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Road safety

Fatal road accidents on Indian roads continue to paint a grim picture of road safety in the country.

Road safety

Sentinel Digital Desk

Fatal road accidents on Indian roads continue to paint a grim picture of road safety in the country. With an increasing number of vehicles added every year, improving road safety has become an urgent necessity. A World Bank report reveals that even though India accounts for one per cent of total vehicles in the world, the country accounts for 11% of global deaths in road accidents. Official data show that the country records over 4.5 lakh road accidents in which about 1.5 lakh people die and about 4.5 lakh people are injured every year. The last year witnessed a decline of total accidents to 3.66 lakh and deaths to around 1.37 lakh but rushing to a conclusion will be erroneous as this decline can be attributed to lockdown and partial lockdown restricting the movement of vehicles due to COVID-19 for a significant period. Over speeding, poor enforcement of road safety norms and safety standards of vehicles are the primary reasons behind high casualties in the country, which calculates, according to the World Bank report, 53 road crashes every hour and killing one person in every four minutes.

The steady rise in the number of fatal accidents is a cause of concern for all stakeholders but the hard reality is that despite knowing the reasons the country has not been able to do much about it. The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways report "Road Accidents in India -2019" highlighted the issue of a disproportionate share of the National and State highways in fatal accidents. The National Highways and State Highways account for about 5% of the total road length but accounts for disproportionately large shares of 61% of accident-related deaths. Other roads which constitute about 95% of the total road length were responsible for the balance of 39% of deaths. Two-wheelers account for 35% of total road accident deaths on National Highways falling under the National Highway Authority of India, followed by cars, taxis, and light motor vehicles (18.6%) and pedestrians (14%), trucks of (10.7%), buses while the share of bicycles is the least at (2.9%). Young adults in the age group of 18-45 years account for nearly 69.3 per cent of road accident victims while the working-age group of 18 – 60 account for 84.3 per cent of the total road accident deaths which says a lot about the vulnerability of the working age group on Indian roads due to lack of required safety standards. About 30% of deaths are attributed to non-use of helmets and 14% of deaths are attributed to non-use of the seat belt which not only exposes failure on the part of the authorities to enforce mandatory helmet and seat belt wearing but also reflects the poor level of awareness on road safety among vehicle users, pillion riders. Over speeding is a major killer, accounting for 67.3% of the persons killed followed by driving on the wrong side of the road which accounted for 6.1% of the accident-related deaths. The use of mobile phones accounted for 3.3% of the deaths with drunken driving accounting for 3.5% of the persons killed, according to the report. Vehicles for more than 10 years accounted for 41% of accident-related deaths which speaks volumes about safety standards of overage vehicles on highways and authorities looking the other way. The problem of accidents caused by reckless driving has only one answer – strict enforcement of related rules under the Motor Vehicles Act.

The reckless drivers not only put their own lives in danger but also pose a threat to the lives of others and must be disciplined by the authorities. The Ministry's report has held out the mirror to the eight North-eastern states on the status of road safety in the region. Even though the region presently accounts for nearly 2.4 per cent of the total road accidents in the country the share of the North-eastern states in accidents has constantly increased from 1.9 % in 2015 to 2.4 % in 2019. This calls for immediate measures by the states in the region to put in place an effective safety regime before the situation worsens further. Of the total 8350 road accidents which occurred in 2019 in Assam, 3019 were fatal, 4217 were grievous injury accidents against 2,445 fatal accidents in 2016 which shows how roads in the state have become increasingly unsafe. Apart from the loss of lives, road accidents cause a huge economic burden for the country. A study commissioned by the Ministry projects loss to the tune of Rs 5.9 lakh crore on account of medical expense, loss of income that calculates to 3.1% of India's Gross Domestic Product. Improvement in road safety will not only save lives but will also make an available significant share of this amount for strengthening the economy besides reducing the burden on hospitals and freeing the beds for patients suffering from various ailments. Roads must be made safer to prevent accidents.

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