Seven killed as bus hits car. Toddler, mom run over by truck. Three killed in highway mishap. Those were among the headlines in just one city over the past week. Some 410 people lost their lives in road accidents each day across India in 2016. In 2015, it was 400 lives a day. That’s nearly 1.5 lakh people in 2016, compared to 1.46 lakh in 2015.
The daily dance of death and destruction on our roads has been blamed on many things: Unsafe cars (India meets only two of the seven safety standard specifications for vehicle design, or minimum safety standards prescribed by the World Health Organisation), bad roads, bad lights, inadequate, poor traffic law enforcement and even a stoic perception that “accidents are inevitable.” No doubt these are all valid reasons.
Yet according to a recent survey, nearly six of the 10 people driving on India’s roads today did not take a test to get their driving licences. That is almost 60 per cent of the people who drive. The survey, by SaveLIFE Foundation, an NGO focused on improving road safety and emergency medical care across India, was conducted across 10 Indian cities, including the five metros which are struggling to cope with the ever-increasing number of vehicles being added each day.
Other interesting figures thrown up by the survey: 86 per cent of the people surveyed believed that road safety was an important issue, while 91 per cent asserted that a strong road safety law would help in reducing road crashes in India. Seventy two per cent felt that road contractors and engineers should be held liable for deaths and injuries due to faulty roads.
Yet ironically, 63 per cent of the same people admitted that they never wore seatbelts while driving their cars, while 42 per cent did not wear helmets while riding two wheelers. Is it any wonder then that while India has only one per cent of the world’s vehicles, it accounts for 10 per cent of road accidents worldwide?