lost lives

Road accidents kill 382 in India every day – 1,682 times more than terrorism

As many as 139,671 people lost their lives on India’s roads during 2014.

India’s daily death toll due to road accidents is more than four times the annual death toll from terrorism.

As many as 139,671 people lost their lives on India’s roads during 2014 – 382 deaths every day.

For comparison, the total number of deaths (civilians and security personnel) due to terrorism-related incidents was 83 in all of 2014.


Source
Ministry of Road Transport & Highways, South Asia Terrorism Portal


Predictably, most of those who die on the roads perish because of preventable causes: speeding, drink driving and overloading.

The large number of deaths among pedestrians and cyclists also indicates that any moves to get people to shun motorised transport in favor of these environmentally-friendly modes are not likely to succeed.

After falling for two years, the number of road accident deaths in India rose again during 2014, according to the latest report from the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways.

The majority of these deaths, nearly three-fourths, have been termed as ‘fault of the driver’, a catch-all term that includes speeding, drink driving, driving on wrong side of the road and not signaling properly.

Here are the five factors that India can address to cut the tide of death:

1. Speeding is the biggest killer on Indian roads

Speeding is the single factor responsible for the maximum number of deaths on Indian roads.

During 2014, 57,844 deaths – 41% of the total – were due to accidents caused by speeding.

Speeding has accounted for a similar share in the earlier years as well and has consistently accounted for over 50,000 deaths on roads for the past several years.


Source: Road Accidents in India, 201120122013 & 2014


Speeding is typically the easiest factor to control, and a small reduction in vehicle speed yields disproportionate results in terms of safety.

A pedestrian struck by a car driving at 37 km/hr has an average risk of death of 10%, according to a study sponsored by AAA Foundation, a US association dedicated to road safety. This increases exponentially with vehicle speed and rises to 90% for higher speeds.


Source: AAA Foundation 


These numbers suggest some big gains can be made with directed effort.

India’s national and state highways, which together account for less than 5% of the road network, accounted for 63% of the total road deaths during 2014. Speeds on highways are typically higher than speeds within city limits and are often violated because of lax enforcement.

The Mumbai-Pune Expressway is a prime example; the speed limit of 80 km/hour is observed more in the breach. Strict enforcement of speed limits on highways could save thousands of lives.


Source: Road Accidents in India 2014


2. Overloaded, badly loaded trucks kill 100 every day

Overloading of vehicles, particularly trucks, makes them hard to control, especially when they need to brake. However, it is a common practice on Indian highways. Similarly, driving with protruding loads – for instance steel rods protruding out of trucks – is also a common sight on Indian roads, albeit illegal. These two causes accounted for 36,543 deaths in 2014.

Both of these are preventable causes and have been showing a declining trend for the past few years. Again, since the heavy truck traffic is largely on national and state highways, better monitoring and enforcement can save lives.


Source: Road Accidents in India, 201120122013 & 2014


3. Drink Driving and the lives of others

Advances in automotive technology mean that a drunken driver safely belted in can often walk away from an accident. The pedestrians/two-wheelers/smaller vehicles that he/she hits may not be as lucky.

Madhya Pradesh and Bihar account for almost a quarter of all deaths due to drink driving. Among smaller states, Haryana and Uttarakhand have tolls way higher than many larger states.

Traffic police in major cities like Mumbai and Delhi have been conducting sustained campaigns against drink driving in response to high-profile cases. Going by the numbers, such campaigns are particularly needed in Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana and Uttarakhand as well.


Source
: Road Accidents in India 2014


4. Helmets Please – and some basic regard for others

Two-wheelers account for the largest share of vehicles on Indian roads. So, it is not a surprise that they also account for the largest number of fatalities.

In 2014, 30% of all road deaths were of riders/passengers on two-wheelers, while bicyclists accounted for 3% and pedestrians for 9%.

Wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of severe injury by 72% and the risk of death by 39%, according to the World Health Organisation. However, wearing a helmet is mandatory only in a handful of Indian cities, and only for two-wheeler riders, not other passengers. Helmets are not mandatory for cyclists.

India’s two-wheeler density is a fraction of other middle-income nations, such as Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia. As India’s economy grows, so will the number of two-wheelers – and safety issues will have to be tackled.

Meanwhile, in what can only be termed as bizarre, there have been protests against making helmets mandatory in cities like Pune and Madurai, spearheaded by lawmakers and lawyers.

The 16,000-plus deaths among pedestrians and cyclists indicate that Indian roads are not very friendly to either of the two most vulnerable road users.

Any attempts to clean up city air by urging people to shun cars/bikes and pedal/walk instead are doomed to fail unless pedestrians and cyclists can move around safely without being bullied by larger vehicles. That will require proper pavements and pedestrian crossings, along with some common courtesy.


Source: Road Accidents in India, 201120122013 & 2014


5. The safety effect of building more mass transit in cities

India’s 50 largest cities accounted for 16,611 road fatalities in 2014, with Delhi, Chennai and Bengaluru taking the top three spots.

The number of road-accident deaths has fallen in Delhi and Chennai consistently. Monitoring road users and enforcing laws is easier in bigger cities than other areas. The Delhi Metro could also have played a part in making the capital safer.

The mass-transit system ferries more than two million people every day and helps keep vehicles off roads, reducing congestion and accidents.

Mumbai is another standout in terms of road safety; it has fewer road deaths compared to smaller cities like Chennai, Bengaluru or Kanpur. This is because Mumbai has fewer vehicles on the roads in proportion to its population, as it has a reasonably efficient, albeit greatly overloaded, mass-transit system.

It is another matter that many more people are killed on railway tracks than on roads in Mumbai due to inadequate safety measures. A recent RTI query reveals that eight people die every day in Mumbai – while crossing railway tracks or because of falling from overcrowded trains.


Source: Road Accidents in India, 201120122013 & 2014


Building more public transport could play a big role in improving India’s urban road safety.


This article was originally published on IndiaSpend.com, a data-driven and public-interest journalism non-profit.



We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Relying on the power of habits to solve India’s mammoth sanitation problem

Adopting three simple habits can help maximise the benefits of existing sanitation infrastructure.

India’s sanitation problem is well documented – the country was recently declared as having the highest number of people living without basic sanitation facilities. Sanitation encompasses all conditions relating to public health - especially sewage disposal and access to clean drinking water. Due to associated losses in productivity caused by sickness, increased healthcare costs and increased mortality, India recorded a loss of 5.2% of its GDP to poor sanitation in 2015. As tremendous as the economic losses are, the on-ground, human consequences of poor sanitation are grim - about one in 10 deaths, according to the World Bank.

Poor sanitation contributes to about 10% of the world’s disease burden and is linked to even those diseases that may not present any correlation at first. For example, while lack of nutrition is a direct cause of anaemia, poor sanitation can contribute to the problem by causing intestinal diseases which prevent people from absorbing nutrition from their food. In fact, a study found a correlation between improved sanitation and reduced prevalence of anaemia in 14 Indian states. Diarrhoeal diseases, the most well-known consequence of poor sanitation, are the third largest cause of child mortality in India. They are also linked to undernutrition and stunting in children - 38% of Indian children exhibit stunted growth. Improved sanitation can also help reduce prevalence of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Though not a cause of high mortality rate, NTDs impair physical and cognitive development, contribute to mother and child illness and death and affect overall productivity. NTDs caused by parasitic worms - such as hookworms, whipworms etc. - infect millions every year and spread through open defecation. Improving toilet access and access to clean drinking water can significantly boost disease control programmes for diarrhoea, NTDs and other correlated conditions.

Unfortunately, with about 732 million people who have no access to toilets, India currently accounts for more than half of the world population that defecates in the open. India also accounts for the largest rural population living without access to clean water. Only 16% of India’s rural population is currently served by piped water.

However, there is cause for optimism. In the three years of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the country’s sanitation coverage has risen from 39% to 65% and eight states and Union Territories have been declared open defecation free. But lasting change cannot be ensured by the proliferation of sanitation infrastructure alone. Ensuring the usage of toilets is as important as building them, more so due to the cultural preference for open defecation in rural India.

According to the World Bank, hygiene promotion is essential to realise the potential of infrastructure investments in sanitation. Behavioural intervention is most successful when it targets few behaviours with the most potential for impact. An area of public health where behavioural training has made an impact is WASH - water, sanitation and hygiene - a key issue of UN Sustainable Development Goal 6. Compliance to WASH practices has the potential to reduce illness and death, poverty and improve overall socio-economic development. The UN has even marked observance days for each - World Water Day for water (22 March), World Toilet Day for sanitation (19 November) and Global Handwashing Day for hygiene (15 October).

At its simplest, the benefits of WASH can be availed through three simple habits that safeguard against disease - washing hands before eating, drinking clean water and using a clean toilet. Handwashing and use of toilets are some of the most important behavioural interventions that keep diarrhoeal diseases from spreading, while clean drinking water is essential to prevent water-borne diseases and adverse health effects of toxic contaminants. In India, Hindustan Unilever Limited launched the Swachh Aadat Swachh Bharat initiative, a WASH behaviour change programme, to complement the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. Through its on-ground behaviour change model, SASB seeks to promote the three basic WASH habits to create long-lasting personal hygiene compliance among the populations it serves.

This touching film made as a part of SASB’s awareness campaign shows how lack of knowledge of basic hygiene practices means children miss out on developmental milestones due to preventable diseases.

Play

SASB created the Swachhata curriculum, a textbook to encourage adoption of personal hygiene among school going children. It makes use of conceptual learning to teach primary school students about cleanliness, germs and clean habits in an engaging manner. Swachh Basti is an extensive urban outreach programme for sensitising urban slum residents about WASH habits through demos, skits and etc. in partnership with key local stakeholders such as doctors, anganwadi workers and support groups. In Ghatkopar, Mumbai, HUL built the first-of-its-kind Suvidha Centre - an urban water, hygiene and sanitation community centre. It provides toilets, handwashing and shower facilities, safe drinking water and state-of-the-art laundry operations at an affordable cost to about 1,500 residents of the area.

HUL’s factory workers also act as Swachhata Doots, or messengers of change who teach the three habits of WASH in their own villages. This mobile-led rural behaviour change communication model also provides a volunteering opportunity to those who are busy but wish to make a difference. A toolkit especially designed for this purpose helps volunteers approach, explain and teach people in their immediate vicinity - their drivers, cooks, domestic helps etc. - about the three simple habits for better hygiene. This helps cast the net of awareness wider as regular interaction is conducive to habit formation. To learn more about their volunteering programme, click here. To learn more about the Swachh Aadat Swachh Bharat initiative, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hindustan Unilever and not by the Scroll editorial team.