The amended Motor Vehicles Act has increased traffic fines exponentially. The central govt says this is to ensure people obey traffic rules while many state govts have opposed it saying it burdens people. Here is what happens on Indian roads.
By the time you finish reading this article, at least two people would have died and another eight injured in road accidents in India. During same time span, India would have seen at least eight road accidents. Most of these accidents would have taken place on a clear sunny day, on a straight road in an open area largely devoid of human activity. And, in case you are wondering, most of these accidents would be due to over-speeding.
Of the eight accidents, two would be on a national highway and at least three would involve a two-wheeler.
Between now and tomorrow (at the same time), India would have suffered 1,274 deaths in road accidents, deaths that are completely avoidable. Another at least 1,308 people would also be injured, many of them disabled for life.
Of the ones who would be killed in these road accidents, 86 per cent would be men, and in most cases main breadwinner of the family. A majority (72 per cent) of the dead (men and women) would be in the age group of 18-45 years, the population that is most productive and is hailed as India’s demographic dividend.
These examples are based on our analysis of the data presented in annual reports of the Union Ministry of Road and Transport.
If the message is still lost on some. Let’s understand road accidents in the context of Bollywood and cricket as they rule the roost in India.
If you start watching the iconic movie Sholay at this very instant, by the time you finish watching it, 57 people would be dead on Indian roads. Besides, there would be 185 people injured, and during the film’s 3-hour-24-min duration, India would have seen 185 road accidents.
On April 2, 2011, one of the most glorious chapters of Indian cricketing history was written when India lifted the ICC World Cup trophy. The total duration of this historic match was 7 hours and 45 minutes.
Bu what does this duration translate to when talking about Indian roads?
Our analysis finds that on an average, 130 people die while 418 get injured on roads across India over the same duration. The average number of accidents stands at 409 for the duration India enthralled the Wankhede Stadium in the day-nighter against Sri Lanka.
As per the latest government data, in 2017 alone, 1,47,913 people were killed in road accidents across India. One lakh forty seven thousand nine hundred and thirteen dead bodies on Indian roads in just one year.
To add some context, this figure is 37.54 per cent more than the total number of people killed in floods and heavy rains in the last 65 years in India.
Take a few deep breaths and let these facts sink in.
DON’T BE MISTAKEN
The year 2017 was not an outlier. Years preceding it also had similar statistics for road accidents.
For a better appreciation of these numbers, let’s see what has happened on Indian roads since 2001.
In the 17 years between 2001 and 2017, (the latest year for which official data on road accidents are available), a total of 20.42 lakh people lost their lives in road accidents and 82.30 lakh were injured. In total, India witnessed 79.10 lakh road accidents at an average of 9 crashes every 10 minutes.
The loss suffered due to road accidents generally goes unnoticed because accidents are omnipresent and occur routinely. Only the massive ones catch public attention. But each accident is devastating for the affected family or families.
For better appreciation of data and to give you a sense of what they actually mean, here are some facts for your reference:
- More fatal than war in Afghanistan: The number of people killed in India due to road accidents in just 2017 (1,47,913 deaths) is nearly the same as the number of Afghans killed in the ongoing war in Afghanistan that started after the 9/11 terror attacks.
- More casualties than Vietnam War: Between 2014 and 2017, the number of people killed on Indian roads in accidents (5.84 lakh) was more than twice the estimated casualties of South Vietnamese soldiers (2.5 lakh) in the Vietnam War that spanned 20 years between 1955 and 1975.
- Deadlier than HIV/AIDS: The number of people killed in road accidents in India in 2017 was more than twice the number of people killed in India due to HIV/AIDS in the same year.
- Bigger killer than snakes: Road accidents in India claim at least three times more human lives every year than those claimed by all snakes of the world put together. (Snakes kill about 50,000 people every year).
- A mass murderer: On the global scale, the World Health Organisation estimates that 58,00,000 people die every year due some form of injury. Of these, only 3 per cent are related to war and conflict, while 21 per cent are related to road accidents. Yet, road accidents and road safety receive a fraction of the attention that is devoted to war and conflict.
- Vastly debilitating: Of every 100 road accidents in India, 32 are the ones in which at least one person is killed and 26 are the ones in which victims suffer grievous injuries that require hospitalisation.
- Why this kolaveri: For every kilometre of road in India, there were 41 vehicles in 2017. In 1970, this figure was just one vehicle per km. The explosion of vehicular density can be well understood from this.
WHERE DO MOST ROAD ACCIDENTS OCCUR?
So far, we have discussed how road accidents are brutal killers; how they kill more people than most other causes of unnatural deaths; and how despite all this, road safety is a topic relegated to the bottom of our priority list.
So far, so bad.
Let’s now turn attention to the nature of road accidents in India-where do most of them occur, at what time, under what conditions, who victims the victims are, and other associated factors.
Government data on road accidents for 2017 show that most accidents that year took place on national highways. This trend wasn’t unique for 2017. Trends in data for accidents between 2005 and 2017 bring us to the same conclusion
Of the 4.64 lakh road accidents in 2017, 30.4 per cent took place on national highways, killing 53,181 people (36 per cent of all deaths). The share of state highways was 25 per cent of all accidents and 27 per cent of all casualties.
Another aspect that gives an insight on how Indians use roads is that more than 50 per cent road accidents take place in open areas that are devoid of any human activity and are free from congestion.
In fact, even if put together, residential and institutional areas and marketplaces witness only 38 per cent accidents in India. Remember, these are areas with high congestion and hence more prone to accidents.
If you are still not convinced that Indians are horrible when it comes to using roads, the following data may help you see things differently.
A 64.2 per cent of all road accidents in India take place on straight roads, while just 11.6 per cent occur on curves and 2 per cent due to potholes.
When it comes to factors responsible for road accidents, over-speeding rules the roost. As many as 70 per cent accidents in 2017 were attributed to this, while the share of driving on the wrong side was 6 per cent and drunken driving 3 per cent.
You may argue that even if the road conditions are fine and even if one is driving on a straight road, the weather may play spoilsport and thus, would be a leading cause of traffic accidents (remember the thick fog during winter in North India). While it may be a compelling argument, road accident data suggest otherwise.
As many as 73 per cent of road accidents in India take place on a clear sunny day, while 9.5 per cent take place under rainy conditions and just 5.8 per cent when there is fog or mist.
In terms of vehicles, most accidents involve two-wheelers (34 per cent), followed by LMVs-cars, jeeps, taxis-(25.4 per cent), and trucks (20 per cent).
Thus, in a nutshell, we can say most road accidents in India take place on straight stretches, mostly national highways, in open areas devoid of much human activity (congestion), on clear sunny days, involve two-wheelers, and kill/injure people aged 18 to 45 years, most of them being men.
These numbers speak volumes to establish the fact that Indians are reckless road users and have a craze for over-speeding and driving recklessly.
Is imposing hefty fines for traffic violation not a plausible measure to check this behaviour?
Take your time and feel free to answer.
Date: October 22, 2019