While road accidents are frequent in traffic choke points and busy lanes, the maximum number of severe mishaps in the country, occur on national highways (NH), where road safety rules by authorities are not enforced stringently, and even if they are, the drivers usually ignore them.
Despite only constituting two percent of India’s total road network, the NHs account for over 34 percent of road accidents that occur in the country on an annual basis. In 2016 alone, as many as 52,075 individuals lost their lives and over 1.46 lakh people were left severely injured.
Though NHs link major cities and towns through remote locations across the country, hardly any hospitals or ambulance services concentrate on the route, making it very difficult for timely medical help to reach the accident victims. Plus, there isn’t any provision through which one can report a road accident that has occurred on a national highway.
To tackle these issues, the government has decided to launch a national toll-free number through which one can not only report accidents on NHs but also lodge complaints regarding their operations and maintenance.
The ‘1033’ helpline is all set to be launched by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) in the first week of February.
“We have completed all the work related to this project. The aim is to provide quick help, rescue any accident victim, and take him/her to the nearest hospital. We are also collaborating with state governments for the deployment of ambulances along highways exclusively for our road users,” Deepak Kumar, the NHAI chairman, told Times of India.
The government body also has an awareness drive in the pipeline and hopes that the drive will help to popularise the toll-free number among road users and help victims get faster help.
The Indian Highways Management Company Limited (IHMCL), an ancillary company under NHAI, has reportedly conducted the geographic information system (GIS) mapping of the entire NH network to augment the project technologically. The mapping will play a crucial role in helping the call centre to locate callers, and transfer their calls to operators adept in local languages.
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According to an NHAI official, the new helpline would be the one-stop solution for highway users for emergency as well as non-emergency services.
“Once an accident or any other emergency is reported to the call centre, the message would be immediately passed on to the nearest operation centre for action, including rushing an ambulance or crane to a site for immediate rescue,” he explained.
The authorities have also worked out a provision to deal with complaint redressal by deploying officials for the matter. “We have put in place an escalation matrix to deal with unresolved complaints,” another NHAI official added.
With the new helpline, the NHAI aims to provide immediate medical support to accident victims and cut down the fatality rate by 50 percent.