The passing away of the Union Minister Mr Gopinath Munde on Delhi roads, this morning is the big news today on social media and will probably occupy the mind-space and the media-space for the next few days. While condoling the tragic end, I could not help noticing that even VIPs, including Union ministers are not safe on Indian roads.
India has the dubious distinction of being one of the worst countries for road safety. According to one report, in 2010, India had the highest number of road accidents in the world. Even if the situation has improved marginally, it is not good enough till we have no accidents. As per a WHO report, quoted in the MINT, “India accounts for about 10% of road crash fatalities worldwide. In terms of absolute numbers more people die in road crashes in India than anywhere else in the world.”
All of us have known someone in our circle going through a road accident.
Can this madness be stopped?
As a designer, I believe this is the wickedest problem to solve.
We need to redesign our vehicles, making them safer. Indian-made cars have ash-trays even in basic models and air-bags are optional. We need better control of traffic. We need to have good quality roads. Above all, we need more communicative signs and posters to communicate to every driver on the road the perils of reckless driving, like this one seen on the hilly terrains of Garhwal.
Pic Courtesy: http://www.40kmph.com
Google has looked at the problem in the systemic way, it is so known for and has built a driver-less car and has tested it on the roads. If implemented, this could lead to safer roads, although some critics have reacted to the associated privacy issues. Look at this way. At least you will be alive to complain!
Designers have also worked on better bike helmets, tackling a menace head-on! Jeff Woolf has just won the 2014 Invention award for a bike helmet that ‘folds to the size of a text-book’, so that it’s easy to carry .
Pic of Morpher by Ralph Smith
Closer home, National Innovation Foundation has documented and awarded good ideas for road-safety proposed by school children, but has not progressed beyond the ideation stage.
But the situation is urgent. Designers need to rise to the challenge and put their heads together for tackling this problem.
We need this to save precious lives.