Improved roads raise spectre of road accidents, beware

03Aug 2020
The Guardian
Improved roads raise spectre of road accidents, beware

WITH many vital inner city roads across the country being improved in various ways alongside major ones, dangers of increased motor vehicle accidents appear to be on the rise.

Once a road has been revamped to smooth tarmac level, motorcycles and larger vehicles will be speeding to their satisfaction, while current designs are rather stringy on bumps in residential areas.

One wonders whether contractors or construction firms ought to have more restrictive design for corrugated surfaces to compel motorists to slow down in densely populated areas to weed out the need for people gasp for breath whenever a motorcycle misses a child or some other pedestrian or road user.

If this road design challenge were to be subjected to debate, it would likely be said that motor vehicle interests won a long time ago, as the relevant authorities opted merely to emphasize on roadside signs, signals and fines even when traffic police actually witness a fault on the part of a driver.

Such a campaign is at present afoot with regard to people living with disabilities and how they can cope with challenges of being on the road, either walking alone or being assisted by someone else.

If a person with disability is to venture out on his or her own, chances of finding well wishers each stage of the way, from going to coming back, are severely limited. At times this is to climb or descend from a bus.

That is why a number of readers or civil society observers would have felt a sense of unease at the focus taken up by the National Committee for Persons with Disabilities on Road Safety (NCPDRS), which is reported to have embarked on a campaign aimed to educate persons with disabilities, drivers and the public on road safety rules, regulations and traffic signs.

Any future revisiting of this topic is not without use as, tragically, the difference between error and the right gesture on the road can be life itself. While the campaign itself is important, the issue remains as to whether it suffices relative to the gravity of the given problem.

There are other elements in its outlook, or perhaps this is taken from the traffic police, that there is need to “reduce the incidence of unnecessary road accidents in the country,” as if any accidents can ever be termed as necessary.

What the formulation really means to that we shall never be able to bring the number of accidents down to zero, however intensive or extensive our efforts are.

That said, we ought at least to agree that all accidents are unnecessary and therefore that all of them are by nature avoidable, in which case an accident occurs since someone on the road didn’t do the right thing.

This is where the whole issue of design comes up, in the sense relating to when a person fails to do the right thing on the road, whether through to mechanical failure, environmental complication (narrow roads, slippery surfaces, poor visibility) or human error.

That is precisely why quality road design is important – that whenever and wherever humanly possible, we should not entirely leave it to drivers to choose their speeds, we should demand zero infringement of road signs, and we should educate drivers sufficiently on the need to understand, internalise and observe all road traffic regulations.

A minimum of impediment in speeding especially in residential areas is important, but some stakeholders detest this. This sets a precedent we all ought to disabuse ourselves of.

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