By Surya Narayan Pradhan
Bhubaneswar: An improved traffic system is a key component of a modern city. And awareness of traffic rules among the people is a key determinant of the state of the city’s traffic system. With Bhubaneswar set to become a Smart City soon, odishatv.in decided to check out the awareness levels of its denizens about rules on road safety.
We began the stock taking with a quick Q & A session with students of DAV School, Chandraskeharpur; Capital High School in Unit-3 and Saraswati Sishu Mandir in Unit-VIII. Though most of the respondents were aware of the road safety rules and claimed they abide by these rules, evidence available on the roads show most students, particularly in the age group of 14-16 routinely violate the rules, causing frequent mishaps in the process.
Though the Centre and State government have decided to introduce a subject on road safety in school syllabus, the decision is yet to be implemented. A little inquiry revealed that students of classes up to 7th standard are being taught about traffic rules and regulations while students from Class 8 onwards are not taught anything on road safety, apart from special competitions and seminars organised by schools.
BN Shreevishesa, a student of Class XI at DAV school, Chandrasekharpur, drives a gearless scooter and readily admits she knows it is illegal as per traffic rules. “But I always wear a helmet while driving and know the traffic rules and regulations,” she says by way of an explanation. “Knowing them will minimise casualties due to road mishaps,” she adds betraying an awareness of the problem..
Shreevishesa defends her school authorities, saying “Teachers, irrespective of subjects they are teaching, talk about road safety in classes. Besides, competitions are regularly held to make students aware of rules.”
Suggesting greater involvement of parents in making their kids aware about road safety before handing over the keys of a vehicle to them, Niharika Gantayat, academic supervisor at DAV, Chandrasekharpur, said; “All parents want their children to be safe. However, they melt down when their child demands or crib about something. I would say they should not act in haste.”
Akarshit Mohapatra, a Class 10 student of Saraswati Sishu Mandir, Unit-VIII, said, “ I drive a gearless scooter while wearing a helmet and am familiar with the road safety signs.”
Most of the respondents were able to decipher road signs, though with some difficulty. Some suggested it would be better if the meaning is written along with road safety signs to make people understand them better.
Bishnu Prasad Nanda, an English teacher at Saraswati Sishu Mandir, alleged, “Many a time, symbols are put up without telling what they mean.”
Nanda, however, said, “Students of the present generation are more aware of the issue than we were; the scene was not the same during our days. As the number of vehicles is rising at a phenomenal rate, people, especially students, are becoming more careful while using the road.”
“Some parents wait for some unpleasant incident to happen before they realise the need to tell their kids about road rules,” he rued.
Begging to differ on who should be entrusted with the responsibility to teach traffic rules to students, Manoj Kumar Ray, Science teacher, Capital High School, Unit-3, said; “The Department of Road Transport should be involved in awareness activities at schools every year. Proper training should be given to students on how to drive and use roads.”
Expressing a similar view, Syed Maqbool Ali, Working President of the Prevention of Accidents Society, Orissa (PASO), said, “Road safety rules should be enforced on children, not only taught in classrooms. They (students) should be told what would happen if they violate the rules.”
People should also know the “rights” of the other users of roads and respect the same, Ali added. “They should be warned against doing stunts for thrills or out of an imaginary sense of heroism,” he observed.
As per the estimates of PASO, 4,000 plus casualties occurred in Odisha last year whereas 15-20,000 injuries leading to disability were reported during the period.
It is clear that Bhubaneswar has a long way to go in traffic awareness before it can hope to live up to its billing as the No 1 in the country in the Smart City survey undertaken by the Centre.