list of leading causes of death worldwide.

DECADE OF ACTION

In response to this global epidemic, the UN has proclaimed a Decade of Action for Road Safety from 2011 till 2020. The Decade of Action must result in tangible outcomes and I remain hopeful that it will provide a rallying point for setting ambitious targets and for co-ordinated action on road safety.

Currently, the fatality rate on the roads in South Africa is 27.5 deaths per 100 000 people, each year. While no level of road deaths is acceptable, a target to halve this current level of fatalities by 2020 is realistic. I know my colleagues at the AA in South Africa have urged the adoption of this target and the measures to implement it. If achieved, it could save the lives of 20 000 South Africans who don’t need to die needlessly between now and 2020.

TAKING ROAD SAFETY SERIOUSLY

In Australia, we currently suffer around 5.8 deaths per 100 000 people each year – down from a peak of 30 in 1970, which is when we can say Australia started to take road safety seriously. The number of road deaths in Australia has reduced from 3798 in 1970 to 1308 over the past year – despite increases in population and vehicle use.

This progress has been the result of a range of initiatives including road improvements, safer vehicles, as well as behavioural and enforcement programmes targeting drunk driving, seatbelt wearing, fatigue and speeding.

There is no silver bullet to addressing the road death toll and it cannot be solved overnight. Road safety initiatives require support from all levels of government, as well as a range of stakeholders including road users, media, police, healthcare providers, schools, local government, vehicle manufacturers, employers and the wider community.

ATTITUDE CHANGE

Importantly, while there are always going to be exceptions, there has been a significant change in broad community behaviour and attitudes. Early campaigns to change behaviour were confrontational and often used “shock” advertising with slogans labelling drunk drivers as “bloody idiots” and graphic video images of road crashes and the resulting trauma to pound home the message.

Equally, the improvement in road safety outcomes in Australia has come at a price, financially and socially. Australians have had to accept tougher regulations, road rules, vehicle standards – and tough enforcement measures have been a key part of the solution.

The “pain” of a fine or loss of licence demerit points is far preferable to the impact of loss of life, or serious injury, and today many more Australians understand that bending the rules on the road can trigger consequences.

SMARTER SOLUTIONS

Looking to the future there is an increasing need to look for smarter and more cost-effective solutions to underpin the planning and investment required to meet our needs for continuing improvements in road infrastructure.

This affects not only the ability to travel between locations but the design and constrction elements of the road can have a large influence on the likelihood and severity of crashes. Factors such as the quality of the road surface, line marking, width of the road shoulder, width of road lanes, the opportunity for safe overtaking of slow-moving traffic and separate pavement areas for pedestrians all help to improve the safety of road users.

COURAGE AND COMMITMENT

Physical barriers between lanes of traffic travelling in opposite directions, removal or protection of obstacles close to the roadside, such as poles and trees, can all dramatically affect the safety of the road system.

While reductions in road trauma require the support and participation of many stakeholders, governments are ultimately responsible for setting the policy agenda, providing leadership and driving the change.

Without this courage and commitment, gains in road safety stall or are eroded.

The most encouraging thing in South Africa is that it seems the public want to do something about the alarming number of road fatalities. The trauma, pain and suffering that stem from road crashes are ultimately preventable. – Cape Argus

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South Africa: Over 1 400 People Die in Accidents During Festive Season

Pretoria — Transport Minister Ben Martins has announced that 1 465 people lost their lives on the country’s roads during the festive season.

The main causes of the road fatalities during the period between 1 December 2012 and 8 January 2013 were drunken driving, excessive speeding, dangerous overtaking, not using seatbelts and unroadworthy vehicles.

There were 1 221 fatal accidents recorded during the period.

In the 2011/2012 festive season period, 1 475 people died on the country’s roads.

Speaking in Durban on Thursday, Martins said the 2012 festive season road safety campaign had, among other things, emphasised the need for drivers and passengers to buckle up whenever they start a journey – even if it is for a short journey.

“People who buckle up have a greater chance of surviving when they get involved in road accidents. A number of passengers, especially women and children, died because they were not wearing seatbelts.”

He said approximately 40% of the fatalities involved pedestrians, most of whom walk on the road while drunk.

“I should like to, on behalf of the Ministry and the Department of Transport, express our sincere condolences to all those who lost loved ones over the festive season … Road traffic fatalities are amongst the main causes of death in South Africa. This results in serious social and economic costs for the country. These consequences include the loss of family members, breadwinners and leave behind traumatised families.”

He said at least R306 billion is lost to the economy due to road fatalities each year.

“During the festive season, 17 000 traffic officers were deployed on our roads to police a road network of over 750 000km, used by more than 10 million cars,” he said.

Martins added that going forward, the department will review existing legislative instruments to identify areas that need strengthening and further improvements.

“Amongst others, we will review the current alcohol limit, support the total ban on alcohol advertising, harsher measures for serial and habitual offenders including naming and shaming them, stringent criteria on driver’s licence application and school campaigns on road safety,” he said.

The department will also develop a single national policy on the role and functions of the road safety councils which will mobilise communities to participate in road safety campaigns.

It will also take further steps towards the implementation of the driver’s licence demerit system and further technological innovations regarding the use of speed cameras.

“Achieving the goals that we have set … will require greater co-operation between the department and all citizens. The department is committed to carrying out this responsibility to reduce road fatalities by 50% by the end of the UN Decade of Road Safety in 2020,” said the minister.

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Pedestrians reluctance to use overhead bridges

ISLAMABAD – Most of the residents living across the Islamabad Expressway are not using overhead bridges built at various points, which imperils their life and have led fatal accidents.

Despite warnings by the police and traffic instructions,pedestrians reluctant to climb the bridges and instead walk across the road endandering both their life and of the motorists as well. For example, today I saw an old fellow coming out of Dhok Kala Khan slipping through the road divider grills instead of using the overhead bridge.

Pedestrian are generally reluctant to use the nearby overhead bridges like the old guy saying: “I’m in a hurry,I don’t care.I have to reach office.”

An official of Islamabad Traffic Police said that they are doing their best to educate the road users and different sign boards have been installed to guide the road users.

“I agree that most of the pedestrians prefer short-cut, avoid use of these overhead bridges and face road accidents”, he said. Several fatal and other road accidents have occurred on the Islamabad Expressway due to the negligence of pedestrians who come on the road and at time are hit by the speeding vehicles.

The official said that police would continue efforts to educate road users. He requested the people to use overhead bridges as they were erected for their safety. The Expressway is one of the busiest road of the city as most of the traffic coming from Lahore use it to enter Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

Muhammad Afzal, a car owner said it was regrettable that pedestrian were not using the overhead bridges. Muhammad Shafi a public transport driver of route 21, said such practice disturbed the flow of traffic.

Irshad Hussain, a government employee said the he always used overhead bridges to safely cross the road.

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33% of road accident victims were on foot

LUDHIANA: Smooth, wide and tree-lined, there is nothing on the surface to betray the danger lurking on city roads. Over the last five years, pedestrians have been falling prey to fatal road accidents. They constitute the majority of casualties in accident cases. Of the 121 casualties reported in road accidents till December 15, 2012, about 33% were pedestrians. The latest victim was a middle-aged man who was run over by a speeding car while crossing the road in Sector 43.

“We have observed that pedestrians form a major chunk of road accident victims. We have run many campaigns to educate pedestrians about road safety norms to check such incidents,” said superintendent of police (traffic) Maneesh Chaudhary.
Chaudhary also attributed the road accidents to the dramatic rise in the population of Chandigarh over the last few years. According to him, the city needs infrastructure like foot overbridges. Sources in the Chandigarh traffic police said they suggested certain engineering changes on city roads to the administration after studying various road accidents but officials declined them saying they would interfere with the heritage status of the city. With authorities wondering what to do, pedestrians continue to bear the brunt of heritage infrastructure. On December 14, 2012, a 29-year-old pedestrian was killed after being hit by a speeding car in Sector 23.

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NHAI plans legal action against GMR Infrastructure for terminating highway contract

The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) today said it is planning legal action against GMR Infrastructure after the latter today officially announced that its subsidiary, GMR Kishangarh Udaipur Ahmedabad Expressways, has terminated a contract with the highways authority for building the Kishangarh-Udaipur-Ahmedabad highway.

“GMR Infrastructure has said that GMR Kishangarh Udaipur Ahmedabad Expressways Limited, a subsidiary of the company, has terminated the concession agreement entered into with NHAI for six laning of 555 Km Kishangarh-Udaipur-Ahmedabad highway,” the company informed the BSE on Monday.

One option for NHAI is to blacklist the company for at least one year. Under the second option, GMR will have to forfeit 5 per cent of the total project cost as bank guarantee.

GMR sources told NDTV Profit that they will move the Delhi High Court over forfeiting bank guarantees.

GMR had won the project in September, 2011, through the international competitive bidding route. It is to be implemented through the Public Private Partnership (PPP) model on Design, Build, Finance, Operate and Transfer basis. The infrastructure major currently has four annuity projects and six toll projects.

Shares of the company closed at Rs. 20.55 apiece, up 3.27 per cent on the BSE.

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Women drivers take to roads to increase Road Safety Awareness

NAVI MUMBAI: The traffic police organized a rally on Thursday to encourage road safety for women. The Navi Mumbai traffic cops arranged the ride to reinforce the importance of wearing helmets and driving slower. “Since the start of the year, there have been close to eight deaths in road accidents in Navi Mumbai alone. Three of the victims were women. And these women were riding pillion without a helmet to protect them,” said Ashok Sharma, commissioner of police, Navi Mumbai. “So, helmets are a must.”

The rally, called the Road Safety Mission 2013, was attended by 200 women. It started from Modern College in Vashi and went up to Inorbit mall.
Women of all ages rode the stretch with banners urging helmet use and safer driving. “The message regarding road safety, I believe , has been delievered,” said Pragya Singh, a student at Modern College. Ironically, a few women that participated in the rally, drivers and pillion riders, did not have a helmet on. However, that was quickly amended with promises of not forgetting one next time.

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Lessons in road safety, taught by schoolchildren

Educating their peers about the need to follow road safety rules, members of the Road Safety Club of St. Joseph’s Higher Secondary School (HSS) here observed the Road Safety Week with weeklong activities.

From conducting awareness programmes to helping in traffic control near their school, the club members observed the Road Safety Celebrations from January 1 to 7.

The club members wrote a petition to the Chief Minister describing the need for implementing road safety norms.

The letter gave a detailed report about the places where such norms were violated along with a number of photographs, which clearly showed people violating road safety rules.

The Road Safety programmes began with a press meet organised by the school Road Safety Club members headed by A.R. Sharath and Krishna Ram.

An inter-school quiz on ‘Road Safety Rules and Signs’ was held. In the competition, which saw the participation of four schools — Loyola School, St. Joseph’s HSS, Holy Angels GHSS and St. Mary’s HSS — the team from St. Joseph’s HSS emerged the winners and the team from Loyola School bagged the second spot.

A seminar on ‘Road Safety Awareness’ held on January 4 was led by Thiruvananthapuram Road Development Company Limited project director Anilkumar Pandala and chaired by school headmaster P.A. Sebastian.

The club members provided road safety instructions to road users and also marked white lines on road humps.

“In one of our meetings, a friend spoke about a hump near a junction which was poorly visible. So we decided to paint it as part of the Road Safety activities to avoid accidents,” said A.R. Sharath, joint convener of the club.

Around 10 students were involved in painting the hump on the Pattoor-Moolavilakam-Thampuranmukku road. The members and office-bearers of the Pattoor Residents Association appreciated the students and presented them gifts.

The students also helped the traffic police personnel in traffic control near their school.

“Students dedicated a few hours in the morning before school time and in the evening after school hours along the General Hospital junction. Holding placards on road safety messages and distributing safety messages to the passengers, an awareness drive was also conducted from January 2 to 5,” said John Bosco, teacher in-charge of the Road Safety programme.

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‘Fashion show’ on safety attracts many

MADURAI: In a novel attempt to spread awareness on road safety, a “fashion show” was organised in the city on Sunday.

Though the fashion show did not have models with sculpted bodies or well-designed attires, it did grab many eyeballs. The chassis of a truck became the ramp and about a dozen college students dressed in white with messages on road safety performed the show at Periyar bus stand in the heart of the city.

The fashion show was organised by Driving Needs Academy, an NGO, along with the authorities of the regional transport office, Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation officials, city traffic police and fire and rescue personnel as part of the 24th Road Safety Awareness week campaign. Students from various colleges took part in the fashion show. The boys, clad in white dress, carried a quote regarding road safety walked the ramp.

The deck of the truck was decorated with festoons, balloons, flowers and banners containing road safety awareness slogans inside the Periyar bus terminal. The students walked with confidence amidst roars of appreciation from the spectators. Their stylish walk accompanied with various postures and gestures aroused rounds of applause from the gathering and from the organisers as well.

A child on a tricycle with number plate and wearing a helmet, carrying road safety awareness slogan on her back captured the attention of the public. The officers in order to engage with the passengers conducted a quiz programme with simple questions on road safety and offered prizes on the spot. Later, they distributed pamphlets and spoke about the importance of following road safety.

The idea was conceived by Driving Needs Academy, involved in road safety awareness work in Madurai. “There are several awareness programmes being conducted to spread awareness on traffic and road safety. So we wanted to hold an innovative event to reach the masses. We approached the college students who were more than willing to participate in the effort,” said A Narasimmamani, chairman of the NGO.

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Signature campaign for Road Safety

GUWAHATI: Mrityunjoy 108, in association with the transport department and traffic police, organized a signature campaign to create awareness among people regarding road safety and traffic norms.

During the campaign on Friday around 370 people from various walks of life pledged not to drink and drive.

“Every day more than 3,000 people die in road accidents (across India). This is mainly because of lack of awareness about traffic rules. By 2020, road accidents will be the third highest cause of deaths. So, 2011-2020 is the decade of action for road safety, as a part of which we are observing the Road Safety Week,” Guwahati superintendent of police Bibekananda Das said.
The awareness drive is the initiative of the Centre to reduce the number of road accidents.

“Every three minutes, 380 people die in road accidents (in India) and road engineering needs to be strengthened to bring the number down,” he said.

The SP called for better enforcement of traffic rules and educating people about road awareness and emergency response and upgrading of healthcare services.

“Now we are emphasizing on education and enforcement. We are planning to start this from the school-level by organizing meetings, seminars, workshops regarding road safety and traffic rules. We will also distribute leaflets and booklets on traffic rules, penalties and punishment on their violation,” he added.

Asif Rahman, the operation head of Mritunjoy 108, said, “We will conduct a signature campaign in different parts of the city to increase the awareness among people regarding traffic rules.”

According to the data available with Mrityunjoy, in 2011, 20,609 vehicular accidents were reported, while in 2012, the number was 17,595. Thirteen three-wheeler accidents were reported in 2011 and in 2012, there were seven of them. In 2011, 780 four-wheeler accidents were reported and in 2012 the number was 702. Multi-casualty incidents in 2011 were 181 and in 2012, 132 cases were reported.

“On January 1, total 123 accident cases were reported from all over Assam and two wheeler accident rose to 81 as compared to last year which stood at 47. Last year, the total number of accident was 147,” he added.

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No mercy for drunk drivers

Naming and shaming of convicted drunk drivers are to be introduced this year. Having to drive with your headlights on will also be legislated over the next few months.

This commitment was made by Road Traffic Management Corporation spokesman Ashref Ismail on Talk Radio 702 following the release of the road death figures on Thursday.

It emerged that more than 1200 road accidents occurred, with the deaths of nearly 1500 people, over the festive season across South Africa.

Transport minister Ben Martins released the preliminary road death toll in Durban on Thursday.

Martins said the crashes occurred because of drunk driving, speeding, dangerous overtaking, failure to use seatbelts and vehicle unroadworthiness.

A pilot project was introduced in the Western Cape in 2012 to name and shame convicted drunk drivers.

Statistics show it is serving as a deterrent.

LeadSA has welcomed the commitment by the RTMC to name and shame convicted drunk drivers and to legislate in the next few months for motorists to drive with their headlights on.

LeadSA activist, Yusuf Abramjee, said there needed to be a multi-faceted approach to road safety.

“Naming and shaming drunk drivers will not be the overall solution – but it will assist in bringing down the high incidence of alcohol use by drivers.

“Driving with your headlines on during the day will increase visibility. Head-on collisions and pedestrian deaths are on the increase and the lights-on campaign will make a difference,” Abramjee said.

Ismail agreed and confirmed that the naming and shaming campaign would be introduced.

“We are talking to the Justice Department to ensure we get accurate details.”

Ismail said making it compulsory for all vehicles to drive with their lights on would be introduced this year, among other measures.

Justice Minister Jeff Radebe undertook in July to partner LeadSA in the campaign. However, he failed to deliver.

LeadSA said stricter law enforcement, an effective justice system and a change in behaviour by motorists were all necessary.

Martins said in Durban that “according to the SAPS, it is estimated that about 1465 people lost their lives”.

The deaths occurred from December 1 to January 8.

Forty percent of the crashes involved pedestrians, most of whom were found to be drunk.

Martins called for a ban on alcohol advertising to prevent motorists from driving drunk.

The death toll was lower than that in the 2011 festive season, when it was about 1700.

The RTMC’s acting chief executive, Collins Letsoala, said 60 percent of the road accidents were caused by drunk drivers.

They had cost the economy an estimated R180 billion of the R306 billion a year lost to road deaths.

The Automobile Association of South Africa said that the figures were an indication of the lack of “cohesive” direction from the various government transport organisations.

The AA said while it was devastated by the high number of crashes and fatalities announced, the public was still not getting the full picture of the carnage that occurred month by month.

“The ‘Decade of Action’ was launched in 2011,” said Gary Ronald, the head of public affairs at the AA.

“Since then, no real projects other than enforcement have been implemented.

“Real action to curb the road carnage is impossible when there is no cohesive strategy.”

Despite several strategies from transport bodies, there was still no policy framework in evidence for road safety, Ronald said.

The “Decade of Action for Road Safety” was launched on May 11, 2011.

Governments from around the world took a decision then to increase action to improve road safety to prevent five million road deaths globally by 2020.

“The continuing division between government bodies is clearly doing more harm than good as the number of deaths on our roads has not decreased over the 2012 period,” Ronald said.

The AA would be engaging with the government at a senior level to find a workable solution to stop the carnage on the country’s roads, he added.

“Planning is only as good as its implementation and that we have seen little of.”

Over the festive season, 1 282 586 vehicles were stopped and checked at 226 roadblocks, leading to 3944 people being arrested for a variety of offences.

Letsoala said there would be a renewed focus on corrupt driving schools and officers. – Pretoria News

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Enhance punishment for drunk driving, says VC

Bar owners should make combined efforts to educate customers

Expressing concern over increasing deaths in road accidents caused by drunken drivers, Nitte University Vice Chancellor Dr V Shantaram Shetty called for enhancing punishment for such offences.

He was speaking after inaugurating the 24th national road safety week jointly organised by the district administration, the Transport Department and the Police Department at Town Hall on Monday. He said that though many lose their lives in accident cases, the law is lenient for the drunk and drive cases and the accused are easily given bail. Hence, amendments should be made in the law to make the punishment more stringent, he said.

Giving out a few statistics, Dr Shetty said of the 50 crore accidents occur in the world every year and on an average 1.10 crore people lose their lives. Of them, India accounts for one crore accidents and 1.2 lakh deaths. At least one death is reported in every six minutes in the country. Having this high rate of accidents, drivers should drive safely, considering the importance of lives of the other travellers and pedestrians. “Every driver has to develop a feeling of empathy towards other fellow-beings which would lead to safe driving and less accidents,” he suggested.

Chief guest of the programme, IGP (Western Range) Pratap Reddy too stressed on the responsibility of the people to follow the traffic rules. “Nearly 90 per cent of the time of traffic police is spent on enforcement of the rules and guidelines and only 10 per cent is spent on traffic flow management. If citizens act responsibly, police could spend more time on enforcement and other constructive purpose,” he said.

Taking a note of drunk and drive cases, he said the bar and restaurant owners should educate and advice the customers to drive home safe.

If all the bars and restaurants take up a combined initiative to educate their customers for a fixed duration, it would definitely reduce the accident cases. The IGP asked the private bus drivers to respect other drivers too by making way for them to overtake. He said that a large number of deaths in India happen due to accidents, compared to other crimes.

First aid boxes were distributed to some selected auto rickshaw stands. Deputy Speaker N Yogish Bhat presided over.

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Six killed, 16 injured as mini-truck, bus collide near Erode

The victims were primarily those who travelled on the footboard

Six persons were killed and 16 others injured when a mini-truck hit a State Transport Corporation bus on the National Highway 47 at Chithode in Erode district on Sunday afternoon.

The bus was proceeding from Coimbatore to Salem. After a halt at Chithode town, the bus was re-entering the highway from a service road when it hit the mini-truck. the bus overturned, crushing five persons to death.

Three of the deceased were identified as Govindaraj (20) of Karumanthurai in Salem district, Sankar (49) of Harur in Dharmapuri district and Dharman (20) of Annur.

Eyewitnesses said the bus was overloaded with passengers who were heading home to celebrate the Pongal. The victims were primarily those who travelled on the footboard.

The driver drove the vehicle carelessly and entered into the highway without noticing the mini-truck, A. Selvi, a passenger of the bus, claimed. The injured have been admitted to various hospitals. Traffic on the highway was disrupted for more than an hour, the police said.

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I-75 South back open after early morning crash at Alico Rd.

LEE COUNTY, Fla.- Southbound lanes of I-75 at mile marker 126 are back open after an early morning crash. FHP says just after 2 a.m. Sunday, five separate crashes involving six cars shut down the interstate.

The crashes involved six drivers and nine passengers. In total, eight people were taken to the hospital including two trauma alerts. One of them was a child that was air lifted to Lee Memorial Hospital in Fort Myers.

FHP said two people were also arrested for driving under the influence.

In the first crash, 23-year-old Andrew Rojas was driving his truck south on I-75, when he hit the back of an Expedition with 5 people inside. One of them, a 7-year-old boy, is in serious condition at Lee Memorial Hospital.

Rojas was arrested and charged with driving under the influence with injuries and careless driving.

The Expedition was sitting idle in the middle of the interstate when another car, driven by 34-year-old Andres Hernandez-Dominguez came up and hit it.

He was also arrested and and charged with driving under the influence with injuries and careless driving.

Two more cars hit the Expedition, and another car crashed into the median while trying to avoid it.

The interstate opened back up around 9:45 a.m.

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Fundraiser For Teen Killed In Telegraph Road Accident

DEARBORN HEIGHTS (WWJ) – A local family hopes to raise money for a teenager killed by a reckless driver.

A fundraiser has been set up Sunday for 18-year-old Markel Jackson Willis, one of two teens killed in a tragic car accident in Dearborn Heights on January 4.
Police report that their car was smashed into by a driver going upwards of 90 miles an hour as he was fleeing the scene of a hit-and-run accident.

The driver of the speeding car was killed as well.

The fundraiser will take place January 13th from 3 p.m. until 7 p.m. at the Traction Bar and Grill in Dearborn Heights.

Willis’ family hopes to raise enough money to cover the cost of the teen’s funeral.

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India truck accident ‘kills 25′ in Bihar

At least 25 people, including 11 children, have been killed when the truck they were travelling in overturned in the eastern Indian state of Bihar, the police said.
The driver and his assistant have fled the scene, police officer Praveen Kumar Parai told the Press Trust of India.

The injured passengers have been taken to a hospital in Aurangabad district.

Road accidents kill hundreds of Indians every year. Most are blamed on reckless driving, old vehicles and bad roads.

The truck was carrying 35 labourers who were returning home after harvesting crops, when the speeding vehicle overturned.

A state government minister, Ramadhar Singh, has announced a compensation of 50,000 rupees ($914; £570) for the families of the victims.

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