By K K Kapila, Presedent emeritus, IRF
Road Safety, though extremely important, has still not been able to attract enough attention in India despite the fact that there have been higher fatalities year on year on account of road accidents than due to COVID 19 pandemic in 2020. In India, more than 150,000 people die every year while 500,000 get injured. A significant point to be noted here is that while over 70% fatalities due to road accidents are in the most productive age group of 18 to 45 years, over 70% fatalities due to COVID, were in the age group of over 65 years.
Globally, road accidents account for 1.3 million deaths and 50 million injuries, with many living their lives with permanent disabilities. Of this, India’s contribution to the fatalities is at 11%. In 2010, the world leaders from 100 countries gathered together and resolved to reduce road fatalities and accidents by 50% by the end of 2020. Though we did not achieve the target, there is now an increased sensitivity and awareness towards road safety. Having failed to achieve the target, a new target has been set up to achieve reduction in road accidents by 50% by 2030.
To achieve it, an action plan was contemplated to be prepared in 2020 but because of COVID 19, this has got delayed and we have now embarked upon it. In this effort we have the whole hearted support of a number of International and National Organisations including Federation International De Automobile (FIA) , Road Safety Organisation of Prince Michael Duke of Kent, International Road Assessment Program (IRAP), International Road Federation (IRF) -Geneva, UNECE and Ministry of Road Transport And Highways (MoRTH) amongst others.
The hard facts of Indian Road safety include that the Ministry of Road Transport had issued a circular to build Forgiving Roads, which forgive engineering mistakes made on the roads. . Thereafter the NHAI issued 2 Circulars on the subject in the years 2010 and 2012 respectivelyIn spite of explicit instructions, these have not been adhered to, primarily on the plea of cost increase as well as a casual attitude of the people involved. This is indeed unfortunate.
Moving to Vehicular Safety, the Indian Government has initiated provisioning of safety measures in the Vehicles aligning them with UNECE standards, in both two wheelers and four wheelers. We compliment the Government of India for mandating crash test standards, identical with Europe. Similarly the provisioning of ABS in two wheelers is again a very welcome gesture.
The Government of India’s move to encourage use of CNG is welcomed. However, if we are retrofitting CNG kits in the market, it is important that these vehicles meet the same crash test safety standards as mandated for all cars. Secondly, many of these kits are imported from China and do not meet basic safety standards. Under Atma Nirbhar Bharat, we need to develop and manufacture these in India, so that they meet all test standards, stop their import, and generate local employment.
The amended MV Act 2019 implemented in September 2019 is expected to bring a remarkable change in the road safety scenario in the country when it is adopted in entirety by the States and Union Territories across the country. What is needed is removing the human interface from Enforcement and extensive use of Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) technologies to capture violations is the way forward.
Our Vision is that the Bystander Training Programme should be undertaken in a time bound manner along all National and State Highways to begin with. The tea stall, dhabha and petrol pump staff on main highways in the country should be taught first aid to help the accident victims .
The latest intervention in the trauma care area by the DRDO Scientists who have created a Motorbike Ambulance called ‘’Rakshita’’. The government must promote manufacture of these Motorbike Ambulances in a populated country like ours with a massive road network and disproportionately large accidents to save human lives. This effort should be launched in the same manner as we have taken up the vaccine drive for COVID 19.