What Makes India World Number 1 in Road Accidents?

Posted on January 6, 2010 in Society

A few days back, while surfing the net, I came across a shocking statement: Road fatalities are expected to become the world’s fifth largest killer by 2030, thousands of times more than terrorism or rail/air accidents.

According to the World Health Organizations’ Global Status report on road safety, more people die in road accidents in India than anywhere else in the world. It is shameful, considering the fact that even China has less road accident related deaths even though it is the world’s most populated country. If you say it’s unfair to compare on the basis of population, here’s a little fact for you:

“90% of deaths on the world’s roads occur in low and middle-income countries (21.5 and 19.5 per lakh of population, respectively) though they have just 48% of all registered vehicles.”

It is said that at least 13 people are injured every hour in India due to road accidents. The number of accidents per 1000 vehicles in India is as high as 35 while the figure ranges from 4 to 10 in developed countries. The state governments keep pushing the centre for more roads and highways but themselves do extremely little to make these safer. Let’s examine why we are leading in this field, a dubious distinction indeed.

In my opinion, both the people and the authorities are to blame. We Indians just don’t follow rules. Let’s admit the hard fact-It’s our mindset that needs to change. Foot over bridges just don’t seem to apply to us. I have seen people cross the road even under foot over bridges.

Next in line is the RTA. It’s amazing but one of my friends from Baroda got his license even without appearing for a test. The RTA happens to be one of the most corrupt departments. Here in AP, you can get a car license by appearing only for a bike test and vice versa. This is from my personal experience as I got both my car and bike license by only qualifying the car test. (Not that I don’t know how to drive a bike, but you get the point.) All these lead to unqualified drivers who are adept at flouting rules when it comes to driving. You may argue that one can become better driver with but you can’t learn all the road rules by practicing driving.

The next important point is the condition of the Indian roads. The Americans did not build their highways just like that. It was built after a careful study of the German highways-The Autobahns. The same can be applied to India with suitable modifications for our domestic conditions. Most Indian roads don’t have separate lanes for buses or non motorized vehicles. This is a basic necessity. Roads in US even have a separate emergency lane. We need to have scientific traffic engineering which forms the basis of road safety improvement.

Light punishment for drivers who are caught speeding and drunken driving remains yet another cause for increasing road accidents. The judgement from high profile cases like the infamous BMW road-kill case fails to improve the situation. ‘If you can’t beat them, scare them’ must be the motto for the authorities. This is the only these people can be discouraged. A huge overhaul is needed in terms of technology to catch these offenders. CCTVs in all major traffic junctions can be the first step in this area.

It’s high time we change our attitude and the authorities change theirs. The Delhi commonwealth games 2010 can be a good stepping stone for this. Or else, Delhi must be ready for thousands of foreigners appalled by the condition of Indian roads and traffic.

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The writer is the Andhra Pradesh correspondent at Youth Ki Awaaz

photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vm2827/762984870/


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