New Delhi: India needs to invest an estimated extra $109 billion in road safety over the next decade to halve its road crash fatalities, says a new World Bank report, noting that this will bring economic benefits equivalent annually to 3.7% of GDP.
The report, Delivering Road Safety in India, was released today at the Third Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety in Stockholm. The report points to the high death rate on India’s roads caused by chronic lack of investment in systemic, targeted, and sustained road safety programs and identifies relevant investment priorities to reverse the trend.
“Saving lives on India’s roads has been our top priority. The recent enactment of the Motor Vehicles Act 2019 is an important step in that direction. States and cities now have necessary powers for ensuring road safety in the Act to make our roads safer,” said Nitin Gadkari, Minister of Road Transport & Highways, Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises, Government of India. “Ensuring road safety cannot be achieved by the government alone. All stakeholders in our society need to support the cause. Only then can we fulfill our aim of reducing road crash fatalities.”
India has one of the highest rates of road crashes in the world. Every year, about 150,000 people lose their lives on India’s roads, and more than five times that number are injured or maimed for life. Road crashes also impact economic growth, costing the economy between 3 to 5 percent of GDP a year.
Given the rising trajectory of crashes in India, the report calls the country’s recent enactment of the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019 as an important step towards reducing road crash fatalities.
The India road safety report is part of a regional report, Road Safety in South Asia: Opportunities for Shared Regional Initiatives. It calls for regional initiatives to make roads and vehicles safer, even while making national-level actions a top priority.
“Years of rapid economic growth in South Asia, followed by a steep rise in vehicle ownership have led to mounting traffic deaths and contributed to lost economic opportunities,” said Hartwig Schafer, World Bank Vice President for South Asia. “South Asia’s road safety crisis is unacceptable but preventable. The good news is that South Asian countries recognize the urgent need to protect their people, save lives, and sustain their journey toward greater prosperity. We at the World Bank stand ready to support their efforts.”
Towards this, the report suggests countries should collaborate on making regional trade corridors safer. All categories of road users and vehicle types – animals, pedestrians, bicycles, rickshaws, motorcycles, motorized three-wheelers, cars, minibuses, buses, mini trucks, trucks, and agricultural vehicles – are represented in these corridors with narrow lanes, limited or no shoulders, and inadequate pedestrian facilities.
The road safety conditions on these corridors mirror the nature and scale of conditions prevalent on national highways. Crash data collected in a sample of highway sections across Nepal, India, and Bangladesh reveal alarming annual fatality rates ranging from 0.3 to 3 fatalities per kilometer, at a yearly average of 0.87 fatalities per kilometer. In India, 34.5 percent of fatalities in 2016 resulted from crashes on the National Highways, which comprise only 1.79 percent of the country’s total road network.
To better monitor the effectiveness of road safety efforts, the report recommends a shared regional initiative to harmonize crash data management and analysis systems across South Asia.
Currently, South Asian countries are in varying stages of developing crash data and performance management systems that analyze the underlying factors behind each crash – whether it was defective road infrastructure, faulty vehicle design, or human error.
Tamil Nadu in India has already rolled out a GIS-based program to map road accidents state-wide, identify the most crash-prone hot spots, and pinpoint corrective action. The system is also linked to medical facilities across the state, reducing the response time of emergency medical services from 30 to 11 minutes, at par with the world’s best performing trauma services.
To complement these efforts and to facilitate more rapid and effective knowledge transfer, the report suggests South Asian countries could join the proposed regional road safety observatory for Asia and the Pacific.
“Historically, when countries reached motorization levels of between 50–100 vehicles per 1,000 people, road crashes became one of the leading causes of death and injuries. Improving road safety was then recognized as a national development priority. This holds important road safety lessons for the South Asia region where the rate of vehicle ownership has doubled over the past decade and remains on an upward trajectory,” said Arnab Bandyopadhyay, Lead Transport Specialist, World Bank. “The report’s proposed regional initiatives will go a long way in helping countries improve road safety.”