IRF wants state governments to come forward to reduce fatal road accidents

India accounts for 10 per cent of the total 1.3 million road accident fatalities worldwide despite having only one per cent of the world’s vehicle population. About 1.38 lakh people were killed in around 4.9 lakh road accidents in the year 2012.

K.K. Kapila, Chairman,
Internatioal Road FEderation
The estimates of the Planning Commission and the World Bank have put social cost of accidents between 2 to 3 per cent of the GDP every year. The Nation is losing more than Rs. 1 lakh crore a year because of road accidents, and this is besides the loss of human life and trauma.

India is a signatory to the United Nation’s Decade of Action plan for Road Safety across the world which aims to reduce road fatalities by 50% by the year 2020. Indian government has since realized the gravity of this epidemic and has taken some meaningful initiatives in the recent past.

In a welcome move, for the first time in political history of India, a party has included road safety and the commitment to reduce deaths due to road crashes in its political manifesto. Congress Party promised a “strong willed political commitment” to reduce fatalities by 50% in the next five years in its Lok Sabha manifesto and IRF has welcomed it.

In its manifesto, Congress promised to launch a “National Road Transport Safety Programme.” It added that the programme will make every possible effort to change the road safety culture while establishing clear road safety norms. Global agencies involved in road safety have blamed lack of policies and enforcement as the main reasons behind increasing road fatalities in the country. IRF expects other National parties to also include this issue in their respective manifesto’s.

The Country needs huge commitment to reduce fatal road accidents. IRF, on its part, is dedicated to making roads safer refusing to accept the loss of life and limbs at the cost of mobility. It will continue with the efforts to reduce road accident fatalities through engaging with larger communities and stakeholders in various awareness activities on road safety to encourage everyone to join hands in making roads safer. 

Several measures towards improving road safety including much awaited amendment in the Motor Vehicle Act (MVA), improvements in roads from engineering perspective, road safety audits in all stages of road construction, beginning right from the planning stage, besides identification and remedy of black spots which account for almost 90% of road fatalities in India.

The Motor Vehicle Act (MVA) Amendment bill, which has been already cleared by the Rajya Sabha, provisions of appropriate penalties, accompanied by public awareness of the laws are critical factors that is expected to help in reducing road traffic injuries and deaths. The Bill (Motor Vehicle Amendment Bill) when cleared and becomes effective, will ensure that the traffic rule violators end up paying hefty penalties – almost 10 times more than what they pay now – for offences such as over speeding and drunken driving. The Bill seeks to raise compensation for death resulting from a hit and run accident to Rs one lakh and Rs 50,000 for the injured in such incidents. It will help in strengthening Road safety Legislation which will play a very important role in making the country’s roads safer.

Some of the recent initiatives taken by the central government and the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) include – allowing Member of Parliament (MP) to use their Local Area Development Fund for works including constructing road under bridges at railway crossings, as well as on Highways which has habitation on either sides, foot over bridges for crossing railway tracks as well as heavily trafficked roads, road diversions, footpath and pedestrian ways and segregated cycle tracks. All these activities are aimed at reducing accidents and fatalities.

During the last budget Financial year 2012-13, the Union Government had allowed income tax exemption on 50% of the amount that people and entities contribute for road safety activities. Extending to it 100 per cent tax exemption, will further help motivate people to donate generously for road safety activities. MoRTH has taken up this matter with the Ministry of Finance at the Minister level. MoRT&H, in the budgetary provisions for the States has allowed states to use 10 % of road construction funds on engineering measures for road safety. Road Ministry, in association with State Police Authorities has whole heartedly supported the IRF initiative of making bicycles conspicuous by affixing free retro reflective tapes on bi-cycles in Delhi and other destinations across the nation. 

The Government has set a five-year target for reversing the accident growth rate to negative. The measures to check fatal road accidents include improving road engineering, adding public transport with inbuilt safety features, providing separate cycle lanes to the extent possible, construction of lay byes on highways after every 50 kilometers with proper signages, providing for resting areas, eating joints, petrol pumps and other basic facilities, rest rooms and communication facilities , thus improving public transport system. Ministry of Urban Development has already provided more than 10,000 buses to various major cities in the country.

The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has agreed to introduce Road Safety in a subtle way through various subjects of their existing curriculum thus not further burdening the students with new subjects. This introduction has been done within the existing curriculum of subjects like English, Hindi, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies in Delhi besides other States following NCERT curriculum. This initiative is also being taken up with other States.

IRF has also suggested Road safety audits on state road networks by the state government. Worldwide road safety audits are done to reduce road accidents, the audit includes improving the fault of road design which is major cause of road accidents. IRF can help in training road safety auditors as it has already trained more than 250 road auditors till date in the country.

Some of the suggestions made by IRF to the Central and state governments include setting up of fully equipped trauma care centres for accident victims in hospitals linked with major highways in the state as proper medical care administered in time to accident victims can save lives. Appropriate road signs providing information about these trauma centres with phone numbers should be put on all highways and major roads. State government should also ensure that any person helping accident victims should not be harassed by police as per Supreme court directions. IRF has further suggested that all heavy motor vehicle drivers should be trained in first aid trauma care. This will work out as a very effective way to provide immediate assistance to accident victims. Since, a bus or truck is likely to pass the accident site within the shortest possible time and if the driver is equipped to assist, he will be able to save life of accident victims. Besides, it will make these drivers more sensitive towards safe driving.

The other suggestions include enforcement of traffic rules and provisions of Motor Vehicle Act 1988 Enforcement of these rules include wearing of helmet, use of reflective tapes by tricks and buses, mandatory fitment of side and rear under run protection in trucks and buses and strict action against over loading of vehicles.

IRF thanks Mr. Vijay Chhibber, Secretary MoRTH for leading these initiatives ably assisted by Mr. V.L. Patankar, DGRD&SS and Mr. Sanjay Bandopadhyaya, Joint Secretary, MoRT&H for bringing in new initiatives for road safety.