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India had most deaths in road accidents in 2019: Report

By Megha Sood
PUBLISHED ON OCT 25, 2020 12:13 AM IST

A total of 151,113 people were killed in 480,652 road accidents across India in 2019, an average of 414 a day or 17 an hour, according to a report by the transport research wing of the ministry of road transport and highways.

India continued to have the most road fatalities in the world, followed by China, a distant second at 63,093 deaths in 2,12,846 road accidents in 2019, the report revealed. The United States of America (USA) reported the most road accidents at 2,211,439, and witnessed 37,461 deaths in 2019.

According to the report, speeding was the leading cause of deaths, while, in terms of vehicles, two-wheelers were involved in most road fatalities.

Across states, most road accidents were reported in Tamil Nadu (57,228), followed by Madhya Pradesh (50,669), Uttar Pradesh (42,572), Kerala (41,111) and Karnataka (40,658) accidents.

Maharashtra ranked sixth with 32,295 accidents, but saw the second-highest number of fatalities (12,788), after 22,655 in Uttar Pradesh.

Among cities, Delhi retained its first rank with 1,463 deaths, followed by Jaipur (1,283), Chennai (1,252) and Bengaluru (768).

Mumbai ranked ninth with 447 people being killed in road accidents in 2019.

The report stated that national and state highways, which account for just five per cent of the total roads in the country, saw the most deaths — 61% of the total.

Two-wheelers were involved in 37% of the road deaths in the country, followed by pedestrians at 17% and light vehicles (comprising cars, jeeps and taxis) at 16%. A total of 56,136 people riding two-wheelers lost their lives, while 25,858 pedestrians died in 2019, stated the report.

The report stated that speeding accounted for most road accidents and deaths (ranging between 63% and 73% for accidents and between 62% and 70% for deaths) on all categories of national highways.

In 2019, like in previous years, young adults in the age group of 18-45 years accounted for nearly 69.3% of road accident deaths, while those in the age group of 18 – 60 accounted for 84.3%.

Interestingly, it wasn’t curved roads that took the most lives — 96,624 people lost their lives on straight roads, while curved roads saw 20,141 deaths.

“Traditionally, for any accident or crash, the major causes could be ‘driver/human’, ‘road infrastructure’ or ‘vehicle-related factors’. Sometimes, there might be combinations of these factors which might lead to accidents. Among these major factors, ‘driver/human’-related factors or errors dominate,” said Nagendra R Velaga, associate professor (transportation systems engineering), department of civil engineering, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay. Examples of such human/driver factors include — rash driving, fatigue/sleep deprivation (particularly for long-haul truck drivers), speeding (due to certain reasons like time pressure or time constraints to reach the destination), on-board distractions (eg: using digital devices such as mobile phones while driving), driving under influence of alcohol and drugs, among other, said Velaga.

“Advanced technologies and artificial intelligence can control some human errors or driver factors (for example, camera-based speed-detection system). However, I strongly feel that it is the individual’s responsibility to respect their own life use required and appropriate precautionary measures (use seatbelt and helmet, follow traffic rules, and do not use phone while driving, avoid rash driving and drunk driving),” added Velaga

Former chairman of the Supreme Court (SC) committee on road safety, retired justice KS Radhakrishnan, said speeding is the major cause of accidents, especially on straight roads and highways, where control on speed is minimal. On curved roads, speeding is less, due to which accidents are less. “Condition of roads, traffic violations, drink and drive, among others, are also major contributors to high number of fatalities and accidents,” said Radhakrishnan.

Radhakrishnan, whose committee conducted 250 meetings with the government, national highways authority, state traffic departments and international agencies, to curb accidents, said, “The meetings are heading in the right direction,” said Radhakrishnan. “The fine in India is not a deterrent,” said Radhakrishnan adding, “However, the average person here will not be able to afford heavy fines. The government will just end up seizing licences.”

To bring down fatalities, Velaga said, “In addition to national-level policies and legislation, regional or local-level control strategies or measures are required. Strong enforcement is also required.”

Velaga also said, “Causal and impact analysis of accidents/crashes is required for state, regional and local level. More focus on research related to human/driver factors may be needed to understand the exact of factors influencing the crashes and suitable remedial measures.”

Commenting on the report, Piyush Tewari, CEO and founder, SaveLIFE Foundation said, “There is an urgent need for full implementation of the road safety provisions in the motor vehicle (amendment) Act 2019, including implementation of child safety provisions. Additionally, identifying risk factors specific to the safety of children and creating a plan to mitigate them should be prioritised by all state governments.”

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