by Nikhil Chaudhary Senior Project Associate, EMBARQ India
It is a fact that India has the highest number of accident fatalities in the world. But the grave issue of Road Safety is seldom taken seriously. This is especially evident from the high frequency and intensity of risks taken by all categories of road-users (motorists, pedestrians, cyclists etc.) on a daily basis. Statistics of road fatalities and serious injuries are publicised very often with the intention of inculcating responsible behaviour on the road. But since accidents by their nature appear to be rare, the probability of being involved in one is wrongly assumed to be negligible. At the same time, the popular discourse of promoting road safety is mostly centered upon personal measures such as following traffic-rules, use of helmets and seat belts, avoiding drunk-driving etc. In most accident cases, motorists are out rightly booked for recklessness when the actual cause and subsequent solution may lie elsewhere. Scientifically, an accident is a random, multi-factor event that hinges on three factors – road-user behaviour, vehicle characteristics and physical infrastructure. Actively catering to the third factor is the most tangible action that can further the road safety agenda in our cities. Providing well-designed roads equipped with standard road safety features is absolutely essential. At the same time, care must also be taken that the available road space is equally planned for all users – motorised or non-motorised.
People must be made aware that the occurrence of an accident should not entail a blame-game of pedestrians vs. motorists, but a vociferous demand for safer roads to concerned authorities. The graphic-narrative above prepared as a part of Equal Streets’s campaign for the Road Safety Week embodies this very message. It is the story of an average pedestrian and driver that are involved in an accident typical of urban roads. Here, both the pedestrian and the motorist are portrayed to be equally responsible for the incident that occurs. But as we go through the two mindsets of the victim and the culprit, it becomes increasingly clear that their behaviour is completely instigated by the road conditions they have to negotiate. Finally, it puts forth the figures regarding accident deaths as a plea for demanding safe streets for all. The red line that divides the two perspectives becomes the rising graph of deaths that demands immediate attention. The narrative signifies that for each of those numbers, there was a horrific mishap such as the one indicated here. Comics, because of their visually appealing form and a long-standing history of being used for social critique, are one of the best mediums to promote Road Safety. The narrator hopes the story presented here will make its readers pause and give the concerned issues a serious thought, this Road Safety Week.
Nikhil Chaudhary is a trained Architect-Urban Designer and works with EMBARQ India as a Senior Project Associate. He is also a self-taught graphic artist and has published several comics stories focusing on the issues of urban development, environment and architecture.