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120,000 dead!
In road accidents; now, why doesn’t that rankle you?

On the one hand, Indian government recently gave a green signal to the draft legislation which will facilitate setting up of a national-level body that would recommend standards for design, construction and maintenance of highways, road safety standards for motor vehicles and trauma centres for the country. Then, on the other hand, the recent Global Status Report on Road Safety, released by the World Health Organisation, reveals that India leads a group of ten countries with a horrendous road safety record.

Massive road accidents are not a one time event in India but daily affairs. As per most recent government figures, about 1.2 lakh people lost their lives in 2007 due to road accidents. On an average, more than one lakh people lose their lives due to road accidents in India every year. This is in spite of the government allocating crores of rupees towards road safety every year. But like most projects, a large pie of this amount remains unused and unspent. Talking in numbers, in 2004-05, out of Rs.40 crore meant for road safety, only around Rs.35 crore was actually utilized; in 2005-06, Rs.30 crore of the Rs.43 crore allocated was used; while in 2006-07, only Rs.43 crore of the Rs.47 crore was used.

What’s most remarkable is that among those dying of road accidents, pedestrians and cyclists make up the majority. In spite of having a very low population to vehicles ratio, the mortality rate in India in road accidents is 8.7 per 100,000, compared to 5.6 in the UK and 6.7 in Japan. Going by an official report, the social cost of accidents in India is estimated to be around Rs.55,000 crore (in the years 1999-2000), which constituted 3% of the GDP for the year.

In the last few decades, a large part of the investment was directed towards making flyovers and better roads for motorists, but not much heed was given to pedestrians and cyclists. In short, every possible policy measure was adopted to make lives of motorist much safer. It’s only the recent years that have seen subways and dedicated cycle paths. More, of course, needs to be done.

By:- Sray Agarwal

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