In many countries, there are animals that scare the crap out of drivers. Canadians fear hitting a moose. Americans fear hitting a deer. Australians fear hitting a kangaroo. Fins fear hitting reindeer. Add India to the list with a fear of hitting cows. Not only is there concern over being injured or killed, but there’s also the sacredness of cows in Hinduism. In India, killing a cow is against the laws of God and men. As a result, there are almost 300 million cows in India. A large percentage of those cows are free ranging, which makes them a threat to all motorists, especially at night. Because of the traffic accidents involving cows, the Indian government came up with an illuminating solution.
After a series of car-bovine accidents in Madhya Pradesh left 20 drivers dead, officials in local government reached out to New Delhi. They proposed that 300 cows and bulls in the area receive orange glow-in-the-dark reflective bands. They are similar to the reflective strips bicyclists wear around their ankles. After wrangling the cattle and attaching the strips, the same government officials tracked accident statistics in the problem area. Over the course of a month, fatal accidents were down to five and overall accidents dropped by 7%.
While the trial was limited in scale, government officials decided to move ahead with expanding the program. Additionally, the glow-in-the-dark-material needed to change. The reflective bands stayed in place for only about two weeks. As a result, the stray cows will now receive a radium paint coating on their horns. Farmers will also be responsible for either painting their cows’ horns or purchasing reflective bands. In 2015, Finland began painting reindeer antlers with glow-in-the-dark paint to lessen accidents.
There are some concerns about this, as radium is radioactive. Although small amounts of plastic material can block the dangerous alpha particles, it is unclear what safety measures will prevent the glow-in-the-dark paint from chipping off and becoming an airborne hazard. Undoubtedly, this is just a first step in making India’s roads safer. A 2013 study by the World Health Organization (WHO) found over 230,000 people die each year on the country’s roads.