A deadly bike crash six years ago left Anirudh Dhiwan alive but took all the strength of his right hand. While riding, he lost control over his bike and collided with a speeding truck. He suffers from Brachial Plexuses Injury that causes a complete loss of strength in the affected area and causes tremendous pain that lacks a cure. Dhiwan is an example of willpower, as the tragic incident did not stop him from pursuing his passion for travelling. However, now he has learned to value life and prioritizes his health and fitness above all. Today, he is independent and runs his departmental store and wishes to buy an automatic car for himself. The red flag in his story is that absolute alertness on the road is a must to save a life.
India Has One Of The Highest Road Accidents In The World
The Indian Road network is amongst the busiest road networks in the world. No matter how valuable roads are for commuting from one place to another or managing the transportation of goods and services from the producer to the consumer, they are equally dangerous. One can never be sure if they are safe on the roads, even if they follow mandatory safety guidelines. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) fact sheet, approximately 1.3 million people die each year from fatal road traffic crashes. Between 20 and 50 million more people suffer non-fatal injuries, many incurring a disability.
India owns only 1 per cent of the total cars in the world but accounts for 11 per cent of the global deaths due to road accidents. A report by the World Bank mentioned that 75 per cent of Indian households complained of a decline in their household income after a mishap on the roads. Alarmingly, the financial loss in a poor home amounted to more than seven months of their average income, while around one month's income in a wealthy household.
Victims Have To Re-Build Their Lives
Those who are fortunate to have survived a fatal road crash have to start from scratch to build their lives because the accident had rendered them with a disability for the rest of their lives. Ajeya Raj made his life bit by bit after surviving a major road accident nearly 14 years ago that injured his spinal cord and bound him to a wheelchair. He did not let this become a significant setback and took full charge of his life. Hailing from Jharkhand, the turning point for Ajeya was when he joined the Chandigarh Spinal Rehab centre as the Public Relations Officer. With his motorized Wheelchair, Ajeya can move his neck to paint and create beautiful art pieces. He has also represented India on international platforms to play Boccia, a precision ball sport played by athletes with physical disabilities. His story is a testimony to human resilience through which we also learn the need for a solid post-crash care system. The quality of Ajeya's life improved with a motorized wheelchair; however, many people in India don't receive quality rehabilitation and care. Improving access to rehabilitation is a must to improve the lives of thousands of Road Crash Survivors.
While speaking to The Logical Indian, Karuna Raina, Director of Public Policy and Research, SaveLIFE Foundation, said, "While we celebrate the potential of persons with disabilities, let's not forget that each year more than 330,000 people are seriously injured or permanently disabled due to road crashes, which is the single biggest contributor of disability in India. We need to address the burden of road crash-related morbidity to prevent injuries and disabilities in the first place and ensure an efficient system for rehabilitation".
Grave Statistics From NCRB Report
The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) Report of 2020 on Accidental Deaths and Suicides shows that Maharashtra saw 22,211 accidents in the preceding year, which led to 17,165 injuries and more than 12,000 deaths. The condition is similar in other states like Tamil Nadu that recorded more than 45,000 accidents, causing 50,551 injuries and 8,059 deaths. A survey by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation has highlighted the concern of rising disabilities in people owing to road accidents. Apart from physical injury, mental agony is one of the main problems people face facing fatal crashes. The government provides a minimum compensation of a mere ₹50,000 in case of a permanent disability, which covers only the tip of the cost of what the victims have to bear.
While speaking to The Logical Indian about compensation and financial help to the disabled, Raina further added, "The compensation received by road crash victims is often not adequate to cover the expenditure incurred. In many instances, payments are made only after lengthy processes, which makes low-income households especially vulnerable to the costs of road crashes. The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019 has brought reforms in the compensation process such as cashless treatment for all road crash victims, higher compensation for hit and run cases, the establishment of the Motor Vehicles Accident Fund, and provision for interim compensation. With the effective implementation of the Act nationwide, it is hoped that there will be a change in the compensation process."
What Is SaveLIFE Foundation?
SaveLIFE Foundation (SLF) is a non-profit, non-governmental organization committed to reducing India's extremely high number of road crash deaths. SLF combines strong research, including onsite crash investigation with interventions across policy advocacy and grassroots action to save lives on India's roads. SLF is best known for its work to get India a Good Samaritan Law and reduce road crash deaths on the Mumbai Pune Expressway by 30 per cent within two years of partnering with the Government of Maharashtra. Over the next few years, SaveLIFE Foundation will continue to advocate for system-level changes and invest in engaging citizens and governments in real-time through technology platforms, training programmes and its flagship 'Vision Zero' initiatives.
While we celebrate International Day for Disabled Persons to show our solidarity with them for their personal struggles, we must remember that careless actions in public places could deny people the right to enjoy a fulfilling life. People who survive road accidents are not the only victims of avoidable human errors; their families and the lifelong trauma they face is often one of the consequences that most of us ignore.