News You Really Need To See: “Can New Laws Tame India’s Drivers?”

“Can New Laws Tame India’s Drivers?”

The Washington Post, May 24, 2015, p.A16

When it opened in 2001, the East Coast Road in southern India gave drivers a smooth, modern link to coastal resorts and an open stretch of highway to gun their engines on weekends.  The 425-mile road also is a glaring example of why, with just 1 percent of the world’s automobiles, India accounts for 15 percent of global traffic deaths, according to the World Bank.  …  So many men from the villages flanking the road have been run over by speeding vehicles and drunk drivers in the past decade that their bereaved wives are called ‘ECR widows.’  India has some of the deadliest roads in the world, with more than 200,000 fatalities every year, according to the World Health Organization.  The nation’s Supreme Court calls India’s roads ‘giant killers.’  Experts say that many of the accused go free because of weak and outdated motor vehicle regulations, routine corruption, lagging investigations and painfully slow court trials. … With rising affluence, owning a car in India has become easier.  But bad driving habits, poor regulatory oversight and flawed road design are quite common.  Speeding, running lights, drunken driving, riding motorcycles without helmets, and lane violations are rampant.  According to officials, 25 percent of driver’s licenses in India are procured fraudulently. … Automobile manufacturers objected to new vehicle recall rules — even though the best-selling new Indian cars failed a global crash test last year. … As India tried to bolster inadequate infrastructure by building new highways across rural areas in the past decade, very little money has been invested in driver education, road behavior, emergency response and trauma care.  Many new roads do not have medians or reflectors.”

Quickie analysis:  Providing the things India’s growing middle class wants has proved far easier than providing the physical and legal infrastructure to prevent abuse.  (This article may have special resonance for those who have read Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger.)

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