• 400 people lost their lives every day on India’s roads: Road Safety Report, 2015
  • Eighty percent of road accidents are termed “fault of the driver”, according to a 2013 analysis by the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
  • WHO - Nearly 2,00,000 people are killed in road accidents in India, second highest globally behind China
  • United Nations had promulgated the UN Decade of Action targeting to reduce road accidents by 50% by the year 2020.
  • However, the Indian roads became deadlier than ever in the year of 2016, with a total of 1.51 lakh people dying in approx. 4.81 lakh accidents.
  • Youth in the age group of 15 to 24 years comprise 33% of the total fatalities.
  • Riders on motorized 2-3 wheelers have the highest mortality rate.
  • The cost of road accidents in the country is equivalent to 3% of GDP.

Reasons for a high number of road accidents in India:

  • The boom in the automobile sector and the parallel rise of the Indian middle class has increased the volume of vehicles on the road. On the other hand, road infrastructure and standards have not improved accordingly.
  • Cases of drunk driving, rash driving, overtaking and disrespect of traffic rules have increased.
  • Not following safety standards like lane driving, traffic lights, wearing helmets and seatbelts, etc.
  • The rapid urbanization of cities and expanding their limits.
  • Legislative Issues:
    • Motor vehicles act 1988 has become outdated in terms of fines imposed, penalties, offenses, jail terms, categorization of drivers, laxity in issuing driving licenses and fixing accountability and responsibility. In this context amended MVA proposes for centralized database, graded penalty system, strict enforcement, guidelines, online approvals, suspensions and stricter jail terms for repeat offenders which is a progressive step
    • The Motor Vehicles Act is the Central law that governs rules regarding licenses but licenses, ultimately, are a State subject. For Indian commercial licenses, an applicant requires a medical certificate attesting 6/6 or normal vision whereas a private license only requires the applicant to self-certify
    • Proposed road transport safety bill should focus on road safety, widened roads, signage's at curves, speed breakers at vulnerable points, zebra crossing(a recent 3D crossing is innovative), compulsory use of helmets, fine on excessive speeding, use of airbags, compulsory recall if failing crash tests as these entities are grossly inadequate in India
  • Enforcement Issues:
    • These issues have been plagued by corruption, nepotism, vested interests, sale of the tender to unfit road contractors, issue of fraudulent and duplicate licenses, among others.
    • Road transport offices and officers let off violators and offenders with petty fines leading to increased RTA
    • Guidelines are not followed during construction leading to potholes, uneven roads, dangerous turnings and weak overbridges (e.g- recent flyover collapse in West Bengal)
    • Provisions related to ambulances, emergency response systems, resuscitation during the golden hour are not enforced properly
Measures that can be taken:
  • Various nations have lowered their road fatalities by different steps like Vision Zero in Sweden.   
  • Promote sustainable transport approach i.e. reduce the number of kilometers traveled and reduce the volume of vehicles on the road
  • Avoid-shift-improve approach can be used to this end. We should
    • Create awareness amongst people to avoid private means of transport. This can be achieved by higher road and toll taxes, sensitizing them over pollution issues.
    • Shift the traffic onto public means of transport. Multimodal transport systems with transit facilities are a good option.
    • Improve existing infrastructure in terms of speed, time, accessibility and affordability. Delhi Metro provides a great example that can be replicated.
  • Stricter norms of traffic rule especially on drunk driving, over speeding, helmets, and seatbelts. Strict challan system.
  • Identifying accident hotspots and re-engineering them especially sharp curves, traffic merging points. Building alternative expressways dedicated to particular traffic.
  • Preventing poor people from sleeping on roadsides.
  • Highway patrol units, cameras, repair shops, and medical care units at fixed distances along roads.
  • Tax incentives to manufacturers of vehicles with more safety features. But higher toll taxes and road taxes from users.
  • Planners of cities should rationalize the proposed roads and lanes as per the population demands.
  • Creating awareness amongst people towards overspeeding and rash driving by campaigning with slogans like Better late than never.
Some Innovative steps are taken:
  • Well, the Union Ministry of the Road Transport and also the Highways has launched two mobile applications which named as e-challan and m-parivahan to provide the comprehensive digital solution for enforcement of the traffic rules. In fact, these applications will provide access to the various services and information, and also enable citizens to report any traffic violation or the road accident. 
 Who are Good Samaritans?
  • People who help accident victims and take them to the hospital. They are usually harassed by hospital authorities and later by police. 
  • The government has issued a notification for the protection of Good Samaritans in the wake of the Supreme Court (SC) direction on helping accident victims
  • The Supreme Court had directed all the states to follow the Centre`s guidelines that encouraged witnesses in road accidents to report to police and also help survivors with medical treatment
  • The apex court had also directed the Centre to publish its guidelines notified last year to ensure that all those who help accident victims/survivors were not harassed by the police.
What are the guidelines?
  • Assuring them anonymity and protecting them from any civil or criminal liability for taking the victim to the nearest hospital
  • Bystanders or passers-by, who chose to help a person in distress on the road, should be “treated respectfully and without discrimination on the grounds of gender, religion, nationality, caste or any other.”
  •  Complete anonymity in case the Good Samaritan does not want to reveal his name or details, use of video-conferencing in case of any further interaction with him by the authorities and also the provision for the police to examine him at his residence or office or any place of his convenience. This should be done only once and in a time-bound manner.
Delhi Government's "Good Samaritans" Policy:
  • Well, the monetary incentive of Rs 2,000 and also appreciation certificate will be given to those people who help road accident victims in the national capital.
  • This can be replicated.
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