One Road Accident Death Every Four Minutes!
In 2014 in India there were 480000 road accidents were reported, in which 142000 people died and 480000 people were injured. [http://www.rushlane.com/road-accidents-in-india-in-2014-12156722.html, July 20, 2015]. Over-speeding, dangerous driving, not obeying the traffic rules, driving under the influence of alcohol, poor road conditions, inadequate sign boards, inadequate and poor conditions of the vehicles, etc. are some of the major reasons for the road accidents.
In a recent address to the nation, the Prime Minister said that the government will take this issue seriously and will implement a road safety policy [http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Road-safety-policy-cashless-treatment-for-accident-victims-soon-PM/articleshow/48225732.cms].
We Indians and those who have visited India may not be surprised by the number of road accidents, seeing how dreadful it is to travel on Indian roads. On the one hand India boasts of its development. On the other hand, basic security and safety of the people are not assured. With increased number of vehicles, most of the roads remain in the same condition as that of two or three decades back; many have become even worse. Moreover, people are not trained to keep traffic rules. Corruption and unhealthy political influences help the culprits escape easily.
Almost a decade back, late Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, then Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, wrote in a pastoral letter that, careless driving is a sin that needs to be confessed. He also said that it was a sin to drive a vehicle without attending to its repairs, and reminded the drivers that they had the heavy moral obligation of saving their own as well as others’ lives [http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-kerala/road-accident-a-sin-says-cardinal-varkey-vithayathil/article3131386.ece]. Many of the newspapers and channels at that time reported the pastoral letter of the cardinal as something urgently needed and relevant. Although the media as a whole and the secular society as a whole enthusiastically responded to the pastoral letter of the Cardinal, it seems that the Church did practically nothing to follow up his call. Unfortunately, our respect for life still revolves around the concern for the ‘unborn’ and the medical practices at the deathbed. Although these are important concerns, we conveniently ignore our responsibility to respond to such evils which threaten the life of the living. Especially in Kerala, the Church runs a number of educational institutions. Except in a few institutions, there is no attempt to educate the students on their civil responsibilities, including road safety. Similarly, no attempts to conscientize people in the parishes of the importance of road safety. This is also an area where we can work with the civil society. But, no such attempts are made either from the part of the hierarchy or from the part of various ecclesial movements. Often we find an inward looking Church, concerned only with its own security – security of its institutions, of its interests and concerns.
If the Indian Church is really convinced of the dignity and sanctity of human life, it has to take seriously the hundreds of thousands of lives lost and mutilated every year due to road accidents. It has to make use of all its abilities to conscientize people. Moreover, it has to collaborate with civil authorities to ensure road safety.
Shaji George Kochuthara