India has the highest number of accident fatalities in the world. But the pressing issue of road safety is rarely taken seriously. This is particularly apparent, given the high frequency and intensity of risks that motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists take on a daily basis.
Statistics of road fatalities and injuries are often publicized with the intention of encouraging responsible behavior on the road. At the same time, the conversation about road safety generally centers on individual behavior—like following traffic-rules, using of helmets and seat belts, and avoiding drinking and driving. However, the root of the problem—and solution—is elsewhere, as collisions are the result of a combination of individual behavior and physical infrastructure.
Addressing physical infrastructure and urban design is necessary to improving road safety in our cities. To close out the third UN Global Road Safety Week, let’s take a look at a comic strip that creatively engages with road safety in India:
Collisions often lead to a blame-game between pedestrians and motorists, rather than a discussion of how we can design our streets for safety. The comic strip—produced for Equal Streets—embodies this dilemma. It tells the story of an average pedestrian and driver in India who are involved in a collision. Both the pedestrian and the motorist are portrayed as equally responsible for the incident. But as we examine their individual perspectives, it becomes clear that their behavior is influenced by the roads they have to navigate.
The comic strip ends as a call for safe streets for all. The red line that divides the two perspectives emerges as a graph of the deaths resulting from traffic collisions. The narrative reminds us that these numbers are avoidable, if we design our cities and roads to be safe places.
Comics, because of their visually compelling form and long history of social critique, can be a powerful medium for promoting road safety. The story represented here makes us pause, and consider how our streets can be safer for all.