The numbers sound scary: 138,258 people died of road accidents in India in 2012. That's a little less than the population of Maldives. In recent years, as China has made its roads safer, India has overtaken China as the largest contributor to road accident deaths. As per the National Crime Records Bureau, as many as 461 people died and 1,301 more were injured every day in traffic accidents in the country during 2012. This makes it 19 deaths every hour –  or more than one death every three minutes.

India could do a lot to make its roads safer. Given that it is the second-most populous country, it is only natural that India would have a high number of road accident deaths compared to other countries. And as India urbanises, builds more roads and more vehicles, the number of traffic accidents and accident-related deaths is unfortunately bound to increase.

A better measure of road safety is the number of deaths per 100,000 population. According to World Health Organisation figures, India's accident death rate of 18.9 for every 1,00,000 people is only a little higher than the global average, 18. Many countries have a much higher accident death rate  – Thailand (38), South Africa (32), Venezuela (37.2), Oman (34), Nigeria (33), Iran (34), Iraq (31), Saudi Arabia (28), Malaysia (25) and China (20.5).

In a regional comparison, Africa has the highest rate (24.1 per 100,000 population) and Europe the lowest (10.3 per 100,000). However, all of India's neighbours have fewer accident deaths per 100,000 than India. Bangladesh is the best at 11.6, followed by Mauritius (12.2), Bhutan (13.2), Sri Lanka (13.7), Myanmar (15), Nepal (16) and Pakistan (17.4).

Country wise figures of road traffic related deaths in 2010.