India's deadly roads officially worst in the world
Sunday, 12 October 2008

The Guardian Online

It is an unenviable title - but India's motorised mayhem has officially made it the most dangerous place to drive in the world.

Last year road accidents claimed more than 130,000 lives, overtaking China, where fatalities have dropped to less than 90,000, and prompted a government review into traffic safety, which until now has been best summed up by local drivers as "good horns, good brakes, good luck".
Ministers are considering a range of new measures such as making air bags and anti-braking systems mandatory in all cars. Lorries may also be fitted with speed breakers in a bid to bring down fatalities.
However, many experts say that new laws will have little effect in India, where seat belts are rarely worn and where no one can anticipate with any certainty the behaviour of the average road user.
Nor can most road users guess what type of vehicle they will face. Delhi alone has 48 different "modes of transport" including cows, elephants and camels, as well as cycle-rickshaws and SUVs.
Rohit Baluja of Delhi's Institute of Road Traffic Education said: "The real issue is not car design but road design. About 85% of all deaths on the roads are pedestrians and cyclists, not drivers. We do not design traffic management systems to separate different streams of traffic. In America this began in 1932."
He called for proper regulation of driver training and licensing to prevent members of the public buying licences through bribes. The lack of knowledge about road basics is illustrated by the fact that there are 110m traffic violations a day in Delhi alone.
The Geneva-based International Road Federation estimates that India already accounts for about 10% of the million-plus fatal accidents in the world each year. Figures produced by the Indian government put the social cost of accidents at 2% to 3% of GDP every year.
Others welcomed the government's planned measures, pointing out that India is the only major country in the world which does not have any clear policy on preventing fatal accidents or even a target for reducing road accidents.
"You need laws and you need to implement and enforce them. That is the tricky bit in India. Sure, make cars have seat belts, but can you make people wear them? That's the bit we have to answer," said Murad Ali Baig, one of the country's best-known motoring writers.

Comments Add New
Write comment
  We don't publish your mail. See privacy policy.
Please input the anti-spam code that you can read in the image.