Ensuring road safety for motorists and pedestrians alike has become a nightmare for governmental authorities as an estimated 400 accidental deaths occur on Indian roads, each day, across the length and breadth of the country.
What’s more, while India’s hoary statistics in terms of reporting daily accidents have been on the rise, China, which once recorded higher accidental figures, has shown reducing accident numbers. In 2004, India recorded an estimated 430,000 road accidents while China reported 520,000. Six years later, the equations changed drastically.
In China, accidental deaths dropped to 220,000 but in India they shot up to around 500,000 due to lack of cooperation among concerned stakeholders, said Ajmer Singh, CGM, National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) while speaking on the ‘Role of Corporates in Road Safety’ at a conference organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) in Delhi yesterday.
An estimated 431 ‘black spots’ or sites which are prone to cause frequent accidents still exist on Indian roads, of which 200 have been removed; it is understood that the remaining black spots will be eliminated within a year.
View: Status of black spots based on 2011-13 fatalities on NHs
NHAI is mapping out safety proposals in sync with the Central government including a helpline number 1033 and a budget of Rs 5,000 crore earmarked per annum over a 4-year period on safety works. An integral aspect of this safety measure would include tying up with the police force in each State for stationing them on notified jurisdictions of the national highways for taking speedy action in case of a mishap.
An Intelligent Transport System, for which five pilots are set to kick off soon as well as validation of black spots, will form part of the battle to prevent road fatalities.
In a bid to decongest traffic on the Delhi roads as well as curb pollution, the state government had rolled out its odd-even scheme in January this year over a 15-day timeframe. This entailed allowing four-wheelers to move on the city roads, alternating between odd and even registration numbers over this period. Based on the success of the earlier scheme, the second phase is to start from April 15 for a fortnight.
According to Sanjeev Jha, MLA of the Aam Aadmi Party, 1.2 million lakh fewer cars were seen on Delhi roads during the first phase of the odd-even scheme. Even though the number of buses had multiplied, they were operating fewer cycles which meant fewer were visible on the roads. This decongested traffic and resulted in lower pollution and reduced the frequency of fatalities on the capital’s roads.
Some of the suggestions that came from speakers at the conference related to mandating a road safety audit to check safety measures being enforced across the country’s roads and highways. There was also a call to create a roadmap to provide driver training as well as a campaign to increase people’s awareness about the need to follow road safety rules.
Elaborating on the severity of accidental deaths in the country, Ramashankar Pandey, managing director of Hella India Lighting, spoke about how 377 people never return home on a daily basis while 1,287 return injured. This, in financial terms, involves a loss of Rs 380,000 crore annually. Of the total number of road accidents, about 37 percent are caused by commercial vehicles. Through cost innovations, Hella says it has introduced a new lighting solution to prevent road accidents and has priced it lower than the global price for the India market. Tata Motors, Ashok Leyland and Mahindra & Mahindra are believed to be mulling the usage of this new lighting solution in their new vehicles.