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The issue of Road Safety in India – Explained pointwise

Recently the World Bank released a report about Road safety in India. The report titled “Traffic Crash Injuries and Disabilities: The Burden on Indian Society”. It measured the number of road accidents happening in India and their various socio-economic impacts. Its findings are important as it highlighted the urgency to focus on road safety in a more comprehensive manner.

Highlights of the World Bank report:

Road accidents in India:

  1. India was in first place in terms of number of road crash deaths and injuries in the world. India has just 1% of the world’s vehicles but accounts for 11% of all road crash deaths. Further, India is also witnessing 53 road crashes every hour, killing 1 person every 4 minutes.
  2. India has seen around 4.5 lakh road accidents in the past year. It resulted in at least 1.5 lakh deaths over the past few years.

Socio-Economic Impact of Road accidents in India:

  1. More loss to poor families: The risk of a victim undergoing disability after a crash is 2 times higher among poor families.
  2. Accidents result in a decline of 75% of the total household income among low-income groups. Whereas, the decline among high-income groups is only 54%. It underlines poor access to insurance schemes among the less privileged.
  3. Impact on women: About 40% of women reported a change in their working patterns post-accident. While around 11% reported taking up extra work to deal with the financial crisis.

What are the reasons for the higher number of road accidents and fatality?

The reasons for road accidents in India can be categorized broadly into four categories. (i) human error, (ii) road environment and (iii) vehicular condition (iv) post accidental care-related issues.

1.Human Error: This is one of the biggest factors contributing to accidents on the road. There are many examples of human error. Such as

    • Violating traffic rules like jumping signals, overspeeding, etc.
    • Driving under the influence of alcohol and other drugs,
    • Distractions during driving due to the use of mobile phones
    • Driver Fatigue (Not getting enough rest during long-distance travel)
    • Not using enough safety devices like Helmets and wearing seat belts

2. Road Environment and design: The reasons for the accident under this category include,

    • Presence of many black spots. Black spots are road locations that have a high number of crashes. For example, Sharp corners in a straight road, a hidden junction on the fast road, etc. A survey found out that, these black spots are the prime location for 90% of the road accidents.
    • Skewed road traffic engineering: Two-wheelers accounted for the highest share in total road accidents. But their safety was neglected during road traffic engineering and planning. This is evident by the lack of separate lanes for two-wheelers and pedestrians.
    • Low-quality infrastructure, standards, and maintenance lead to issues such as potholes, uneven road surfaces, etc.

3. Vehicular condition: Vehicle condition also plays a critical role in accidents. such as,

    • Overloading of the vehicle can cause tyre burst. It also increases the chances of rolling over of the vehicles.
    • Using old vehicles might lead to more breakdowns and malfunction on roads.
    • Weak Vehicle Safety Standards by manufacturers. For example, In 2014, the Global New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP) revealed that some of India’s top-selling car models have failed the frontal impact crash test.

4. Post accidental care-related issues

    • Lack of emergency medical services: because of this, the accident victims do not get the first line of medical treatment during the golden hour. Golden Hour refers to the 60-minute time period right after the occurrence of the accident. During which, the chances to prevent death with adequate medical treatment are the highest.

How government is ensuring adequate safety on the roads?

  1. India signed the  and committed to a reduction in fatalities in road accidents.
  2. Vehicular engineering measures introduced by the government:
    • Front and side crash tests for new car models came into force in 2017
    • The government introduced the pedestrian protection regulation for new car models. It came into force in October 2018.
    • New cars are required to have airbags fitted as standard and to have a speed warning device above 80 km/h.
  3. A legislative effort by the government:
    The government amended the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, in 2019. This is one of the principal Acts used by the government in regulating road safety. The Act provided for

    • Creating a National Road Safety Board to advise the government on road and traffic management.
    • Higher fines for traffic crimes,
    • Recalling defective vehicles, dangerous for the environment and people,
    • Creating a Solatium Fund for victims of hit-and-run accidents
    •  Protects Good Samaritans from civil and criminal liability
    • Punishment to the owner for violations committed by Juvenile
    • Regulated corruption by Automated testing for driver’s licence and fitness certificate (FC)
  4. Road engineering measures are taken by the government
    • The government notified the guidelines for road safety audits on National Highways
    • Roadside Safety Crash barriers, Installing speed warning boards and other signboards were also done by the government.
    • The government also committed to reducing the Black spots in the Roads

Suggestions to improve road safety:

  1. The government has to implement the recommendations suggested in the 3-Year Action Agenda of NITI Aayog. The agenda highlighted important reforms such as
    • Standardizing the reporting of accidents
    • Create necessary provisions to ensure that the accident victim will reach hospitals within 10 minutes of the accident. This can be achieved by building emergency health services, providing enough ambulances, etc.
  2. The government can implement the important recommendations of the KS Radhakrishnan panel on Road Safety. The important recommendations were,
    • The state governments have to perform a compulsory Audit on road safety to ensure adequate safety standards in the design, construction, and maintenance of roads.
    • Creating awareness among people on road safety rules, insurance policies, etc.
    • Providing enough compensation to victims on time.
  3. The government has to implement the Tamil Nadu model of identifying and removing Black spots. Tamil Nadu recorded the highest number of accidents in 2017. But now they have reduced the total number of accidents by 25%.
  4. Dedicated corridors for vulnerable sections. The government has to provide attention to vulnerable sections like motorists and pedestrians. The government should plan dedicated corridors, especially in places registering higher accidents.
  5. The Government has to enact the Good Samaritan Laws like Karnataka or Delhi. This will protect the persons involved in helping the accident victims.
  6. The government has to improve the public transport system and its connectivity. Because an integrated public transport system is safer than motorcycles. Further, it will reduce numerous private vehicles on Indian roads.
  7. Vehicle manufacturers at present started using the Internet of Things (IoT) enabled connected cars. They can explore further in identifying digital ways on road safety and providing enough safety equipment in vehicles.

A targeted approach and war-footed steps are necessary to ensure road safety in India. Sweden, following the targeted approach, has brought down its road fatalities to five or six annually. India can also create necessary targets to reduce road accidents in India.

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