Thursday 5 December 2013

67th Meeting of The Working Party 1 on Road Traffic Safety Begins Loss of Life and Limbs cannot be The Cost of Mobility says Oscar Fernandes

Shri Oscar Fernandes , the Union Minister Road Transport and Highways
Shri Oscar Fernandes , the Union Minister Road Transport and Highways has said that Loss of life and limbs cannot be the cost of mobility.

 The minister strongly recommended that emerging nations should take road safety as an important political agenda and define a road map towards mitigating serious and fatal injuries occurring due to road crashes in this Decade of Action for Road Safety. 

He was delivering the inaugural address at 67th meeting of the Working Party 1 of United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), on Road Traffic Safety. The 3-day meeting being attended by delegates from 37 countries began at Institute of Road Traffic Management in Faridabad today. 

Here is the text of Minister’s speech- 

“I am extremely happy to be present here on the occasion of 67th meeting of the Working Party on Road Traffic Safety and extend a warm and hearty welcome to all of you. I welcome you to India, the largest democracy and a land of great diversity in religion, culture, language and landforms. I compliment you all for holding the meeting in India; this will facilitate the participation and involvement of Asian Countries, where rapidly increasing motorization has precipitated the issues of road safety. I also compliment, Shri RohitBaluja, President, Institute of Road Taffic Education (IRTE), for his efforts to invite the Working Party to India and to host its meeting. It is surely significant that the Working Party on Road Safety has stepped outside Geneva, for the first time in five decades. India acknowledges the key role played by the United Nations Economic Commissions for Europe, Asia & Pacific as well as by the Commission for Global Road Safety towards improving the global road safety environment. The Europe-Asia Road Safety Forum is an important step towards sharing of good practices as well as building cooperation between countries of Europe and Asia. I hope that this will mark the beginning of increasing focus of the party on issues which are of immediate relevance to improving the safety of the more vulnerable road users in the developing nations.” 

I am concerned about the global problem of road safety where 1.3 million innocent lives are lost and an estimated 50 million persons get seriously injured in road crashes every year. 85% of these occur in emerging economies, including India. The number of persons killed in road accidents in India is quite large. During the last two years, the number of accidents has shown a decreasing trend. The number of fatalities has also decreased during the year 2012 for the first time. The number of fatalities is still very high. The global road safety trend shows that many countries have been successful in tackling the problem of road safety in as much as the accident rate is diminishing. Some of the countries have adopted “vision zero” which envisages that safety is paramount and an accident, even if it occurs, should not result in severe injuries or a fatality. We fully endorse the “Safe System Approach” being advocated by the United Nations and exhort the Forum to come up with recommendations for implementing the approach in the context of developing nations. This approach is still more relevant here in that the problem of safety is also a problem of social equity; here, pedestrians, cyclists and motorized two wheelers compete for space on the road with automobiles, and are most often at the receiving end. A major fraction of the road accident fatalities is comprised of the vulnerable road users. We must dedicate ourselves to a making our roads safer; loss of life and limbs cannot be the cost of mobility. I strongly believe and recommend that emerging nations should take road safety as an important political agenda and define a road map towards mitigating serious and fatal injuries occurring due to road crashes in this Decade of Action for Road Safety.” 

In India, we are in the process of moving from ad hoc road safety activities to developing and implementing sustainable programmes. This requires certain conditions to be met such as prioritizing road safety at the political level and as a development issue, establishing institutional mechanisms responsible for planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluating road safety programmes, having a critical mass of competent personnel and securing sustainable funding mechanisms. It will be extremely helpful at this juncture to share your experience and expertise.” 

The National Road Safety Policy was approved by the Government on 15th March, 2010. It covers both preventive and post-accident aspects of road safety and advocates a multi-pronged approach to tackle the issue of road safety. The Ministry, in consultation with the states, is also in the process of finalizing a time-bound Action Plan with annual targets and commensurate allocation of resources.To oversee the implementation of the road safety policy, the Government is actively considering creation of National Road Safety and Traffic Management Board. The Board would act as a dedicated agency to oversee road safety activity in the country and would have powers to issue guidelines on a wide range of issues concerning road safety. Each state is alsoto set up a lead agency on road safety, with the authority and responsibility to make deci¬sions, control resources and coordinate efforts by all sectors of government – including those of health, transport, education and the police.” 

In order to give a boost to emergency care of the accident victims, a pilot project has been launched by the Ministry on Gurgaon-Jaipur section of NH 8, for providing cashless treatment to road accident victims for 48 hours at expenditure uptoa limit of Rs. 30,000. GPS enabled ambulances connected with a central control room through a toll-free number 1033, are stationed at intervals of 20 km to transport the injured to the hospitals for treatment within the ‘Golden Hour’. More than 500 accidents have been attended by Ambulances and over 700 victims received benefit of the scheme. The Average claim size is Rs.10363. It took around 11 minutes onan average for the Ambulances to reach accident spot. The Ministry will be shortly undertaking two more stretches under the project.” 

The Ministry had also taken action for formulation of National Ambulance Code in order to improve the quality and safety of ambulances on Indian roads. Certain minimum standards and guidelines have been laid down for constructional and functional requirements of ambulances so as to ensure care and comfort to the patients. The Ministry has already initiated action to make construction of ambulances as per provisions of the Code mandatory under Central Motor Vehicles Rules.” 

. As regards ascertaining minimum fitness requirement of in use vehicles, Ministry is also focusing on strengthening Inspection and Certification system which would help in reducing road accidents attributed to mechanical fault in vehicles. States also are being encouragedto set up automated vehicle inspection centres on a PPP basis. The local Engineering Colleges, Polytechnics and the Industrial Training Institutes will also be involved in this activity. We are also looking at making changes in the relevant rules to make these centres commercially viable.” 

We have been amending the vehicle manufacturing specifications to include the instruments or equipments required to ensure safety in driving. The speed governors for certain category of vehicles are an example. I also plan to make the on-board safety unit mandatory in certain category of vehicles to prevent driving in drunken condition and anti-sleep mechanism.” 

It is globally recognized that enforcement of traffic regulations has significant effect on road user behavior. Strict enforcement is a very important element of the multipronged strategy for ensuring road safety. We are looking at improving and augmenting enforcement mechanism for Motor Vehicle Regulations, through the use of modern technology.These activities need to be funded on a sustainable basis. For this purpose states have been asked tosetup dedicated road safety fund at State level by diverting 50% penalties collected toward traffic violations in this fund. The Ministry is also contemplating to provide a onetime grant to states to help strengthen their effort in this regard.” 

. With a view to spread road safety awareness among the general public, the Government has been undertaking various publicity measures in the form of telecasting/broadcasting of T.V. spots/Radio jingles, display of cinema slides, hoardings, organizing Road Safety Week, seminars, exhibitions, essay competition on road safety, printing of handbills/stickers, posters, etc., containing road safety messages for various segments of road users viz. Pedestrians, cyclists, school children, heavy vehicle drivers, etc.” 

I have always stressed that all drivers should be educated in the etiquettes of “LukhnawiTahjib” and be more considerate towards fellow road users. Every person driving a vehicle should follow the principle of “PehleAap”i.e “You First”. I am sure that this will prevent many avoidable accidents and make road journeys less stressful.My ministry is giving grants for setting up model driving training institutes in all states. These institutes are expected to be the ‘mother institutes’ which will train the trainers and also audit the smaller institutes.” 

In order to improve the roads from the engineeringperspective, the Government is insisting on road safety audits at all stages of construction of highways, beginning right from the planning stage. Identification and remedy of ‘Black Spots’ has been undertaken in thirteen states which account for more than 90% road accident fatalities in India.” 

The government is also trying to put in place systems for ensuring the safety of women while using the transport system. To this end, GPS based vehicle tracking systems in public transport vehicles with provision of raising emergency alerts is envisaged.In the first phase, cities with population above one million will be taken up.” 

With this I would like to conclude. I hope that the exchange between the Forum and developing countries gains momentum both in frequency and substance. I wish the participants fruitful, positive and result oriented deliberations. I am sure that the deliberations in this meeting of the Forum will be helpful in formulating policies in the transport sector, especially, in the matter of safety of road users.The recommendations accruing out of your deliberations will be closely watched and considered for implementation in India and the developing world.You would agree that the desired goals on safe mobility will not be achieved without active collaboration and cooperation amongst all stakeholders. Let us join hands to make roads safer for one and all and strive together to develop a sustainable road transport system across the world.” 

Earlier speaking on the occasion Shri Vijay Chibber,the Secretary Road Transport and Highways said that the choice of the New Delhi location for the 67TH session of wP 1 is aimed at facilitating participation from UNESCAP member states and helping to promote accession and a more effective implementation of United Nations road safety conventions. He said the goal for the Decade of Action for Road Safety is to stabilize and then reduce by 50% the level of road traffic fatalities around the world. Global road safety efforts will have to address the concerns of more vulnerable road users in the developing economies if this goal is to be attained. 

India is a signatory to the 1998 Agreement on UN Global Technical Regulations administered by WP.29. India is also a signatory to the Convention on Road Traffic, of 19 September 1949 and Protocol on Road Signs and Signals, of 19 September 1949 and 08th Nov 1968 administered by WP.1. India is in the process of aligning signs and signals in line with the aforesaid conventions and would also like to explore accession to the 1968 Convention on Road Traffic. 

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