Indian roads continue to be among the deadliest in the world. Seven teen people were killed every hour — one person dead in 3.5 minutes and at least 400 in a day — in 2015, latest government data reveals, stressing the need to make driving and roads safe.
Among the million-plus cities, Delhi, notorious for its congested roads and drivers’ indifference to traffic rules, reported the most deaths — 1,622 — during the year in which the country’s financial hub Mumbai saw 23,468 accidents, the highest in the country.
What is worrying is that accidents and fatalities are rising despite measures taken by the government and courts. The Centre is planning drastic changes in law for harsher punishments and heftier fines for traffic violations. It has also come up with guidelines for manufacturers to make their vehicles safer but the bloodbath continues.
“Our two years of dedicated work has resulted in not much change… but I cannot allow this. My heart fills with immense pain. This magnitude was not killed in wars, epidemics and militancy. Human sacrifices cannot be allowed. We have taken a slew of steps in the last two years to minimise this, including the launch of Pradhan Mantri Sadak Suraksha Yojana,” said road transport minister Nitin Gadkari on Thursday, releasing the report.
The latest report prepared by the ministry’s transport research wing says 501,423 accidents were reported in 2015, up from 489,000 the year before. Similarly, 146,000 lives were snuffed out on the streets against 139,000 in 2014. According to the International Road Federation’s latest data, only Russia reported more accidents than India in 2015. Another concern is the large number of young victims. More than half of the dead, or 54.1%, were in the 15-34 age group.
Drivers were responsible for 71% of the accidents in a country where vehicle sales have gone through the roof in recent years. They also accounted for 72.6% deaths, says the report.
Defective roads, vehicles and pedestrians also share the blame. “It’s not only drivers’ fault that causes accidents. Faulty road engineering has an equal role to play. To cut cost, flyovers, underpasses were dropped from highways. But we are putting a stop to all this. We are saying whatever needs to be done to make highways safe will be done,” the minister said, adding that from now, 1% of the project cost of all highway projects will be earmarked for road safety measures.
Almost 30% of licences in India were bogus, the minister had said last year, promising a crackdown on fake licences that can be obtained for as little as Rs 2,500.
Reflecting a rising tide of motorisation in villages, rural India, where compliance of traffic rules is poor and roads inadequate, reported 269,529 accidents in 2015 compared with 2,31,894 in the cities.
“Though a lot of initiatives have been taken in the last two years, a lot more needs to be done, especially since India is a signatory to the Brasilia Declaration and is committed to reducing the number of road accidents and fatalities by 50% by 2020,” a road ministry official said.
Tamil Nadu is the worst offender among the states with 69,059 accidents followed by Maharashtra (63,805), Madhya Pradesh (54,947), Karnataka (44,011). Uttar Pradesh tops the list of states where maximum number (17,666) of people were killed in road accidents.
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