Road Fatalities: An Emerging Public Health Crisis In India

India shoulders a disproportionate burden of RTA deaths, accounting for 11% of RTA deaths.

3 min read
Ben Verhaert, President (South Asia), Anheuser-Busch InBev, at the launch of SRFG dashboard.

Nitin Gadkari, the Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways launched the 31st annual road safety week on Saturday. It is organised every year to create awareness among general public to improve the safety on road.

How safe are Indian roads?

In 2016, road injuries accounted for the eighth highest number of deaths globally, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). India shoulders a disproportionate burden of these deaths, accounting for two percent of the world’s vehicles, but eleven percent of its road accident deaths.

According to an Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) report, road accidents accounted for the eighth highest number of deaths in India – higher than HIV/AIDS, chronic kidney disease, etc. As compared to RTA-related deaths, only 69,000 HIV-infected persons are estimated to have died in 2018, according to the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) records.

According to Lancet Public Health Report published last year, 2.2 lakh people died due to road accidents in the country in 2017. It was found that the number of deaths due to road injuries increased by 58·7% from 1990 to 2017.

Almost 35.1% of all deaths due to road injuries were those of pedestrians in 2017, while motorcyclists accounted for 30·9%, motor vehicle occupants accounted for 26·4%, and cyclists accounted for 7%.

The same study found that the leading cause of death in males aged 15 to 39 years, and the second leading cause in this age group for both sexes combined was in fact, road injuries. If the trends estimated up to 2017 were to continue, no state in India or India overall would achieve the SDG 2020 target in 2020 or even in 2030. In fact, the WHO report (2016) predicted that if the country doesn’t make a concerted effort to improve the services by 2020, there will be 147% increase in deaths by road accidents.

Dinker Vashisht, Head Corporate Affairs: South Asia with Raghav Chadha, National Spokesperson of Aam Aadmi Party at ‘Safer Roads for Safer Lives’ event on December 3.
Dinker Vashisht, Head Corporate Affairs: South Asia with Raghav Chadha, National Spokesperson of Aam Aadmi Party at ‘Safer Roads for Safer Lives’ event on December 3.
(Photo Source: The Quint)

What steps are being taken?

While the government is trying to improve road infrastructure in the country, public-private partnerships are being set-up to provide fast-track solutions. These organizations work together to provide support in planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluating various road safety initiatives. A torchbearer in the PPP working in the road safety sector is Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev), global leading brewer. In 2018, AB InBev announced the launch of the #SaferRoadsForGurugram initiative with a vision to improve road safety and reduce road traffic fatalities in Gurugram, Haryana.

It brought together government, industry associations, academia, research, NGOs and corporates to tackle road safety in India with an initial focus on Gurugram. It focuses on both strengthening the existing mechanisms and systems as well as helping to create and implement unique and innovative solutions.

As a part of the initiative, SRFG launched a road safety data dashboard for the city of Gurugram. It uses FIR (First Information Report) data collected by the Traffic Police of Haryana from the last four years and indicates major factors causing road accidents in the state. It helps identify key factors responsible for road accidents, which can help to plan policies and awareness and education programs in a focused manner.

Road fatalities are increasing in the country and studying the pathology of road accidents to take corrective measures is the first step in helping the cause of road safety – but there’s still a long way to go . It is time that road traffic accidents be seen and tackled with as a major public health challenge in the country. This requires a joint action from the government, corporate, academia as well as medical fraternities.

It may be ended with appeal to include road traffic accidents as one of the major public health challenges in India and the need for joint action from Govt., Corporate, Academia, Medical fraternities etc.

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