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Road Safety in India: Why it is a Bumpy Ride

The biggest concern for an engineer in maintaining a good road is the bad drainage systems which leads to flooding and stagnant water on roads which in turn makes it difficult to do any kind of repairs on road

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Road safety in India has been a neglected concern amidst the rapid development of urban areas, implementation of new traffic policies and awareness programmes. Road safety and traffic issues has been a topic of discussion for the longest time now, however, how much impact it does for any Indian citizen still remains a question.

Inadequacy of public infrastructure like well-maintained roads is a serious reason that leads to this situation of dangerous confusions on road. Why is it a bumpy ride when we are on our roads? According to a data compiled by Road Transport Ministry of India, approximately around 10,876 accidents were reported last year that was caused due to potholes or bad roads in in the country. The figures are approximate as many cases gets settled outside the court of law and sometimes there is no detailed investigation into causes of road deaths.

A single authority cannot be blamed alone for the poor conditions of our road. The biggest concern for an engineer in maintaining a good road is the bad drainage systems which leads to flooding and stagnant water on roads which in turn makes it difficult to do any kind of repairs on road. Over loaded vehicles also makes it impossible to carry out these repairs. Now what leads to bad drainage system, it is the illegal construction of building with no proper sewage plants. All these complemented with the undisciplined behavior of individuals on road lead to mishaps.

Second is maintaining the roads - Speed breakers accounted for 2.2 per cent (11,084 road accidents) and 2.3 per cent. Illegal speed breakers is a major killer in India, we are on the wrong assumption that when an accident happened quickly an hump is constructed in an non standardized way and this is totally illegal to construct in national and state highways. The third is Illegal Medial cuts for restaurants and tea shops across the roads or to make quick access to their area. In Urban areas, the problem is totally different; the neatly paved roads are dug for some electrical wiring or water supply pipe repairs and the hole is not filled and paved thereafter, which creates a big obstruction in the traffic flow.

It may be seen that the maximum number of accidents occurred at uncontrolled areas which caused 1,66,158 accidents with a share of (67.6 percent) in total road accidents. But still controlled area contributes close to 35% of accidents, location of these 35 % are Traffic Light Signal, Police Controlled, Stop Sign, Flashing Signal/Blinker. In India the trucks commercial vehicle also carry people which are supposed to carry goods that is also one of the major cause and Accidents Caused due to Over-Loading/Over-Crowding/Load Protruding 77116 accidents - no proper check and enforcement

Globally, road safety is evaluated by the number of crashes and their consequences in terms of deaths, serious injuries and economic loss to nations. Logically, therefore, to improve safety, the factual causes of crashes should be known.

The official Indian Accident Statistics shows that the number of road accidents and fatalities are one of the highest worldwide. To get the complete overview about the traffic safety status in India, it is also necessary to get information about accidents. An interesting report about Road Traffic Injury Prevention in India lists a few root causes for under-reporting:

o    Agreement between individuals involved in a crash is often found to be a suitable method between the parties, as involving police would lead to additional costs.
o    Individuals do not feel the need to report to police unless the injury is serious.
o    Individuals provided care by general practitioners, nursing homes and smaller health care institutions are not reported to police to avoid harassment and legal complications.
o    Limited manpower and facilities among police often make reporting very difficult.
o    As there is no reporting practice on all deaths and injuries to any single agency from all healthcare institutions, information is not totally available within the health sector.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 1,40,000 people were killed and an estimated 2 million were seriously injured in road crashes across India in 2015. Statistics show that globally more than a million people die due to road accidents every year and if we do not do anything about it by 2020, this figure will double. Thus, the UN has announced 2011-2020 as the 'Decade of Action for Road Safety' with an aim to reduce fatalities by 50%. Five pillars have been identified by the UN to achieve this target - road safety management, safer roads and mobility, safer road users, post-crash response and safer vehicles.

Meanwhile, India accounts for 10% of the global road crash fatalities - with an average of one fatality every 3.5 minutes, one of the highest in the world. The increasing economics in India has an enormous growth of its road traffic. Approximately 43% of the fatalities are powered by two-wheeler riders and car occupants. We are yet to adopt a system of scientific investigation and analysis of road crashes. In my opinion, here are the five greatest contributors to road accidents and the top three challenges that India is facing:

Five Greatest Contributors to Road Accidents in India
"    Enforcement of legislations and implementation on the same pan India is a challenge (such as helmet usage and seat belt wearing rates).
"    Non-availability of proper data recording system in India and the lack of cooperation between various agencies (hospitals, police and the government) in sharing information is also a challenge. Bringing various stakeholders like the Government, Police, National Highway authority of India(NHAI), Ministry of road transport (MORTH), automotive component manufacture association (ACMA), Auto manufacturers (OEMs), NGOs, Local Municipality, Hospitals , Emergency medical services etc, on the common understanding is a mammoth task
"    Test for crash-worthiness regulations are missing in India - currently crash test regulations -BNVSAP is on the way; it has to be accelerated.
"    Proper usage of the relevant technologies for Indian driver/rider behavior.
"    Training a person to drive and the process of obtaining a driver's license should be digitized

Top Three Challenges for India
"    Education & Awareness - Lack of safety awareness among people - helmet and seatbelt usage, over-speeding, improper overtaking, rash and negligent driving, driving under the influence of alcohol, non-adherence to the traffic rules, driving in the wrong lanes, overloading of trucks, transporting people in trucks, overload of people in auto rickshaws, illegal modification of the vehicle by adding extra attachments, - such as bull bar, bumper guard, etc.
"    Infrastructure - Poor and unscientifically designed roads - parameters like visibility, alignment of intersection of roads, removal of blind spots, clear marking and road sign warnings as per the standards
"    Vehicle - Non-usage of proper safety standards like Airbags, antilock braking system ABS, electronic stability control ESP etc.  Though the secondary restraints available , it will be of no use if the vehicle is not crashworthy,  80% of cars on roads in India does not meet safety regulations and all these cars are zero star rated (As published by Global NCAP results)

Role of Technology in Reducing the Risk of Accidents and Improving Road Safety
o    Electronic Stability Program (ESP) - The preliminary research from Bosch highlights that the installation of ESP can avoid around 70 per cent of all skidding accidents on highways in India. Since its introduction in Europe alone, ESP has saved more than 8,500 lives and prevented more than 1,90,000 accidents (until 2015). In India, of the approximate 1,40,000 fatalities, accidents arising due to loss of control is estimated to be nearly 12 per cent.

o    Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) - Bosch accident research made the first attempt to evaluate the benefit estimation of various safety functions confined to India. As a result, the RASSI findings suggested that 20% of all passenger car accidents with casualties on highways could have been avoided with ABS (while 6% could have been avoided during full braking, 14% could have been avoided during steering and braking).  The ABS for powered two-wheeler (PTW ABS) could have helped prevent 33% of rural accidents involving motorcycles.
Continuously identifying key issues concerning traffic safety and actively resolving them will definitely make Indian roads and vehicles safer for all. We have embarked on our vision of injury-free driving for India and we are confident that with the right set of actions and support we can certainly realize our vision in the near future.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Tags assigned to this article:
roads road projects traffic road safety

Girikumar Kumaresh

The author is Technical Architect -Accident Research Expert, Advance Vehicle Safety Engineering, Robert Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions

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