The one-kilometre ghat road bus journey ended in injuries and death. On September 11, a Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) bus coming downhill from Kondagattu temple in Jagtial district careened out of the road and fell into a gorge, killing 58 people and injuring 43.
For about 30 years, the bus’ regular route and schedule was the start in Jagtial for a 30-km journey to Shanivarampeta, make three trips to and fro, halt at night in Shanivarampeta, and make two trips to and fro the next day. The driver and conductor—B. Srinivas and Ch. Parameshwar—had been on the route for the last seven years.
Twenty days before September 11, the depot manager changed the usual route and made it via a ghat road to cash in on Shravan month pilgrims to the Kondagattu temple of Lord Anjaneya. That would shorten the journey by 10 km and save maybe two litres of diesel.
After the night halt at Shanivarampeta the previous day, the bus left for Kondagattu junction around 10.15 a.m. on September 11, picking up passengers from villages such as Ramsagar. After 45 minutes it reached Kondagattu junction. Seven people boarded. The bus, people who participated in rescue say, was carrying 120 passengers.
For villagers along the route, the bus was a connective tissue for Jagtial town. Diabetic patients would get their preprandial sugar test with the village RMP, have breakfast, take the bus to Jagtial, and have their postprandial tests. Pregnant women had to visit doctors. Students had to go to college.
The bus was not suitable for the ghats, various drivers, and mechanics told Fountain Ink. The driver is dead and the conductor injured.
Hospitals remain closed in Jagtial on Saturday and Sunday (September 8 and 9). September 10 was a Bharat bandh. So, many elderly people and pregnant women (four pregnant women died in the accident), and students boarded the bus on September 11. These were regular passengers, not the pilgrims authorities wanted to cash in on.
The bus started from Kondagattu junction where there is a set of three speed breakers, high and sturdy. It went smoothly over them. The ghat road has sets of speed breakers, at about 20 metres apart all along. About half a kilometre downhill, it went over another set of speed breakers.
According to sources, AP 29Z 2319 was a super luxury bus with longer body, which was plying much before bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh and had run around 15 lakh km. The bus was not suitable for the ghats, various drivers, and mechanics told Fountain Ink. It had been converted into an ordinary bus for this route. Unlike in its earlier avatar, this one had no guard or cabin for the driver. It had air suspension, like its parent. The ordinary buses usually have leaf suspension, but for retrofitted buses the authorities retain air suspension.
When the bus went over a set of three speed breakers, the air suspension made the over-packed passengers sort of jump with the movement, and a lot of people lost balance in the melee, and fell on the driver, who then fell forward on the steering wheel. People started screaming. Before the driver could pull himself together, a red Tata Maximo van turned up the curve uphill, and the bus sideswiped it.
Next, the bus went over another set of speed breakers; it jolted more people. People in the rear also fell forward. The bus was tilting, picking up speed with all that mass, and its centre of gravity was shifting.
In the meantime, there was another blind curve. On the gorge side, there was an electric pole and a hoarding, with a weak railing in between. The bus went straight through it, snapping the railing. Its attitude remained as it was on the road, but completely banged-up, as if a toy bus had been whacked on a hard floor.
The impact caused people in the rear to fall forward. A rescuer, among the first on site, says they found 23 bodies draped over each other near the driver’s cabin. Nobody remained in the back of the bus.
“These 23 died on the spot and within one or two hours many others were dead,” he says. “Most died of suffocation, not injuries.”
There was an omen: back in 2012, a bus carrying 86 passengers had hit the hoarding on that blind curve and had stopped. Had the bus manoeuvred the blind curve, it would have been almost plain surface. Had it travelled a minute or two more and crossed the curve, elderly people would have had their blood sugar levels tested and pregnant women would have had their sonograms. They would have boarded the same bus in one of those trips back home.
Later ministers and officials went to the scene and promised help for the families of the dead and injured.
The driver is dead and the conductor is injured.
Since the accident, number of the dead rose to more than 60. Six are on life support. The depot manager has been suspended. The managment has insinuated that the driver was drunk (the driver was recently awarded for good performance), that he was driving in neutral and he lost control of the vehicle.
The accident was in the making for years. In a mishap on an obscure ghat road lies the story of how governments run businesses... striking parallels with how Air India became an eternal tax payer burden.
“The management should not have sent the bus on that route. The tragedy occurred entirely due to official negligence,” says one TSRTC employee. He didn’t want to be named because “if you put my name, they will screw me.”
“To save their skin, they will go to any extent. Scapegoating the dead driver is all they can do now.”
Hospitals are asking the injured to buy their own medicines. No help is coming from the government and officials, even the injured cry over their dead family members.
he accident was in the making for years. As the undivided Andhra Pradesh State Road Trasport Corporation’s (APSRTC) fortunes slipped downhill, as the government ran into the ground a successful public company, as vested political interests came into play, and as the management became ruthless in its pursuit of revenue, the bus had veered closer and closer to the edge. In an isolated mishap on an obscure ghat road lies the story of TNSRTC and how governments run businesses. It has striking parallels with how Air India became an eternal tax payer burden.
Road transport workers (APSRTC and TSRTC) say the management’s insistence on more kilometres per litre of diesel (kmpl) and earnings per kilometre (EPK) is leading to all kinds of operational risks. Its roots lie in the past. APSRTC (in undivided Andhra Pradesh) was once a profitable corporation and a pioneer in many areas such as long-distance services, night express services, and computerisation of bus depots, among many others. But successive governments haven’t taken care. Privatisation is the endgame, employees and union officials say. The major tax—Motor Vehicle Tax—drains the APSRTC and TSRTC’s coffers.
According to a paper accessed through Shodhganga, a reservoir of Indian theses, APSRTC bore an MV tax burden of ₹75 crore in 1990-1991. Before 1995, the state government levied tax on the basis of capacity, distance travelled and type of service. The tax paid under this method was about 75 paise per kilometre and the total tax paid per year, on average, was ₹83,000 a vehicle.
The Chandrababu Naidu government increased the tax to 15 per cent in 1995, doubling the APSRTC tax burden to ₹1.39 per km— ₹1.68 lakh per bus per year on average. Later it was reduced to 12.5 per cent for rural services and 10 per cent for city services, but it did not reduce the APSRTC tax burden, the paper notes.
A comparison with other states is revealing. The Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) and transport companies in Tamil Nadu paid ₹90,340 and ₹1.16 lakh per vehicle respectively.
“It is peculiar to note that the State Government of Andhra Pradesh (undivided—so undivided was Andhra Pradesh that K. Chandrashekar Rao, now chief minister of Telangana, was transport minister in Chadrababu Naidu’s cabinet in 1996) was collecting ₹2.60 per km from a Hi-tech RTC service whereas private operators were paying only ₹2 on similar services. This is certainly a case of unjust equity when it is viewed from any angle of public policy,” the paper notes.
Another paper “Trade Unions and Politics—With Special Reference to APSRTC, in the light of Economic Reforms”, accessed through Shodhganga, says the TDP government “changed the MVT system from seat-kilometre basis to a fixed percentage or gross traffic revenue and hiked MVT”.
The workers see a theme in the RTCs undoing. The major complaints are not about official orders but about what is implied. They are convinced there is a conspiracy for privatisation.
“The vital difference in these two methods is that, in case of tax on seat-kilometre basis, if the organisation is forced to improve performance by better vehicle utilisation, occupancy ratio, plugging loopholes, etc., a share in the revenue would not go to government. Whereas, when taxed on traffic revenue, the cost would go up for the organisation in terms of increase in tax per passenger kilometre because every paisa earned additionally, by fare hike or efficiency, is shared by government also. In other words, the organisation would be penalised for its efficiency,” it notes.
At one point—during 2001-02—“the loss sustained by APSRTC is ₹2,720.7 million whereas MVT paid is ₹3,376 million.” According to the paper, in 2001 the highest MVT rate in cities/towns in Hyderabad was 15 per cent; in Karnataka 3 per cent, in Maharashtra 3 per cent, Tamil Nadu 1.82 per cent Delhi 1.78 per cent, Kolkata 0.72. It is 158-534 per cent higher in AP (undivided) than in the case of other transport undertakings.
“Here the notable aspect is that the high rate of tax is levied only on APSRTC buses, while private buses pay about 9 to 10 per cent on a seat-kilometre basis.” The 15 per cent rate was reduced to 12 per cent on moffusil services and to 10 per cent on city services from December 2001 , after a 24-day strike by the unions during October-November 2001.
The workers’ community say the same problems persist even now.
he workers see a theme in the RTCs undoing in two states. They vent their feelings of being hard done by. The major complaints are not about official orders but about what is implied when the pressure is on improving efficiency. They are convinced there is a conspiracy for privatisation.
“The government wants to close it (the corporation). Its misfortune is that, with all the difficulties, the workers’ ingenuity keeps it running,” chimes in another with a smile on his face.
V. Naga Sivudu, APSRTC’s executive director for West Godavari, Guntur and Krishna districts says saving fuel is one of their priorities but dismisses the talk of violating safety norms. He says increasing fuel efficiency and vehicle occupancy are not mutually exclusive. The belief that crew are being given contradictory briefs arises from lack of understanding.
On saving fuel he says, “If you anticipate authorised and unauthorised stops, the driver takes his foot off the accelerator, letting momentum do the rest. And efficiency in fuel usage and increasing occupancy go hand in hand. We have communicated that to our people,” he added.
As for driving in neutral he says it was safe enough with the oil brake system but the air brakes of today made that impossible. There was no need to go in neutral, he said. In any case it was not possible. No such orders were given.
RTC workers say the corporation’s problems are compounded by VAT, sales tax, a cess of four rupees on a litre of diesel, which is more than other states. The situation is so bad that, as one driver puts it, “most of our buses shudder like a thatch hut in a gale.”
At the time of bifurcation, the RTC’s total losses were around ₹4,000 crore, divided, like everything, between Andhra Pradesh and Telengana in the ratio of 52 per cent and 48 per cent respectively.
AP has about ₹3,000 crore of losses. The government washed its hands of it by saying that it’s a corporation, and it can survive only by improving its internal performance and efficiency.
Telangana gives ₹520 crore worth of concessions for different sections of society every year, which should be reimbursed to the RTC. But it has got back only ₹120 crore, further straining its operations.
Telangana has about ₹2,850 crore losses (at the time of bifurcation, it was ₹2,000 crore). During the agitation for a separate Telengana, KCR promised RTC would be run for public purpose and not profit. He promised the RTC unions in Telangana that his government would not be like Andhra rulers who ran the RTC for profit. He also promised better workers’ welfare.
After coming to power, none of the demands from Telangana RTC—capital investment, tax holiday, reimbursement, salary increase among others—have been fulfilled. For example, a TSRTC worker says when employees demanded salaries on par with state government employees, the government gave them around 43 per cent fitment benefit and the state government employees 42 per cent. “Our basic scales are so different that rise in fitment benefit really doesn’t’ make a dent,” he says.
For example, he adds, Telangana gives ₹520 crore worth of concessions for different sections of society every year, which should be reimbursed to the RTC. But it has got back only ₹120 crore, further straining its operations.
Thrown under the bus for being successful, hollowed out from inside and left in the lurch by the government both RTCs flailed and foundered through the time.
“We used to look forward to the day’s duty earlier; now, it’s a pain,” one driver says. He just escaped a Scooty with three people riding when it veered into his front bumper.
To cut expenses and losses, the managements adopted certain practices that increasingly put passengers in unsafe and dangerous conditions: pressuring drivers to get more kilometres per litre; no new recruitment for drivers and conductors; cutting running time and increasing duty time; converting high-tech and super luxury buses which have done their time, for rural services; making do with old spare parts or never replacing them, sending unfit buses on short, dangerous routes as happened in the Kondagattu tragedy; slashing the number of mechanics, doing away with day-to-day checks of vehicles, providing service through hired buses, among many.
Ch. Sundarayya of APSRTC Staff and Workers says that there is no fleet increase. “RTC doesn’t purchase as many new buses as needed. The department’s assessment is 15-16 per cent more are necessary every year, but that’s not happening.”
Naga Sivudu says APSRTC has definite plans for replacement. “We convert high-end buses which have not run 11 or 12 lakh km into rural buses. We examine its condition. We take account of all systems to make sure they are working properly and then convert it into a rural bus. If a brand new bus is not properly maintained, it gets damaged.”
The managements’ practices have real-world implications, as Kondagattu shows. A bus in an optimal condition gives a mileage of 5-5.5 km per litre. But drivers are not in a perfect universe. At times, have to negotiate vehicles that careen like spilled mustard seeds. They say harassment over mileage goes to such an extent that notice boards carry a list of drivers and mileage figures. The laggards get taunts; their mileage status is put up on WhatsApp messages, they are ribbed endlessly.
“We used to look forward to the day’s duty earlier; now, it’s a pain,” one driver says. He just escaped a Scooty with three people riding when it veered into his front bumper.
“They came suddenly after a curve. My heart was in my throat,” he says. The responsibility for any accident, even if the other vehicle is wrong, falls on the bus driver. The police file cases against big vehicles, even if the smaller vehicle is in the wrong. “We are safe (so far as the police case is concerned) when a lorry hits us, not when small vehicles come at us,” he says.
Moreover, drivers constantly feel running time is not enough with so many vehicles on the roads. The management also fixes an average speed of 35 km per hour for ordinary buses and 45 for express. In practice, it’s not possible to drive at that average speed on clogged roads. On some routes, they can; most others are not amenable for that average speed.
Conductors complain of pressure to earn more money. So, they take on more passengers and the bus is overcrowded. If they don’t bring in income, they are reprimanded. One authority wants better mileage, the other better revenue. If the bus is crowded beyond capacity, it stopped many times along the route, thus consuming more fuel which the fuel authority at depots hates.
“They say ‘who asked you for service, all I am interested in is oil,’” says a driver.
“They say ‘who asked you for kmpl, all I want is service and money,’” says the conductor.
One TSRTC employee says service conditions have deteriorated: they have to work nine, ten hours and even 12 hours straight, single-crew duties, meaning the driver has to operate ticket machines and transact business, which is impossible for ordinary buses, and the bus design itself, which has a door in front of the front wheel. “If anybody slips, the passenger will be under front tyre,” he says.
He also adds that in the last four years, 4,500 workers retired, but there is no new recruitment. At the time of bifurcation TSRTC had 56,400, and now, 52, 000 staff. Vehicle utilisation increased from 320 km in 2014 to 380 km now. That demands two hours more work.
“This is what it boils down to: increase mileage and revenue even at the cost of lives,” says G. Srinivas, president of the United Workers’ Union. He is a conductor at Ravulapalem, East Godavari district, AP.
“The government wants automobile companies to profit, individual vehicles to increase, by sabotaging RTC,” he adds. “Ultimately they want to privatise it.
For saving fuel worth around 160 rupees, more than 60 people died and scores were injured,” he says. “This is what management does to decrease running time and increase hours, get more mileage and more revenue. All these practices make it ripe for a mishap, and people fall over and get injured, or die.”
Srinivas is 42 and soft-spoken, with a measured voice. He penned an article after the accident because he “felt so much pain. This could have been prevented. This bus should not have been sent.” He was suspended in 2014 from Rajole in the East Godavari district, for anti-management activities.
The management considers five kilometres as one unit, and fixes the fare for those many units. In one case, where they had to take fare for 13 units, they surreptitiously fixed the fare at 14 units, thus charging around three-and- a-half rupees more from passengers. With 50,000 passengers on that route in a day, it gets around ₹1.5 lakh more in a day. Srinivas felt that was daylight robbery, and faced off with the management. That was his anti-management activity.
He went to the High Court, which said there was no cause for suspension, and it passed an interim order asking the management to reinstate him. It also said the management could conduct an inquiry. When called for an enquiry, he did not go, saying that he didn’t believe the management would conduct an impartial inquiry. Moreover, he asked, if there were no grounds for suspension, why was an inquiry even necessary? His refusal gave the management an excuse to remove him from his job. He again went to the High Court, which passed an order asking the management to reinstate him. The management did that in 2015, but continues to withhold increments since 2016, saying it is an interim order, not the final judgement.
Srinivas says he could get the sense of government policies by reading John Perkins’ Confessions of an Economic Hit Man translated into Telugu—Oka Dalari Paschatapam. The view among union members, he says, is that World Bank dictates policies for those states and countries which go to it for loans. The bank views public service as welfare and advises governments to get out of it.
“When we reach our depot, we look for where the manager is. We don’t want to be in his line of sight. If he is there, he is going to ask us to fill in for somebody.”
We don’t have enough buses, he says. For the last ten years, no new rural bus has been added. Workers also allege that the government wants to summarily remove RTC buses from rural areas. They say it favours automobile companies—people buy two-wheelers or use autos. Or they buy four-wheelers.
“RTC is a public service. All of our people cannot afford individual vehicles,” Srinivas says.
embers of Parliament and people close to the ruling parties operate private bus companies, either themselves or through their proxies. With the tax that’s levied on vehicles, private operators too struggle, and so they run two or more vehicles on the same registration. The private operators make money on cargo and parcel services. Sundarayya says when they asked Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu to allow them to carry goods, he refused saying that there were private operators. Carrying goods, however, is not legal, according to the MV Act, 1966.
APSRTC’s major expenses are taxes ( ₹2,100 crore), staff salaries and benefits ( ₹2,000 crore) and fuel ( ₹1,500 crore). It earns around ₹5,500 crore per annum. Losses range from ₹300-400 crore. Sundarayya says “the government should provide viable gap funding.”
Even as the number of essential workers—drivers and conductors—decreases, there are complaints that unnecessary posts are created to shunt officials from junior to senior levels.
“The middle management is bloated. To pay their salaries and allowances takes so much money,” says one driver. Ganapathy, a union member, says “Sometimes one official’s salary covers about five workers’ salaries.”
The grapevine has it that once RTC executive directors proposed hike in their own salaries that exceeded the state’s chief secretary’s. He was so livid that he threw away the file.
Depots and their managers also compete for performance appraisals. Their performance is measured in terms of vehicle utilisation and bus staff ratios. That means, keep the vehicles running even without required staff.
On the ground, all these have side-effects.
“When we reach our depot, we look for where the manager is. We don’t want to be in his line of sight. If he is there, he is going to ask us to fill in for somebody,” says one driver.
Asked why they have to put with so many things, a driver answers, “Conditions outside are far worse. A lorry driver is on the road continuously for ten to twenty days. We can be with our families.”
ith all the cost-cutting, operational efficiency at APSRTC has increased. It shows around 18 per cent growth rate. But it has come at a cost: overworked staff, rising accident rates, overloaded buses, decreased rural service.
Sundarayya says growth has come on the back of fewer buses and personnel. He also admits that to run a rural bus, RTC’s loss would be around ₹20 lakh.
“We cannot take RTC as a profit-oriented organisation. We have a social responsibility. Countries all over the world are rethinking public transport and how to increase its use. Nowhere does public transport exist without the government support.
“What RTC could do is increase the number of buses and personnel. It also helps in reducing pollution, less clogged roads (more individual vehicles, more clogged the roads) and safe journeys.”
In its pursuit of better internal performance and lower costs, the staff believe RTC has forgotten that service drives demand.
APSRTC has a structure that is not geared to meet challenges.
N. Vivekananda, who retired as executive director in 2009 says, “The perception of the government and the public is not correct. It’s not a profit-oriented organisation; it lacks the freedom to fix prices—it cannot reduce or increase fares without government intervention. It has no trained management.
Its plight is that of an agriculturist. If you want it to make profit, come out say that and structure the organisation for that.”
All this, he adds, puts tremendous strain on the RTC to meet a “rapidly changing business environment.”
If the top management is free to take decisions without political interference, APSRTC can rebound. It did a great job sometime ago.
R. Ravi Kumar, a professor at the Indian Institute of Management, Bengaluru, who worked on the APSRTC report in 2004-05 and suggested ways to avoid losses, lists many problems. “The main thing is there is no financial support from the government. RTC gets loans and has to pay interest. There is no reimbursement for bus passes and concessions. They have no freedom to fix fares. There is no optimisation of resources.”
Add to these piled-up inefficiencies, non-accountability.
If the government allocates a budget, it’s a pittance as it did recently to the tune of ₹200 crore. Kerala, on the other hand, allocated ₹3,000 crore. In his continual engagement with APSRTC, he finds the conditions of the buses to be terrible. “Some buses don’t give mileage, it’s not worth running them at all.”
There have to be, he adds, macro-and micro-level policies—for government, management, and personnel.
He feels that if the top management is given freedom to take decisions without political interference, APSRTC can rebound. He says it did a great job sometime ago.
The situation is akin to, he quotes a Telugu saying, “Mother doesn’t feed you, nor does she allow you to beg.”
Naga Sivudu appears to agree with their diagnosis. He says the rise in losses is directly related to higher input costs but they cannot simply raise fares because they are a public service body. The last time fares were raised was in 2015 when fuel cost ₹43 a litre. It has crossed ₹70 today. That explains a great deal about the state of its finances.
he issue of unfit buses is not confined to RTCs. It exists everywhere in India. In analysis published by Elsevier in 2017, the author Sanjay Kumar Singh says India’s road safety situation is “worsening,” even as it’s improving in many countries, including China. By 2025, we’re on track to kill 2.5 lakh people a year in road accidents.
The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2016 has been pending for the last four years. Although it has good road safety provisions, one contentious issue, so far as RTCs are concerned, is that it takes away stage and carrier permits , thus giving everybody a chance to enter transport. It could further land RTCs in trouble.
The vast majority (68 per cent) of those killed on highways in India are vulnerable road users; trucks and buses are involved in about 70 per cent of fatal crashes in rural and urban areas.
The National Road Safety Policy outlines initiatives such as: raise awareness about road safety issues, establish safety information database, ensure safer road infrastructure, vehicles, drivers, safety of vulnerable road users, road traffic safety education and training, enforcement of safety laws, emergency medical services for road accidents, HRD and research for road safety.
In 2017, the Supreme Court too issued a host of suggestions on road safety, including safety audits, engineering improvements, safety cells and action plans, among many others. According to “Road Safety in India: Status Report 2016” from the Transportation Research & Injury Prevention Programme (TRIPP) at Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, official statistics say 1,50,785 persons were killed and 4,94,624 injured in road crashes in 2016. TRIPP mentions that “police data should not be used for studying the epidemiology of non-fatal road traffic injuries in the country. The official estimate of non-fatal traffic injuries in 2016 was 4,94,624 which probably underestimates injuries requiring hospitalisation by a factor of 4 and all injuries by a factor of 20.”
National Highways, according to the report, comprise only 15 per cent of the total road length but account for 33 per cent of fatalities.
The report says: “Fatality rate per km of road is highest on NH with 0.67 deaths per km annually and this fact should be the guiding factor in future design considerations.”
Expressways spanned only 1,000 km in the country in 2014, but account for “a high death rate of 1.8 per km per year.”
The report highlights that a vast majority (68 per cent) of those killed on highways in India are vulnerable road users; trucks and buses are involved in about 70 per cent of fatal crashes in rural and urban areas; on four-lane divided roads head-on collisions comprise 19 per cent of crashes.
“Divided four-lane roads are justified on the basis that these would eliminate head-on collisions. The fact this is not occurring means that many vehicles are going the wrong way. This is probably because tractor and other vehicles go the wrong way when they exit from roadside businesses and the cut in the median is too far away.”
According to a Ministry of Road Transport and Highways’ (MoRTH) report report “on average, to 1,317 accidents and 413 deaths taking place every day; or 55 accidents and 17 deaths every hour.”
The report goes onto to say that two-wheelers accounted for the highest share in road accidents (33.8 per cent) in 2016, followed by cars, jeeps and taxis (23.6 per cent), trucks, tempos, tractors and other articulated vehicles (21.0 per cent), buses (7.8 per cent), auto-rickshaws (6.5 per cent) and other motor vehicles (2.8 per cent). The share of two wheelers was 28.8 per cent in 2015.
It says drivers’ fault is the single most important factor in road accidents (84 per cent), killings (80.3 per cent) and injuries (83.9) on all roads in 2016. Within this category, exceeding lawful speed accounted for the highest share, 66.5 per cent in accidents and 61.0 per cent in accident deaths.
According to an estimate from the non-profit International Road Federation, which promotes better, safer roads, India registers the highest number of road deaths, and accounts for 10 per cent of global road accidents.
As a signatory to the Brasilia Declaration (2015), India is committed to halve road accident deaths and injuries by 2020. The declaration calls on members to strengthen legislation and post-crash emergency services, and adopt sustainable transport. It remains a tough task to fulfil the commitment in the remaining two years.
shish Verma, an associate professor in Transportation Systems Engineering in the Department of Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), says most accidents predominantly have two big components: road-worthiness of the vehicle and driving habit.
Although the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, has clear guidelines and regulations, they’re more observed in the breach. There is a lack of enforcement and tragedies keep happening.
“It’s not a good situation in any part of the country,” he says. Secondly, Verma says, the licensing system need a thorough overhaul.
“If you look at the system you have to ensure that when drivers drive, there are enough elements in the system to take care of all factors that influence driver to drive safely,” he says.
At present, the system focuses mainly on physical fitness and if they can manoeuvre the vehicle in traffic.
But that that doesn’t necessarily make the applicants safe drivers. The behavioural and high-order factors have much larger influence as compared to physical fitness, he adds.
Even on the physical level, certain parameters contribute to safe driving. For example, there are specific vision-related parameters like “horizontal and vertical peripheral vision”.
“While looking ahead how much of the cone of sight you have within which you can find obstructions, possible hazards. If it’s not normal, driver can miss things, and may not be able to react to possible hazards.”
It also happens that they don’t get relative distance and speeds between vehicles while overtaking and cause accidents, he adds.
“None of these are tested or evaluated while giving driving licenses.”
Improving the road-worthiness of vehicles and human elements will go long way in guarding against accidents. The rest will follow these two.
The third, Verma mentions, is road engineering. “The road engineering environment should be able to absorb any errors in driving---be it losing control of vehicle, brake failure, and so on.”
For example, in the short-term, scientifically investigated and designed crash barriers can be placed in every dangerous section.
“That’s not rocket science,” Verma says.