- On 19th November, the world commemorated the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims to provide a platform for road traffic victims and their families to remember, support and act.
- The alarming figures of loss of life in road accidents should serve as a wake-up call and there is a need for immediate, coordinated and evidence-based interventions to boost road safety and drastically reduce the daily human tragedies.
The Paradox of Indian Roads
- A Symbol of Progress and Prosperity
- India's roads symbolise a significant and expanding opportunity for the nation's progress.
- Serving as vital channels for commuting, connecting regions, and supporting transportation, these roadways play a fundamental role in the country's modernisation and economic growth.
- Yet, A Source of Silent Deadly Pandemic
- Despite the immense potential, India's roads also pose a challenge that is not easily visible; a silent but deadly pandemic.
- Like many countries, the very roads meant to drive progress become a source of danger. This paradox underscores the urgent need to address road safety issues comprehensively.
- And in this context, India has some of the greatest opportunities to build a strong road safety management framework, with strong helmet producers, car manufacturers, big tech, and large road investments.
Issue Related to the Road Safety in India
- Magnitude of the Issue
- Each year, a staggering 3,00,000 people are estimated to be killed on the road in India, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). It is equivalent to more than 34 people per hour per day.
- And it is a conservative estimate which implies that the actual numbers might be even higher, heightening the gravity of the situation.
- Human Impact
- The number of people suffering life-altering injuries in road crashes is exponentially higher even than that.
- It highlights that the consequences extend beyond fatalities including long-term physical and emotional trauma for survivors.
- Economic Consequences
- Beyond human suffering, there is a serious economic toll on country’s economy.
- Road crashes are estimated to cost between 5% and 7% of national GDP which implies that road crashes affect not only the citizens but also the put financial burden on the country.
- Disproportionate Cases in India: Road safety is a global problem, with 1.3 million people killed in road crashes every year. But almost one in every four road deaths around the world takes place in India.
Focus Areas for Better Safety
- Comprehensive Approach for Better Safety
- The improvement of road safety requires thoughtful investments in various measures.
- Therefore, recognising the financial commitment required to address safety challenges is crucial.
- Achieving better road safety requires unwavering political will at the national, state, and local levels.
- Also, it requires the government commitment across different administrative tiers.
- Collective Mindset Change
- For better safety on roads, it is important to develop a collective mindset shift regarding road safety.
- Every individual, being a road user, plays a vital role in understanding and addressing the safety challenge.
- Critical Analysis of Road Safety Report
- The acknowledgment of 2022 as the most fatal year for traffic crashes in India highlights the necessity for a critical examination.
- Understanding and confronting the scale of the road safety challenge are imperative for effective interventions.
- Seatbelt and Helmet Enforcement
- Priority areas must include enforcing the use of seatbelts not just for drivers but also for other passengers.
- Wearing a seatbelt reduces the risk of death among drivers and front-seat occupants by 45% to 50%, and the risk of death and serious injuries among rear-seat occupants by 25%.
- Similarly, helmet use must be enforced among motorcyclists as well as their pillion passengers. Correct helmet use can lead to a 42% reduction in the risk of fatal injuries.
- Focus on Vulnerable Road Users
- Vulnerable road users, who include pedestrians, cyclists and the riders of two-wheelers, account for almost three quarters of road deaths in India and recognising this vulnerability is essential.
- These groups require targeted safety measures.
- Address Risky Behaviours: Speeding and Drink-Driving
- A recent report by the Government revealed that speeding led to 70% of India’s road crash deaths.
- Therefore, prioritising the reduction of speeding is crucial for preventing road crash deaths.
- Also, a zero-tolerance approach to drink-driving is imperative, given its significant contribution to road accidents.
- Road Infrastructure Enhancement: Although government programmes in recent years have led to rapid improvements, road infrastructure should be enhanced because too many roads are not in a safe condition.
- Public Awareness Programmes for Behavioural Change
- Large-scale public awareness campaigns such as the new UN global campaign for road safety #MakeASafetyStatement, involving international celebrities, must be undertaken to secure behavioural changes.
- The SDGs include a target (3.6) to halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road crashes and a call (11.2) to make public transport safer, more affordable, and more accessible to all.
Steps Taken Towards Improving Road Safety in India
- Implementation of Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019
- The implementation of the Act and enhanced data collection from road crashes are crucial steps toward improving road safety.
- Having accurate and comprehensive data is essential for understanding the root causes of accidents and developing effective strategies to reduce them.
- Adoption of Modern Technology: Such as intelligent traffic management systems, by police in major cities like New Delhi, can significantly contribute to better traffic regulation and, in turn, minimise the potential for loss of life.
- Implementation of UN Helmet Programme: The initiative to produce low-cost (under $20) ventilated UN standard helmets is commendable. Access to affordable, high-quality helmets is vital for promoting motorcycle safety.
- Whole-of-Society Effort: Private sector companies are searching for solutions but there cannot be success without a whole-of-society effort to improve road safety. But we are still only at the start of the journey.
- Adaptation of International Best Practices to Local Needs: India needs to look increasingly at international best practices and successes and then adapt them to India’s specific needs and circumstances.
- Comprehensive Safe System Approach: There is a need for a comprehensive safe-system approach as envisaged in the UN’s Second Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030, and full implementation of the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act 2019.
- Road safety is a complex and multi-dimensional challenge, but the benefits that come with addressing it can be equally profound.
- Ending the silent pandemic of road injuries will not only save lives but also strengthen the economy and improve the quality of life for everyone.