India has overtaken China's killing fields.
"Nearly 1.05 lakh people die in road accidents in India. It is the highest in the world," Brahm Dutt, secretary of the department of road transport and highways said at the end of a workshop on Saturday to firm up the government's first policy on road safety.
Dutt said deaths on Indian roads now exceed casualties on Chinese roads. "We have this dubious distinction".
China, on the other hand, is reported to have brought down the body count on its roads, down from 98,738 in 2005 to 89,455 in 2006. By contrast, fatalities in road accidents in India are moving up at a compounded annual growth rate of four per cent.
India has not taken road safety very seriously so far and does not have a comprehensive policy on road safety.
Dutt indicated the government was finally putting its best foot forward.
"We are targeting to complete processing the National Road Safety and Traffic Management Bill before the Budget Session," Dutt announced.
A committee chaired by S Sundar, distinguished fellow at the Tata Energy Research Institute had recommended a road safety policy and a legal framework to implement the policy that was discussed by state government representatives on Saturday.
According to this policy, 1 per cent of the cess on diesel and petrol collected by the government would go into funds at central and state level to be spent by the board.
Dutt said the workshop had highlighted the lack of road safety in India and emphasised that unless there was a national commitment to reducing accidents, there would not be much of a change. They also endorsed the policy that recommends setting up road safety boards at central and state level and a road safety fund, he said.