• The 3rdGlobal Ministerial Conference on Road Safety “Achieving Global Goals 2030” was held February this year, where the conference aimed to chart future strategic directions for global road safety, and define ways to accelerate action on proven strategies.

Road safety in India:

Data on “Road Accidents in India 2018”:

  • As per the ‘Road Accidents in India, 2018’ Report, Road accidents in the country have increased marginally by 0.46 % during 2018 compared to 2017.
  • The fatalities during the same period have also risen by about 2.37% and 1,51,471 persons were killed in 2018 as against 1,47,913 in 2017.
  • Road accident injuries have however shown a decrease of 0.33% in 2018 as compared to 2017.
  • As per the report, 62 pedestrians die daily on Indian roads.
  • Till 2014, it was 32, a rise of 84% in just four years (2014 to 2018).
  • West Bengal tops the list of pedestrian related fatalities with 2618 deaths in 2018.

Significance of Road Safety:

  • Road transport is the dominant mode of transport in India, in terms of traffic share and in terms of contribution to the national economy.
  • To meet the demand for road transport, the number of vehicles and the length of road network have increased over the years.
  • A negative externality of expansion in road network, motorization and urbanization in the country is the increase in road accidents and road crash fatalities.
  • Road traffic injuries are one of the leading causes of death, disabilities and hospitalization in the country imposing huge socio-economic costs.

Impact of lack of Road Safety:

  • Road accident injuries are the leading causes of deaths and disabilities.
  • The age profile of road accidents victims in year 2016 reveals that the productive age group of 18 to 35 years accounts for the high share of 46.3 percent and the age group of 18-45 accounted for a share of 68.6% in the total road accident fatalities.
  • India loses 3% of its GDP due to road accidents, most of which are preventable.

Causes of Road Accident:

  • Many road accidents are the result of faulty road-design especially a single-lane one with a sharp curve.
  • Infrastructural deficits: Pathetic conditions of roads and vehicles, poor visibility and poor road design and engineering – including quality of material and construction.
  • Negligence and risks: Over speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, tiredness or riding without a helmet, driving without seatbelts.
  • Distraction while driving like talking over mobile phones while driving has become a major cause of road accidents.
  • Overloading to save cost of transportation.
  • Weak Vehicle Safety Standards in India: In 2014, crash tests carried out by the Global New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP) revealed that some of India’s top-selling car models have failed the UN’s frontal impact crash test.
  • Lack of awareness among people regarding the importance of safety features like airbags, Anti-lock Braking system etc. Moreover, Vehicle manufacturers do not provide them as standard fitment but only in higher class vehicles reducing their reach.

Steps taken by the Government:

  • In 2015 the Indian government announced the application of new regulations consistent with the UN standards for front and side impact and also pedestrian protection.
  • For new car models, the use of front and side crash tests came into force from October 2017 and will apply to all new cars from October 2019.
  • The pedestrian protection regulation for new models came into force from October 2018 and will apply to all new cars from October 2020.
  • In addition, new cars are required to have airbags fitted as standard and to have a speed warning device above 80 km/h.
  • KS Radhakrishnan panel on Road Safety
    • Supreme Court had set up the three-member KS Radhakrishnan panel on road safety in April 2014.The main recommendation of the committee was
    • Ban on the sale of alcohol on highways (both state and national) to restrain drunk driving.
    • The states were directed to implement laws on wearing helmets.
    • Audit of road safety to be implemented by states to ensure the safety standards in the design, construction, and maintenance of roads.
    • The committee stressed the importance of creating awareness among people on road safety rules.
  • 3 Year Action Agenda NITI Aayog also highlighted need for Road Safety and set the following Agenda:
    • Create Road Safety Boards to reduce accidents. Use data to monitor accidents. We can do this by using data to monitor accidents in real time and use this input to direct efforts towards correction on specific points.
    • Standardize reporting of accidents and enhance preparedness through better logistics.
    • Provisions to ensure that whenever an emergency situation occurs, the victims are rushed to a nearby medical centre within 10 minutes of the accident.
    • Create supporting infrastructure and economic models to support better safety and efficiency.
  • India signed the Brasilia declaration and committed to reduction in fatalities.

Brasilia Declaration on Road Safety:

  • The declaration was signed at the Second Global High-Level conference on Road Safety held in Brazil.
  • Through the Brasilia Declaration Countries plan to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 3.6: By 2020, halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents.
  • United Nations has also declared 2010-2020 as the decade of action for Road Safety.

The Plight of the Pedestrians:

  • Despite a weak legal framework, the rights of pedestrians to have encroachment free footpaths and streets and maintenance of the same is still a dream.
  • In the  landmark Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corporation casein 1985, the Supreme Court talked extensively (and for the first time) on the rights of pedestrians.
  • The same was held true in the recent judgment of Omprakash Gupta and others v. Mumbai Municipal Corporation (2018) by the Mumbai High Court.
  • In 2017, Navdeep Asija, a renowned road safety expert, filed a petition in the Punjab and Haryana High Court for the enforcement of ‘right to walk’.
    • The petition was based on Article 21 of the Constitution – right to life – arguing that the right to walk was a substantial part of right to life. But the court has not ruled on the petition so far.
  • In 2005, the Manmohan Singh government constituted an expert committee under the chairmanship of S Sundar, which studied road safety management pan India.The main recommendation were
    • The setting up of an apex body, the “National Road Safety and Traffic Board” having regulatory and advisory powers under the National Road Safety and Traffic Management Act.
    • It also suggested the Board be vested with power to issue directives and undertake road safety audits.
    • But no action has been taken on the Sundar committee recommendations so far

The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019:

  • The Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 is the principal instrument through which road transport is regulated in the country.
  • The same has been amended first time in a comprehensive way after thirty years in 2019.
  • Road Safety Provisions and Penalties:
    • It facilitates electronic monitoring of vehicles for enforcing traffic rules.
    • Provision of a refresher training course to obtain the DL after its suspension or revocation for certain offences like over speeding, drunken driving etc.
    • Penalties have been introduced for new offences and enhanced for existing offences.
  • For offences committed by Juveniles:
    • penalty of Rs. 25000 and imprisonment up to 3 years for the owner/guardian.
    • Digital intermediaries and aggregators (Ola and Uber) will follow guidelines prescribed by the Centre.
    • Constitution of National Road Safety Board to render advice on Road Safety and Traffic Management.
    • Citizen facilitation, Transparency and Reduction in Corruption:
    • All forms, fees and documents under the Act can be submitted online to avoid human intervention.
    • Dealer point registration – for registration of new motor vehicles, the onus to apply for registration has been shifted to dealers and the requirement to produce vehicles before authority has been removed.
    • Formulation of National Registers for DLs and registrations to bring transparency.
    • Automated testing.
    • The validity periods for DLs have been extended.
    • DLs can be renewed anytime between 1 year before its expiry till 1 year after its expiry to facilitate citizen away from home, visiting abroad, chronic patients etc.
    • Employment Facilitation:
    • The requirement of minimum educational qualification for license to drive transport vehicles has been removed.
    • Scheme for setting up driving schools with the Central assistance.
    • Increased accountability of manufacturers of Motor Vehicles
    • Centre can order recall of motor vehicles for any defect.
    • Insurance and Compensation
    • Constitution of Motor Vehicle Accident Fund.
    • compensation for hit and run cases.
    • Cashless treatment of road accident victims during golden hour.
    • Drivers and Co-driver/helper have been included as third parties, for the purpose of insurance.
    • Behavioral Changes:
    • Increasing the motorcycle helmet, seat-belt usage and increasing child restraint use.
    • Awareness regarding the influence of alcohol on driving.
    • Post Crash response and Effective Trauma Care:
    • Simple and affordable post-crash care interventions can save lives. Effective care for the injured requires timely care at the scene, prompt transport to appropriate emergency and surgical care at the hospital, and early access to rehabilitation services.
  • Safe Roads:
    • Safety consideration during the planning, design, and operation of roads, can contribute to reducing road traffic deaths and injuries.
  • Vehicular Safety Standards:
    • Vehicle safety features such as electronic stability control, effective Car Crash Standards and advanced braking should be made mandatory.
  • Awareness and Publicity:
    • Mass media and social media should be used effectively for spreading awareness about road safety.
  • Training and Capacity Building:
    • Training courses and training workshops shall be organized for building capacity in road safety audits and road safety engineering.
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