More than 420 people lose their lives in road accidents every day in India and the country now ranks third in the list of countries with the most road accidents. According to National Crime Records Bureau data analysis for 2021 – 1,55,622 people were killed and 3,71,884 people were injured in 4,03,116 road accidents in India in 2021.
Although over the past few years we have seen an increase in safety awareness, what is worrying is that the number of fatalities in road accidents has increased by 16.8% to reach 1 55,622 in 2021 compared to 1,33,201 in 2020. The total number of road accidents also saw an increase of 13.6% between 2020 and 2021. Piyush Tewari, Founder and CEO of SaveLIFE Foundation, says: “Of course , there has been an increase and we must develop all the necessary efforts to reduce these deaths. The recording of road accidents in the country has improved, which has led to a slight increase in the number compared to 2019.”
He believes that one of the main reasons for the high number of road accidents is that “the implementation of these laws intended to save lives was quite poor at the end of state governments. In fact, many state governments have not even fully notified the law. In addition, “the kind of actions are done on the ground and there we see that the approach remains rather unscientific, the hypothesis is almost always that the driver is at fault”, he adds.
Data from the National Crime Records Bureau indicates that accident severity increased from 37.5 in 2020 to 38.6 in 2021 and is the highest in the last two 3 decades. Tewari believes this is why they recommend scientific analysis of road accidents to understand what is causing the accident. He lists a variety of causes like
- road engineering/automotive engineering
- Cause of injury in accident – Interaction with vehicle or road engineering
“So understanding both what caused the accident and what caused the injury is the starting point to solving the problem that we don’t want to happen at ground level. So if we approach these two problems, it is the only solution to considerably reduce the deaths in the country”, he explains.
The question then is what kind of role can public awareness play in controlling the situation? Tewari emphasizes that competent training must be the starting point. Simply learning to drive the vehicle is not enough and you have to learn to drive safely, “this training and upgrading is crucial. So I think that kind of education has been almost entirely lacking.
Optimize the use of security functions
As a direct result of campaigns such as “Stop the Crash” and GNCAP testing of Indian cars, OEMs began to improve the safety features of cars. But Tewari points out that just having a lot of safety features in the vehicle is not enough. The problem is that “they are not used to the optimal limit. So you think it has to do with how we can get people to take advantage of them or use them more frequently, to make travel much safer.
Citing an example to elaborate on the aspect of optimizing safety features in the vehicle, Tewari explains how there is very little understanding among people about what happens if the seat belt is not worn on the rear seats, “In the event of a collision, the vehicle comes to a sudden stop, then everyone inside the vehicle flies off and an interaction with the interior of the vehicle may result in serious injury, or they may go hit other passengers who could, who could very well be belted.
He suggests that awareness campaigns, school and institutional programs will play a key role in educating the public about what can potentially go wrong if these basic safety standards are not met.
Road design, a key aspect
Along with increasing levels of awareness and implementation, Tewari believes that road design also plays a key role in improving road safety. “The SaveLIFE Foundation has investigated whether road design or infrastructure played a role in either causing the accident or aggravating the injury, or both. It is therefore absolutely essential that road engineering standards are clearly defined and that engineers and contractors must follow them.
Over the past five years, as part of the zero deaths corridor initiative, the SaveLIFE Foundation has made recommendations to governments. He adds that resolving these issues has indeed “saved countless lives on various highways. This therefore has a very direct impact on the reduction of accidents and injuries and must be prioritized. Tewari welcomes the fact that “there is now a certain level of political will to resolve the engineering and design issues and we are hopeful that this will trickle down to the field and that these issues will be resolved.”
The 5Is of road safety
Emphasizing the need for a comprehensive and cohesive effort to reduce road accidents, Tewari shares his 5 point mantra for India or the 5I’s that can improve road safety-
- “The first and most important is that states must implement the Motor Vehicle Amendment Act 2019.
- The second aspect is that the engineering problems on our roads have been uniquely identified and should be fixed.
- The third thing is to ensure improved emergency care.
- The fourth aspect is the increase in electronic enforcement to improve the ability to capture repeat offenders and violations
- Fifthly, there is a need to launch a public awareness campaign along the lines of the Swachh Bharat campaign.
In his closing remarks, he points out how much appreciation for security is lacking in our country and believes that “the right deed comes after that. So having structured data will really impact people’s mindsets and the lives that would otherwise be lost due to these accidents.