“More people die of road accidents than by most diseases, so much so the Indian highways are among the top killers of the country”
Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer.
This is an important year from the road safety point of view because the year 2021 marked the beginning of the second Decades of Actions for Road Safety (2021-2030)by the United Nations on the conclusion of the first Decades of Action for Safety (2011-2020) to fulfilled the target 3.6 of United Nations SDG-3.
For the first time, the Government of India celebrated the “Road Safety Month – 2021” with the themes: Sadak Suraksha- Jeevan Raksha from 18th January to 17th February to increase awareness about road safety.
In today’s scenario, road transport has become an integral part of every human being. Everyone is a road user in one shape or the other. The present transport system has minimized the distances but it has, on the other hand, increased the life risk. Every year road crashes result in the loss of lakhs of lives and serious injuries to crores of people across the globe. If we look at the road accidents scenario in India the picture is quite unpleasant and required an aggressive, outcome-oriented, holistic approach to reduced the fatal road crashes, and if the crash took place then to minimize the severity of the crash. As per the data from the Ministry of Road Transport and Highway, about 80,000 people are killed in road crashes every year which is thirteen percent of the total fatality all over the world, and many more injured in road accidents related crashes. The man behind the wheel plays an important role in most of the crashes. In most cases crashes occur either due to carelessness or due to lack of road safety awareness of the road user and another factor that sometimes contribute to the accident is the mentality of drivers in believing that they are the best driver and will not make any mistake but actually, that may not be true. Hence, road safety education is as essential as any other basic skills of survival.
In India, the total number of roads accidents has decreased in the last decade from 497686 in 2011 to 449002 in 2019 which resulted in a decrease in total road accidents per lakhs from 41.15 accidents per lakh in 2011 to 32.86 accidents per lakh in 2019 but the worrying factor is that the fatal crashes leading to the death have increase from 142485 in 2011 to 151113 in 2019 which even though resulted in slit decrease in the death per lakhs from 11.78 in 2011 to 11.06 in 2019, this primarily because of increase in population. One of the arguments given for the increase in road accidents fatality rate is that the total length of high-speed road (highway) has increased significantly in the last decade from around 70,000 km in 2011 to 132,500 km in 2019 and that has resulted in increasingly high severity crash due to high-speed movement. But that should not be the case we should be focussing not only on the fast and efficient roads but also the safe road.
If we compare the lives lost due to Covid-19 in India so far and due to road accidents. Around 154000 life lost due to Covid-19 so far in India which are little over the lives lost due to road accidents in a year (151113 death due to road accidents in 2019) and the response to the Covid-19 has been very aggressive with a clear will to reduce the fatalities and defeat this virus, we may need same determination and will to reduce and mitigate the life lost due to road accidents in India.
The statistical accidents analysis suggests that the main causes of road accidents in India are rapid urbanization, poor safety, lack of traffic rule enforcement and violation by people, distracted drivers, the influence of drugs and alcohol, speeding, and a failure to wear seat-belts or helmets. This suggests that there is very little awareness in public about the serious consequences of not driving safely and following the traffic rule. Along with these main causes of road accidents inadequate and poor road infrastructure (like not having street lights) also contribute to road crashes. Though the implementation of road safety audit and amended motor vehicle act having some effect on the reduction of road accidents but in the long term road safety education and awareness will have a significant impact when people are aware of the benefit of following traffic rule while traveling on the road and taking all the necessary precautions.
Neeraj Kumar Verma