Recognising altruism: On rewarding Good Samaritans on road

Good Samaritans can help reduce accident deaths, but road safety needs more work

Achieving a reduction in mortality on India’s largely lawless roads warrants determined action on several factors, beginning with scientific road design and standards, and zero tolerance enforcement. It was only on September 3 that the Centre notified the long-pending National Road Safety Board, with a mandate to formulate standards on, among other things, safety and trauma management, to build capacity among traffic police, and put crash investigation on a scientific footing. Yet, on enforcement, State police forces generally appear to favour a populist approach of least engagement; regional transport bureaucracies — compared by Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari in 2015 to looting Chambal dacoits — can also benefit from a shake-up. As a steadily motorising country, the goal must be to reduce accidents and the ratio of deaths and injuries to cases. The Good Samaritan plan can work well if District Committees tasked with awarding these individuals readily recognise their contribution, aided by the police, hospitals and RTOs. Many more people will continue to be impelled by sheer altruism to help road users involved in a crash, and governments should get bureaucratic barriers out of their way.

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