Road Safety

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    In News

    • The United Nations held a high-level meeting on Global Road Safety to review the progress and challenges and a new analytical series on road safety was recently published in The Lancet.

    Key Highlight of the report

    • Routinely wearing helmets and seat belts, obeying speed limits, and avoiding driving drunk could save between 347,000 and 540,000 lives worldwide every year.
      • The benefits of more motorcyclists wearing helmets would be the biggest in China, where 13,703 lives could be saved every year, followed by Brazil (5,802 lives), and India (5,683 lives)
    • Analysis of data from 74 studies in 185 countries estimates that targeting four key risk factors for road injuries and deaths could prevent between 25% and 40% of all fatal road injuries worldwide every year.
      • Four key risk factors: speeding, drink driving, and non-use of crash helmets and seat belts
    • Interventions to reduce speeding such as infrastructure changes and electronic speed control could save an estimated 347,258 lives globally each year.
      • Tackling speeding would be the single most effective measure to reduce road fatalities in most countries, preventing an estimated 88,374 deaths in China, 1,027 in Spain, and 815 in the United Kingdom.
    • Measures to tackle drunk driving such as enhanced drink driving enforcement could save a further 16,304 lives.

    Causes of Road Accidents

    Speeding:

    • An increase in average speed is directly related both to the likelihood of a crash occurring and to the severity of the consequences of the crash.

    Driving under the influence of alcohol: 

    • Driving under the influence of alcohol and any psychoactive substance or drug increases the risk of a crash that results in death or serious injuries.

    Nonuse of motorcycle helmets, seat-belts, and child restraints:

    • Correct helmet use can lead to a 42% reduction in the risk of fatal injuries and a 69% reduction in the risk of head injuries.

    Distracted driving:

    • There are many types of distractions that can lead to impaired driving. The distraction caused by mobile phones is a growing concern for road safety.

    Unsafe road infrastructure:

    • The design of roads can have a considerable impact on their safety. Ideally, roads should be designed keeping in mind the safety of all road users. 

    Inadequate post-crash care:

    • Delays in detecting and providing care for those involved in a road traffic crash increase the severity of injuries

    Inadequate law enforcement of traffic laws:

    • If traffic laws on drink-driving, seat-belt wearing, speed limits, helmets, and child restraints are not enforced, they cannot bring about the expected reduction in road traffic fatalities and injuries related to specific behaviours. 

    Impact of Road Accidents

    Physical effect of car accidents:

    • The more severe physical injuries associated with a car accident commonly include brain and head trauma such as a traumatic brain injury, neck injuries such as whiplash, neck strains, or disk damage, and back or spine injuries such as sprains, strains, fractures, or disk injuries.
    • Physical injuries that are associated with long-term effects are usually permanent disabilities such as amputations, paralysis etc.

    Emotional effect of car accidents:

    • Some injuries are not immediately apparent after an accident, but regardless of when an injury first appears, it can have a long-term effect. 
    • One of the areas in which accident injuries typically are long lasting is those related to psychological or emotional trauma.
    • The mental and emotional injuries after a car accident can include mental anguish, emotional distress, fear, anger, humiliation,etc.
    • Studies indicate that one-third of those individuals involved in a nonfatal accident continue to have the above-mentioned symptoms of emotional trauma a year after the accident including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and phobias

    Social effect: 

    • The social consequences of road traffic accidents include loss of productivity of the victims, the cost of the legal system, the cost of pain and suffering and loss of quality of life of the victim and their family.

    Economic effect: 

    • A new World Bank study, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, finds that reducing road traffic deaths and injuries could result in substantial long-term income gains for low- and middle-income countries. 

    Challenges in ensuring road safety

    Lack of apex national body for road safety:

    • According to the Sundar Committee there is no apex national body for road safety, and no fixing decentralised responsibility at the district level.

    Lack of a technically competent investigation arm:

    • The Sundar Committee pointed out that India lacked a technically competent investigation arm that could determine the cause of accidents

    Enforcement issue:

    • The MV Act stipulates only a fine up to one lakh for failure to follow norms and stipulations by the designated authority, contractor, consultant or concessionaire, leading to death or disability, and there is little evidence that even this has been enforced after a public inquiry.

    Legislation without enforcement:

    • Legislation without enforcement ends in failure. 
    • This is evident  in fast growing India, since no single department bears responsibility to make roads safe

    Laws and Initiatives

    Brasilia Declaration:

    • The Brasilia Declaration, adopted at the second global high-level conference on road safety held in Brazil, lays down recommendations on strengthening existing legislations, adopting sustainable transport and strengthening post-crash response.
    • In the declaration, participants reasserted their commitment to reduce the deaths caused due to traffic accidents to half by the year 2020. 
    • This target was set under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
    • Citing its importance for traffic safety, the declaration promotes sustainable commuting ways and prioritises pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.

     Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act:

    • Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act is an attempt to create an exhaustive and comprehensive legislative framework for road safety in India. 
    • The Act increases the penalties for several offences. The minimum fine for being caught driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs has been increased from ?2,000 to ?10,000 and for rash driving; it has been increased from ?1,000 to ?5,000.
    • The Act instructs the central government to develop a scheme to provide cashless medical treatment to people injured in road accidents within the first hour of its occurrence.
    • The Act also incorporates the Good Samaritan guidelines which were issued by the Ministry of Road Transport and given the force of law by the Supreme Court on March 30, 2016, in their entirety. 

    Source: PIB