Role of Small and Medium travel business key in road safety

KNN India, December 24, 2022

By Madhu Sudan Sharma

Though there are several reasons of road accidents and crashes especially during this time of the year but over speeding and drunken driving is the main while going for a tour either by self-driven car or a hired taxi.

The common people usually avail the services of small and medium level tour operators, travel agents, taxi drivers, out station Ola and Uber online platforms as well to purchase the suitable tour packages.

Therefore these small and medium business need to be serious about the potential risks. If we look at the statistics of the road accidents and crashed, a total of 2,65,343 road accidents occurred in India (2020) due to over-speeding, causing 91,239 deaths. As per the MoRTH report, drunken driving was responsible for 8,355 road accidents and 3,322 deaths (2020).

While the report had noted that violation of any traffic rule constitutes human error or driver’s fault, it has said that from the perspective of road safety strategy, violations such as over-speeding and drunken driving happens also due to possible fault in road design and poor enforcement.

As per the official data for 2021, over speeding took over 87,000 lives across the country. In comparison, drunk driving was responsible for just over 2,900 casualties in the same year.

Now, we must understand, that in the case of driving under the influence of alcohol/drugs, people invariably tend to over speed and break all traffic and safety rules. Since they are not in their senses to control the vehicle at high speeds, accidents are a natural consequence. Over speeding causes 28 times more accidents than drunken driving in India.

If we see the overall road accidents and crashes in India, we note that the number of ‘Traffic Accidents’ in the country have increased from 3,68,828 in 2020 to 4,22,659 in 2021. The rate of deaths in road accidents per thousand vehicles has also increased from 0.45 in 2020 to 0.53 in 2021. The number of persons loosed their lives in road crashes were around 1,46,254 (2020) and 155622 (2021).

The early to mid of the winter season which falls around the last two weeks of December every year are always a time of joy, tours and travels to the destinations of choice, reflections, rests and resolutions.

This period witnesses myriad of behavioural and physical changes which are seasonal and adapting in nature and contains lots of planning and over compensated financials to make the annual trips, tours and celebrations bigger and better than the one that came before. This aforesaid time is fastly approaching.

The initial seasonal health issues are now almost calming down, people and children are now precautionary enough to avoid repetition of health issues. In the schools, exams are over and results are almost shown, employees have almost checked their leave quota and got sanction for an annual break. Travel plans and bookings are almost being thought out, made or being freezed.
The very important decision of either to self-drive the own vehicle or hire a taxi is also being pondered upon since this year people want to compensate their travel longing, which remained unfulfilled due to pandemic in last couple of years.

Since these most happening seasonal days are combination of some behavioural changes, having celebrations and coupled with lots of travel and driving therefore generally it comes with some attached life threating risks but surely with two specific risks this time. The first and foremost risk, which is quite visible and experienced widely, is the threat of Covid infections. Since most of the people are fully vaccinated for Covid and are aware about the precautions so the fear of the same is not that much in the general psyche of the masses.

The other very important and highly underestimate risk, which is not as visible as the previous one is, the risk of a road crash due to the various risky behavioural risk factors which are Speeding, drink and drive, not wearing seat belt and helmet and not using Child Restraint System to protect child or Children on board.

As it’s generally observed that these annual holidays are usually having hurried pace of the life and always there is a wish to cover maximum things in minimum days therefor the risk of above threats increases many fold. To ensure the safety on roads the tour operators or travel agents who are largely in the small and unorganized sector also need to play their role in ensuring safety of their clients and passengers since they are more exposed to above mentioned risks.

Among the other causes of accidents and crashes, fog, pollution and winter extremities are their peak and shorter days and less light hours during the day are the main causes of road accidents and crashes during the winters and require additional cautions and alertness while driving by all sorts of drivers.

All the drivers and taxi owners shall provide extra guidelines for their staff to take all safety measures on road. According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), around 10,000 road accidents happened in 2021 in December 2020 and January, 2021 months which killed around 5,500 people, only due to the above mentioned reasons and risks. More importantly, If we see the number of commercial drivers who are victims of crash or accidents, come from the small and medium travel business backgrounds, who are one of main vulnerable groups here.

Tour operators and travel agents shall be extra cautions while arranging travels to Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala and Maharashtra

We understand that there are fascinating destinations and pilgrimage centers in the above mentioned states which attract attention of millions of Indians and foreign tourism every year especially winter and year end. But we shall note that maximum increase in number of traffic accidents cases in States from 2020 to 2021 was reported in Tamil Nadu (from 46,443 to 57,090) followed by Madhya Pradesh (from 43,360 to 49,493), Uttar Pradesh (from 30,593 to 36,509), Maharashtra (from 24,908 to 30,086) and Kerala ( from 27,998 to 33,051). These traffic accidents resulted in injuries to 3,73,884 persons and 1,73,860 deaths during 2021.

State of Uttar Pradesh (24,711 deaths) followed by Tamil Nadu (16,685 deaths) and Maharashtra (16,446 deaths) have reported maximum fatalities in traffic accidents in the country; these 3 States accounted for 14.2%, 9.6% and 9.5% of total deaths in traffic accidents respectively and collectively accounted for 33.3% (57,842 out of 1,73,860) of total fatalities reported at all India level during 2021.

Key Suggestions to be abided:

Heavy holiday travel, high traffic volume of the season, spiral, undulated roads conditions, hilly tracks, icy & snowy winter road conditions and tyre grip relates issues can be a tricky combination when it comes to staying safe while driving a vehicle. No matter how much driving skills or experience any one has or how safe any one feels on the roads, while vehicles are in close proximity with each other on narrow or any zig-zag or even on long plain roads even a minor mistake or losing control on the vehicle by any of the drivers can convert any ride in to a fatal accident or a crash.

Therefore it’s strongly advised to all sorts of drivers whether from any travel company, travel business owners, private driver providers or any common road user who are travelling this season especially to the above mentioned accident prone states, to abiding all the traffic rules and refraining from excessive speeding, drunken driving and ensuring the safety of their children by using seat belts and child restraint systems so that the upcoming festivities and new year ahead can be a year of safety for all the drivers and their near & dear ones.

(The Author is associated with CUTS International, a global public policy research and advocacy group. Views are personal.)
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