National road safety month begins, government aims for grassroots mass movement

by Ajit Dalvi 17 Jan 2021


 

The first-ever National Road Safety Month was inaugurated today, to furtehr build awareness about road safety and reduce road accidents in India. The past few yeasr have seen a road safety week being organised but given the importance of the issue, a month-long programme has been initiated this year.

The inaugural function was launched by Union Minister for Defence Rajnath Singh and Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways & MSME Nitin Gadkari. Minister of State for RTH, Gen (Retd) Dr VK Singh and CEO, NITI Aayog, Amitabh Kant were also present. A film on road safety was launched on the occasion, besides flagging off of a National Championship Safe Speed Challenge from Amritsar to Kanyakumari, and giving away of awards for Road Safety. State governments, PSUs, and insurance companies also participated in awareness-creating activities, with seminars, walkathons, poster-making competitions, etc.

Union Minister for Defence, Rajnath Singh; Union Minister for Road Transport & Highways, Nitin Gadkari; Minister of State for Road Transport & Highways, General (Retd.) VK Singh and other dignitaries at the inauguration of the National Road Safety Month, in New Delhi on January 18, 2021.

Speaking on the occasion, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said, road safety includes road awareness. Not only the drivers, but the riders have to be aware about their responsibilities towards causes of accidents to prevent them. He said, accident fatalities not only hurt a family, but also cause severe loss of national resources. He added that nearly 3 per cent GDP loss can be saved by spreading safety awareness.

Road Transport and Highways & MSME Minister Nitin Gadkari congratulated the winners from different categories like the best performing State in road safety works, good samaritan award, best state transport corporations, best work in safer highway development, outstanding field officers and best work by NGOs in road safety.

Gadkari pointed out that in India, a total of 150,000 people died, while more than 450,000 people got injured in road accidents every year, resulting in social-economic losses from accident deaths equivalent to a shocking 3.14% of GDP every year. He said, 70% deaths are in the age group of 18 to 45-year-old people, which is nearly 415 people dying per day in India. The Minister said, the government is committed to reduce road injuries and deaths.  Several steps were taken towards achieving zero road fatalities vision on Indian roads by 2030 by taking various initiatives, policy reforms, and adoption of safe systems.  He said, he strongly believes that the government can succeed only when road safety would become a grass-rooted mass movement only and only through ‘Jan-bhaagidari’ and ‘Jan-sahbhaag’. Governments at all levels, union, state and municipal authorities must play as facilitators to make this Jan-Sahbhaag successful, he said.

Gadkari said several measures are being taken to reduce road accidents by restructuring and strengthening the 4Es of road safety – Engineering, Education, Enforcement, Emergency care services.

Minister of State for RTH Gen (Retd) Dr VK Singh said, road safety is not a month-long programme, it is rather a life-long affair. He said, one has to remain vigilant both while driving as well as from the drivers of other vehicles on the road. He called upon reaching out to everybody for making them aware of the importance of road safety. He said, there is need to adopt a culture where people not only save themselves, but also others.

CEO of NITI Aayog Amitabh Kant underlined the government’s commitment towards road safety, saying that a vast number of initiatives have been taken in this direction during the last few years. He stressed upon the need to upgrade country’s standards to global levels. For this, technology is required to be integrated with monitoring systems.

State Governments, PSUs, and Insurance companies will also participate in awareness-creating activities, with seminars, walkathons and poster-making competitions.

India accounts for 11% of accidents-related fatalities worldwide, first in 199 countries
Road safety continues to be a major developmental issue, a public health concern and a leading cause of death and injury across the world, killing more than 1.35 million globally. Road accidents continue to be a leading cause of death, disabilities and hospitalisation in India despite concerted efforts by the government, India Auto Inc as well as apex industry bodies SIAM and ACMA.

The enormity of the issue is so much that nearly every Indian has been directly affected or knows of someone either in his/her family, friends or associates who has died in a road crash / accident or been injured. 

Over 400 people are killed in road accidents every day and over 1,200 injured every single day in India. It's likely an aircraft coming down every day. While that would make the headlines of newpapers and TV news, this hoary statistics doesn't. 

Therefore, it is not surprising that India ranks first in the number of road accident deaths across the 195 countries and accounts for almost 11% of the accident-related deaths in the world.

As per the Road Accident Report for 2019, 449,002 accidents took place in the country during CY2019, leading to 151,113 deaths and 451,361 injuries. In percentage terms, the number of accidents decreased by 3.86 % in 2019 CY2018, while accident-related deaths decreased by 0.20 % and those injured decreased by 3.86 percent.

The decline in road accidents, fatalities and injuries reported during CY2019 appear to have been a result of the Motor Vehicle Act implemented in States from September 1, 2019 which focused on road safety and included, inter-alia, stiff hike in penalties for traffic violations as well as electronic enforcement.

The other trends noted in 2019 are similar to those recorded in the previous years. National Highways, which comprise 2.03 percent of total road network, continued to account for a disproportionate share of 35.7 percent of deaths in 2019 pointing to a need for improved enforcement and correctives to be put in place on National Highways. State Highways, which account for 3.01% of the road length in India, accounted for 24.8 percent of deaths. Other roads which constitute about 95 % of the total roads were responsible for the remaining 39% deaths.

Similarly, the working age group of 18-60 accounted for a share of 84 percent in the total road accident deaths. Under the category of Traffic Rule Violations and overspeeding continued to be a major killer even in 2019, accounting for 67% of the persons killed followed by driving / riding on the wrong side of the road which accounted for 6% of the accident-related deaths.

State-wise, Tamil Nadu recorded the highest number of road accidents (57,228) in 2019 while the highest numbers reported as killed in 2019 were in Uttar Pradesh (22,655). Both these States have maintained their leads in terms of number of accidents and number of persons killed since 2016 despite the several road safety initiatives taken by both the Central and State governments.

The reporting 50 million-plus cities accounted for 18.4 percent of total road accidents, 11.8 percent of total persons killed and 16.4 percent of total persons injured in road accidents. Coimbatore ranks first in road accidents (6871) and number of persons injured (6702). Delhi ranks first in number of fatalities (1,463).

IIn terms of accident-related fatalities by type of road user, the number of pedestrians killed accounted for 17%, the share of cyclists was 3% and that of two-wheelers was 37%. Together, these categories account for 57% of the accident-related deaths and are the most vulnerable category.

Pervasive impact of road accidents
Road safety goes beyond the transport sector, with a direct impact on public health, societies, and economies. Because road safety is an inherently cross-sectoral issue, real progress can only happen if all relevant stakeholders – the government, industry and people – determinedly unite their efforts. By maximising healthy years of life, free of injuries and disabilities, actions to reduce road traffic injuries can help countries like India increase productivity, enhance the well-being of their population, and build human capital.

The third Global Ministerial Conference in February 2020 adopted a target to halve fatalities caused  by road accidents by 2030. There is no doubt that the Indian government, industry bodies, OEMs and suppliers and other stakeholders are doing their bit towards developing safer roads, increasing road safety awareness amongst the general public and motorists but a lot more needs to be done. The onus is also on the motorist per se. Simple measures like strapping on a helmet or a seatbelt can save lives. Or not using a cellphone while driving or riding.

Vehicle manufacturers like Tata Motors and Mahindra & Mahindra have, in the past couple of years, shown that made-in-India cars can be as safe as those built in developed countries. What is important in a cost-sensitive market like India is for suppliers and OEMs to develop affordable safety products and technologies, through economies of scale, to ensure greater adoption by consumers and to enhance the overall safety quotient. There is also a need to increase the focus on scientifically developing road infrastructure, strengthening and enforcing of execution.

With a road crash occurring every minute and one death every four minutes in India, every little step matters. The National Road Safety Month, which begins today, will go a long way towards increasing awareness on the subject. Every life lost and every person injured, due to road accidents, is one too much. 


Photography: Subhash Simhudu

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