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Can technology mitigate the rising incidences of road accidents?

Road deaths in India are at an all-time high

By Deepti Tara

Rapid urbanisation, the rise of the neo-middle class with a preference for separate vehicles, and a poor public transportation system have given a push to the increasing number of privately owned vehicles in India. Factually, fat cats of society own more vehicles than the number of members in their family. Estimates state that in the year the sale of passenger cars multiplied thrice from 2.4 million (2010) to 6.7 million (2014). Sale of Passenger Vehicles grew by 7.24 percent in April-March 2016 over the same period last year.

This rise in demand for vehicles has resulted in more accidents, casualties and traffic congestion on Indian roads, especially on highways.

A worrisome state

As per the information supplied by States and UTs Police Departments, the total number of road accidents increased by 2.5 percent in 2015. Moreover, the number of persons who lost their lives in road accidents increased by 4.6%. It accounts for 400 deaths on Indian roads every day, translating into 17 lives every hour.

There are about 400 deaths on Indian roads every day, translating into 17 lives every hour

There are about 400 deaths on Indian roads every day, translating into 17 lives every hour | Picture Courtesy – Autocar Professional

Taking no cognizance of the plight of innocent road users, instead of introducing any rock hard measures, the government only labelled some roads/stretches as accident prone. The government has identified 700 such black spots in total. A cashless eye wash treatment was provided to the accident victims on two National Highways. A provision of an ambulance for helping the victims within a distance of 50 km is in force. However, the need of the hour is to take concrete steps to save the precious lives of people. It calls for an Intelligent Transportation System that can ensure safety and non-safety applications through wireless communication among vehicles.

What we need

Pertinently, there is a need to have a perfectly engineered traffic world to reduce the wait on signals when there is less rush. Advanced countries like USA and Japan are using the Vehicular Adhoc Network (VANET) system that helps the drivers avoid potential dangers via exchange of information among vehicles.

Intersection violation warning warns the drivers when crossing a red light. Similarly, electronic brake warning alerts the drivers when a preceding vehicle has performed sudden braking.  A vehicle involved in an accident sends a broadcast warning message to approaching vehicles through post-crash notification. Not only this, incoming traffic warning helps drivers perform a safe lane change. Consequently, overtaking manoeuvres become easier. India too needs a concrete implementation of such measures.

All-pervading technology

Though glimpses of use of technology can be experienced in few cities in the country, their progress is in its state of infancy.

Though glimpses of use of technology can be experienced in few cities in the country, their progress is in its state of infancy. In Ahmedabad, the electronic indicator system in the form of display boards has been established on roadsides. This identifies slow moving and fast moving traffic vehicles on roads. The system helps the drivers, especially at rotaries to decide the lane to proceed forward.

In Delhi, the parking availability indicators are implemented specifically at the International Airport to facilitate convenient parking. Fast Tag Lane at toll plazas is yet another application of this system. All these point towards the initiation of smart technology on Indian roads. On the other hand, the progress in other Indian states/cities is far from satisfactory.

An alternative

It is understandable that advanced techniques used in developed countries can’t be fully replicated in India. However, till the time these technologies get fully operational, the following stop gap arrangements may be adopted:

The rapid development of the public transport system from nook and corner of the cities. Bus/train tickets valid for two-three hours within the city limits should be issued. Car pooling must be encouraged. Permission to ply cars on roads should be given only when the vehicle has at least four passengers.

Rapid development of public transport system from nook and corner of the cities is the need of the hour

Rapid development of public transport system from nook and corner of the cities is the need of the hour | Picture Courtesy – The Indian Express

The traffic on roads is increasing and the rise in online ordering and free home delivery will only accentuate the problem. Only constructing/widening the roads by felling trees is not a solution. The need is to mitigate the same by correctly anticipating the future rush on roads and realising that it can be curbed by adopting the right technology.


Deepti Tara is an Associate Professor at University Institute of Computing, Chandigarh University, Punjab.
Featured Image Credits-  Asian Correspondent
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