India has still to get a good grip on road safety

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India has still to get a good grip on road safety

  • Ministry of Road Transport and Highways had participated in a conference in Sweden in 2020 — the Third High Level Global Conference on Road Safety for Achieving Global Goals 2030’ — where it was conceptualised to have zero road fatalities in India by 2030.
  • In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly, after considering the alarming situation of road accidents fatalities, adopted the Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 aimed at reducing fatalities in road accidents by 50% by the year 2020, and was accepted by much of the world including India.

Significance of Road Safety

  • In terms of traffic share and contribution to the national economy, road transport is India's most popular means of transportation.
  • The number of cars and the length of the road network have risen throughout time to accommodate the demand for road transportation.
  • The increase in road accidents and fatalities is a negative externality of the country's expanding road network, motorization, and urbanisation.
  • Road traffic injuries are one of the most common causes of mortality, disability, and hospitalisation in the country, resulting in significant socioeconomic expenses.

Consequence of lack of road safety

  • Road traffic accidents are the main cause of death and disability in India.
  • According to the age profile of road accident victims in 2016, the productive age range of 18 to 35 years accounts for 46.3 percent of all road accident deaths, while the age group of 18-45 years accounts for 68.6 percent.
  • India loses 3 percent of its GDP owing to traffic accidents, most of which are avoidable.

Court directives with regard to road safety

  • The Court on November 30, 2017, issued a number of directives with regard to road safety that, inter alia, included
  • the constitution of a State Road Safety Council, establishment of lead agency, the setting up of road safety fund, not- ification of a road safety action plan,
  • the constitution of a district road safety committee, engineering improvements, the identification and rectification of black spots,
  • the adoption of traffic calming measures, conducting road safety audits,
  • the acquisition of road safety equipment,
  • the establishment of trauma care centres and the inclusion of road safety education in the academic curriculum of schools.


  • The Motor Vehicles (MV) Act of 1988 was partially amended in August 2019, and some of the amended and new sections which made traffic violations more stringent, came into effect from September 1, 2019. However, most States did not increase the corresponding compounding traffic violations fee.
  • The enforcement manpower that is available is insufficient to deal with the steadily increasing volume of traffic.
  • There are inadequate funds for the rectification of black spots and the undertaking of traffic calming measures. Though more than 60% road accidents reportedly take place because of over-speeding, ‘speed limit’ sign boards are rarely seen or found even on State highways and major roads.
  • Most drivers, conductors, and other staff in transport companies (except for government corporations) do not get benefits of the organised sector. They draw a meagre salary, usually do not have a weekly off and are most often forced to work overtime, and
  • Perhaps the most challenging task — is to improve the driving skills of drivers and change the casual attitude of other road users towards road safety.

Step which need to be taken: Improving data collection

  • The accident data collection format of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, and now a part of the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems (CCTNS) of the police, is quite cumbersome (it requires about 60 fields to be filled up).
  • This process of data collection is quite time consuming but it is essential to identify the true cause of an accident and take remedial measures.
  • Similarly, the main objective of the recent iRAD (Integrated Road Accident Database) Project, an initiative of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, funded by the World Bank, and under implementation, is to enrich the accident database and improve road safety in the country by collecting data from different stakeholders using the iRAD mobile and web application.

Brasilia declaration on road safety

  • At the Second Global High-Level Conference on Road Safety, held in Brazil, the declaration was signed.
  • The Brasilia Declaration aims to help countries achieve Sustainable Development Goal 3.6: Reduce the number of people killed or injured in road traffic accidents by half by 2020.
  • The United Nations has also defined the decade of action for road safety to be 2010-2020.

Way forward

  • A number of steps have been taken by the Centre and States to improve the road safety scenario in the country.
  • Lives cannot be lost at the cost of poor enforcement of traffic laws.
  • However, unless the States and the Centre are on the same page in improving and strengthening the infrastructure of States by enabling more funds, merely and only fixing targets will not be a pragmatic approach to reduce road accident fatalities.