Oct 10, 2008

India - Tops global list of fatal road mishaps

Megha Suri

NEW DELHI: Figure this. Road accidents alone claimed more than 1.3 lakh lives in the country in 2007, putting India ahead of China, which also has a
large number of fatal road mishaps.

The union government is now proposing a slew of measures including making safety equipment like airbags and anti-braking system mandatory in all cars and installation of speed governors in all commercial vehicles to bring down the fatalities.

"This is an alarming situation as we have been labelled as the country with maximum road deaths. China used to be ahead of us till two years ago, but not any longer. Of this, a majority of cases are of hit and run, which is an area of concern,'' said Brahm Dutt, secretary, Road Transport and Highways, Government of India.

The government has decided to constitute national and state level safety boards with experts on road design, vehicle safety and health as members. "The primary role of the boards, which will "come into effect very soon'' through an Act of Parliament, is to ensure safety norms are followed by all stakeholders road builders and maintenence agencies, vehicle manufacturers and road users,'' said K H Muniyappa, Minister of state for Shipping, Road Transport and Highways.

The government is also going to initiate talks with auto manufacturers to introduce more sophisticated safety gadgetry, as is done abroad. "Devices like airbags, anti-braking system, improved suspensions and the like, which will improve the safety of vehicles will be introduced soon,'' added K K Kapila of International Road Federation (IRF). Dutt and Kapila were speaking at a conference on `Mobility and Safety in Road Transport' organised in the Capital on Friday by IRF.

A study has revealed that there is a direct connection between increase in speed and the number of fatal accidents. "Pedestrians will survive if they are hit by a car travelling at a speed less than 30 kmph. But, death becomes almost certain if it exceeds 50 kmph. Every 10 per cent increase in speed in urban areas results in a 40% rise in cases of personal injury, 30% rise in number of fatal accidents and 20% rise in all accidents,'' said Prof S S Chakraborty, another expert.

To put a check on this, the union government is also going to ensure that speed governors are installed in all commercial vehicles in the country. So far, the mandate was reportedly only effective in Delhi where implementation has been half-hearted.

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