Road Safety in India

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    • Recently, according to the data received from police departments of all states/UTs as many as 5.82 lakh people lost their lives in accidents in four years up to 2020 while the number of deaths has decreased down the years.

    Data on road accidents

    • Deaths in 2020: As many as 47,984 people on National Highways, including expressways.
    • Deaths in 2019: 53,872 people died due to road accidents on National Highways, including expressways.

    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.
    • 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. 
    • Issue of Black Spots: 
      • Total black spots identified on National Highways based on the data during the period from the year 2016 to 2018 is 5,803
      • In road safety management, an accident blackspot or black spot is a place where road traffic accidents have historically been concentrated.
    • Lack of infrastructure:
      • The absence of over bridges, underpasses and alternative roads for village traffic means that speeding vehicles compete with slow-moving farm and rural traffic.
    • Lack of long-term master plans: 
      • Most cities do not have long-term master plans for transport and traffic. Ad hoc and non-uniform solutions to local road situations are common.

    Implications of Road accidents

    • High fatality rate: The fatality rates are high in many cities in the subcontinent. India has the dubious distinction of accounting for 6% of the world’s road deaths while having just 1% of the world’s vehicles.
    • The high degree of air pollution: There is also a growing concern over the high degree of air pollution in Indian cities. It is evident that most pollution is caused by motor vehicles.
    • Increased congestion: The growing trend toward private transportation increases congestion. The way to avoid congestion is to travel by mass transport or railways.
    • Social sphere: This concerns job losses and the related financial hardships, loss of amenity and a fatal impact on the functioning of the whole family.
    • Psychological impact: We should not forget that the psychological impact of the consequences of road traffic accidents does not only affect the direct participants but also their families.

    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 the responsibility to make roads safe.

    Government initiatives

    • Guidelines: Ministry has issued guidelines for improving road safety through safety audits at all stages such as the design stage, construction stage and O&M stage by engaging independent road safety experts.
    • Advisory to states to create a pool of trained drivers: Taking into account the continuous rise in requirement for transportation of liquid oxygen (LOX), an extended period of oxygen management, adding to the inventory of cryogenic tankers and high fatigue rate due to 24X7 operations.
      • The ministry issued an advisory to states to create a pool of trained drivers for transporting hazardous cargo.
    • e-FIR and State Citizen Service Portals: Five states/UTs, namely Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh have provided the facility of online filing of e-FIR for complaints of theft of vehicles, mobile phones and documents where accused are unknown, through their State Citizen Service Portals.
    • Bharatmala Pariyojana: is a new umbrella program for the highways sector that focuses on optimising the efficiency of freight and passenger movement across the country by bridging critical infrastructure gaps.
    • Monetize public-funded National Highway (NH) projects: This Model would provide an efficient Operation and Maintenance (O&M) framework requiring reduced involvement of NHAI in projects post construction completion.
    • Vehicle Scrapping Policy: Older vehicles pollute the environment 10 to 12 times more than fit vehicles and pose a risk to road safety.
    • Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act:
      • The 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. 

    Various conventions on Road Safety

    The 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 legislation, adopting sustainable transport and strengthening the post-crash response.

    United Nations Road Safety Collaboration

    • It is an informal consultative mechanism whose goal is to facilitate international cooperation and strengthen global and regional coordination among UN agencies and other international partners to implement UN General Assembly Resolutions on road safety.

    Stockholm Declaration

    • The Stockholm Declaration is ambitious and forward-looking which connects road safety to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

    The International Road Assessment Programme (iRAP)

    • It is a registered charity dedicated to saving lives through safer roads.

    UN Global Road Safety Week

    • It is celebrated every two years highlighting the need for strong leadership for road safety.

    Way Forward

    • Multi-pronged strategy: The Transport Ministry has formulated a multi-pronged strategy to address the issue of road safety based on education, engineering – both of roads and vehicles, enforcement, and emergency care.
    • Awareness: the Ministry undertakes various publicity measures and awareness campaigns on road safety through social media, electronic media, and print media.
    • India needs to aim for safe and sustainable road systems: Research and development have proved that a range of interventions exists to prevent crashes and injury.
    • Rules in books to be implemented: India has many good intentions, rules and statutes on its books but the gap between what is known to be effective and what is actually practised on the ground is often wide.
    • A commitment to injury prevention is lacking: Mobile ambulance and curative health services are no substitute for prevention.
    • Effective management: As with all public health approaches, road injury prevention requires effective management to put in place sustainable and evidence-based measures and overcome obstacles to implementing safe practices.
    • Road injury surveillance system: India does not seem to have a road injury surveillance system.
      • Under-reporting of road injuries is common and hides a major public health problem; police and health data only provide partial accounts of the magnitude and nature of the issues.
    • Need for accurate data collection systems: There is a need for accurate data collection systems. These will aid in planning interventions and designing better and more appropriate road systems.
    • Periodic fitness certification: Periodic fitness certification for all motorised vehicles, universalisation of road signs and enforcement of law and safety regulations are crucial.
    • Zero tolerance towards underage drivers: We should have zero tolerance for underage drivers. India needs to consider severe penalties for violations; cumulative penalties for recurrent infringements should result in temporary withdrawal of licences or a permanent ban on driving.
    • Strategies from developed countries can be adopted: Along with that, there is also a need to study the local context and implement relevant interventions and plans to improve road safety.

    Source: BS