Rethinking Mobility and Road Safety in Tamil Nadu
For immediate release
Chennai , May 20, 2023
The condition of mobility and road safety in Tamil Nadu has been, to put it mildly, rather precarious. The state has long been foremost in road accidents and casualties’ statistics. This is a needless loss of lives and a blight on the state’s reputation. How it can be improved, however, has been an unsolved conundrum for successive governments in the state. The unprecedented growth of our cities over the past decade has increased the number of vehicles -especially private motor vehicles- on our roads. This has had serious, adverse consequences on our roads and society: MoRTH’s annual report on road accidents for the year 2021-2022 saw Tamil Nadu lead the country in the number of road accidents seen on National Highways, as well as being 2nd for the number of fatalities. To address these grave problems, the government has been eager to adopt protective and enforcement measures. The most recent and highly welcomed measure has been the automation and enforcement of penalties for traffic violations.
While better enforcement will bear fruit at some level, the state needs to achieve an overall decrease in the number of private vehicles, while prioritising sustainable modes of transit. This formed the basis of CAG’s event ‘Rethinking mobility and road safety in Tamil Nadu’ which saw experts gather to discuss how ‘walk, bus, cycle’ can be the perfect solution to our traffic woes. As Divya Arvind, CAG, explains, ‘Sustainable mobility is better at so many levels - whether it is to address issues around road safety, traffic congestion, pollution or equity’. But for sustainable mobility to be the answer to the problem, the government needs to actively plan for the safety of vulnerable road users. These are typically pedestrians and cyclists. As Felix John, Bicycle Mayor of Chennai, one of the speakers at the event, described the dangers of being a cyclist on Chennai’s roads - devoid of any metal casing, they are at the mercy of motorists, which means that additional road safety measures need to be incorporated at the road design phase to ensure their safety.
K.P Subramanian, formerly Professor of Transport Engineering at Anna University, spoke about the current scenario of road safety in Tamil Nadu and road safety practices that can be adopted to resolve it. In addition, he highlighted various factors which affect road safety in our countries and how to tackle them moving forward adding that “Action without knowledge is useless & knowledge without action futile”, which is the current situation in road safety.
According to government data, speed is the cause of 70% of accidents in India. Ranjit Gadgil, programme director of Parisar, a Pune-based CSO, spoke about the speeding endemic in the country, and how road safety measures can be adopted to intervene. He said that it is very important to bring safe speeds on our roads, particularly emphasising on the need for education of all road users; “It is very important to create awareness on drivers on speed limits, blind spots and road rules”. He concluded by saying that as speed increases on the road, the severity of accidents will also increase.
The webinar ended with a Q&A session where some interesting questions were raised by the students and other professionals who participated in the webinar.
The webinar was held to mark the UN Road Safety Week (May 15 to May 21) with experts sharing their knowledge and experiences on promoting sustainable mobility.
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Citizen consumer & civic Action Group (CAG) is a thirty seven year old nonprofit and non-political organisation working on citizen rights and good governance. It has worked primarily to protect the interests of consumers and citizens of Chennai even as its efforts have had state level and even national level impacts.