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Old 8th June 2010, 17:55   #1
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Default India steadily increases its lead in road fatalities

Article in TOI today (8 jun 2010)- India is world's road deaths capital and steadily increases its lead in road fatalities

Looking at so many horrible experiences shared here on the forum, it is not surprising that India has achived this dubious distinction. India is world's road deaths capital!!! Unless there is a strong poiltical will and value for the human life, nothing is likely to improve. Talking of those who can do something about it: No one wants to be responsible -They are all passing the buck.

Please see the link below:
India steadily increases its lead in road fatalities - India - The Times of India



This comprehensive article is reproduced below:

*********
India lives in its villages, Gandhi said. But increasingly, the people of India are dying on its roads.

India overtook China to top the world in road fatalities in 2006 and has continued to pull steadily ahead, despite a heavily agrarian population, fewer people than China and far fewer cars than many Western countries.

While road deaths in many other big emerging markets have declined or stabilized in recent years, even as vehicle sales jumped, in India, fatalities are skyrocketing — up 40 percent in five years to more than 118,000 in 2008, the last figure available.

A lethal brew of poor road planning, inadequate law enforcement, a surge in trucks and cars, and a flood of untrained drivers have made India the world's road death capital. As the country's fast-growing economy and huge population raise its importance on the world stage, the rising toll is a reminder that the government still struggles to keep its more than a billion people safe.

In China, by contrast, which has undergone an auto boom of its own, official figures for road deaths have been falling for much of the past decade, to 73,500 in 2008, as new highways segregate cars from pedestrians, tractors and other slow-moving traffic, and the government cracks down on drunken driving and other violations.

Evidence of road accidents seems to be everywhere in urban India.

Highways and city intersections often glitter with smears of broken windshield and are scattered with unmatched shoes, shorn-off bicycle seats and bits of motorcycle helmet. Tales of rolled-over trucks and speeding buses are a newspaper staple, and it is rare to meet someone in urban India who has not lost a family member, friend or colleague on the road.

The dangerous state of the roads represents a "total failure on the part of the government of India," said Rakesh Singh, whose 16-year-old son, Akshay, was killed last year by an out-of-control truck in Bijnor, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, as he walked along a highway to a wedding.

The truck crushed Akshay so completely that his father could identify his son only by his shirt. The truck also ran over a second man and drove away.

Reckless driving and the juxtaposition of pedestrians and fast-moving heavy vehicles is common. The expressway that runs southeast from Delhi to Greater Noida, a fast-growing satellite city, cuts through farmland interspersed with new industrial parks and shopping malls. Small settlements of huts piled with cow-dung patties fringe the road.

During a 40-minute ride on that highway, a tractor hauling gravel was seen driving the wrong way, a milk truck stopped in the road so its driver could urinate and motorists swerved to avoid a bicycle cart full of wooden tables in the fast lane. Drivers chatted on mobile phones as they steered stick-shift cars and wove across lanes. Side mirrors were often turned in or were nonexistent.

A cluster of women in saris holding small children waited anxiously for a gap in traffic so they could race across the highway. Opposite them, a group of young men in office attire waited to cross in the other direction.

The breakdown in road safety has many causes, experts say. Often, the police are too stretched to enforce existing traffic laws or take bribes to ignore them; heavy vehicles, pedestrians, bullock carts and bicycles share roadways; punishment for violators is lenient, delayed or nonexistent; and driver's licenses are easy to get with a bribe.

Kamal Nath, India's minister of road transport and highways, said in an interview that highway safety was a "priority" for the national government. "Road safety is one of the major issues" the ministry is addressing, he said. The ministry is reviewing the Motor Vehicles Act and, three years after a government-backed committee recommended that a national road safety board be established, it has introduced legislation to that effect in Parliament.

International safety experts say the Indian government has been slow to act. Bringing down road deaths "requires political commitment at the highest level," said Dr. Etienne Krug, director of the department of violence and injury prevention at the World Health Organization. India's government is "just waking up to the issue," he said.

Mr. Nath, who was India's commerce minister before moving to the Highway Ministry last year, has increased highway expansion plans and is raising $45 billion from private investors to extend India's 3.3-million-kilometer, or 2-million-mile, road network. The expansion is an integral part of keeping the economy, now at about 9 percent growth a year, humming, Mr. Nath says.

Government planners warn that fatalities are unlikely to decline soon.

When highways ...(Continued on next page)

are built, "there are always more accidents," said Atul Kumar, chief general manager of road safety with the National Highways Authority of India, part of Mr. Nath's ministry.

Mr. Kumar said that his agency had spoken with local residents before building and expanding roads near towns and villages but that it could not always satisfy them. "If we accept all their demands, we'd have an underpass every kilometer," he said. The expansion has to be "viable for bidders," he said, and "underpasses and flyovers are expensive."

In the rest of the world, a rise in high-speed roads does not always have to mean a rise in deaths. In Brazil, for example, new, privatized highways have much lower rates of fatal accidents than other roads.

Private companies building and running new highways in India say that their hands are sometimes tied. From his office overlooking a 32-lane set of tollbooths, Manoj Aggarwal, chief executive of the road-building company Delhi-Gurgaon Super Connectivity, says he witnesses hundreds of traffic violations every day that he cannot stop.

"Look at this man in the middle of the road," he said during an interview, pointing to a pedestrian slowly weaving his way through the traffic. "I can't fine him. I can't punish him."

Only the police can ticket or fine speeders, or people who are on the roads but should not be. But, over-burdened and understaffed, the police are rarely available, Mr. Aggarwal said, even though he has offered to pay them extra to work on off-duty hours.

In 2008, 73 people were killed on just this 27-kilometer stretch of highway, earning it the nickname "Expressway to Death." The death toll dropped as Mr. Aggarwal added safety features outside the government contract.

Shivani, a 15-year-old student, recently landed in St. Stephen's Hospital in Old Delhi with a fractured right leg after just such a highway dash.

"I don't know what happened," she said. "I was trying to cross the road." Her forehead and knuckles were blackened and scraped, and her eyes were glazed after a four-day coma.

She has to cross a busy highway during her one-kilometer walk to school. There are no crosswalks, no underpasses and no stoplights.

As cars increase, those who cannot afford them and continue to travel on foot, bicycle or rickshaw are more vulnerable, safety experts say. Dr. Mathew Varghese, the head of St. Stephen's orthopedics department, said he saw hundreds of patients a year like Shivani. The government is building "economic growth on the dead bodies of the poor on these highways," he said.

Frustrated Indians often take matters into their own hands, forming impromptu mobs to beat up offending drivers. "Road rage" incidents, where drivers step out of their cars and get into physical altercations, have become common. Some people have begun campaigns to curb unsafe driving.

"People don't understand the value of life here," said Manoj Gupta, a consultant from Chandigarh, whose wife was riding a motor scooter when she was crushed by a speeding bus two years ago. Helmet laws apply only to men, and she was not wearing one. The bus driver was out on bail in four or five days, Mr. Gupta said. Now Mr. Gupta stops reckless drivers to tell them about his wife and to ask them to drive more carefully.

Safety "needs to be an important part of the driving culture, and that is still lacking," said Harman S. Sidhu, president of ArriveSafe, a road safety awareness group in Chandigarh. He started it after he was left paralyzed by a car accident in the Himalayas.

Last year during Raksha Bandhan, a festival celebrating the bond between brothers and sisters, ArriveSafe enlisted thousands of sisters to beg their brothers to drive carefully.

Mr. Singh, the father of Akshay, the boy killed by a truck in Bijnor, said he had spent days searching for the driver who ran over his son after the local police refused to help, finally taking the police in his own car to make the arrest. Megh Singh, the investigating police officer for the case, said in an interview that the police were eager to investigate but hampered because the station has only one jeep for its 18 to 20 inspectors.

The truck driver, now awaiting trial on charges of negligent death in Akshay's case and murder in a second man's case, has been released on bail. The truck, which appeared to be carrying an illegally heavy load, was returned to its owner without incurring any fees or fines.

Dozens of letters Mr. Singh wrote to local and national politicians asking them to investigate overloaded trucks in the area have not been answered.

"No one wants to be responsible," he said. "They are all passing the buck."

are built, "there are always more accidents," said Atul Kumar, chief general manager of road safety with the National Highways Authority of India, part of Mr. Nath's ministry.

Mr. Kumar said that his agency had spoken with local residents before building and expanding roads near towns and villages but that it could not always satisfy them. "If we accept all their demands, we'd have an underpass every kilometer," he said. The expansion has to be "viable for bidders," he said, and "underpasses and flyovers are expensive."

In the rest of the world, a rise in high-speed roads does not always have to mean a rise in deaths. In Brazil, for example, new, privatized highways have much lower rates of fatal accidents than other roads.

Private companies building and running new highways in India say that their hands are sometimes tied. From his office overlooking a 32-lane set of tollbooths, Manoj Aggarwal, chief executive of the road-building company Delhi-Gurgaon Super Connectivity, says he witnesses hundreds of traffic violations every day that he cannot stop.

"Look at this man in the middle of the road," he said during an interview, pointing to a pedestrian slowly weaving his way through the traffic. "I can't fine him. I can't punish him."

Only the police can ticket or fine speeders, or people who are on the roads but should not be. But, over-burdened and understaffed, the police are rarely available, Mr. Aggarwal said, even though he has offered to pay them extra to work on off-duty hours.

In 2008, 73 people were killed on just this 27-kilometer stretch of highway, earning it the nickname "Expressway to Death." The death toll dropped as Mr. Aggarwal added safety features outside the government contract.

Shivani, a 15-year-old student, recently landed in St. Stephen's Hospital in Old Delhi with a fractured right leg after just such a highway dash.

"I don't know what happened," she said. "I was trying to cross the road." Her forehead and knuckles were blackened and scraped, and her eyes were glazed after a four-day coma.

She has to cross a busy highway during her one-kilometer walk to school. There are no crosswalks, no underpasses and no stoplights.

As cars increase, those who cannot afford them and continue to travel on foot, bicycle or rickshaw are more vulnerable, safety experts say. Dr. Mathew Varghese, the head of St. Stephen's orthopedics department, said he saw hundreds of patients a year like Shivani. The government is building "economic growth on the dead bodies of the poor on these highways," he said.

Frustrated Indians often take matters into their own hands, forming impromptu mobs to beat up offending drivers. "Road rage" incidents, where drivers step out of their cars and get into physical altercations, have become common. Some people have begun campaigns to curb unsafe driving.

"People don't understand the value of life here," said Manoj Gupta, a consultant from Chandigarh, whose wife was riding a motor scooter when she was crushed by a speeding bus two years ago. Helmet laws apply only to men, and she was not wearing one. The bus driver was out on bail in four or five days, Mr. Gupta said. Now Mr. Gupta stops reckless drivers to tell them about his wife and to ask them to drive more carefully.

Safety "needs to be an important part of the driving culture, and that is still lacking," said Harman S. Sidhu, president of ArriveSafe, a road safety awareness group in Chandigarh. He started it after he was left paralyzed by a car accident in the Himalayas.

Last year during Raksha Bandhan, a festival celebrating the bond between brothers and sisters, ArriveSafe enlisted thousands of sisters to beg their brothers to drive carefully.

Mr. Singh, the father of Akshay, the boy killed by a truck in Bijnor, said he had spent days searching for the driver who ran over his son after the local police refused to help, finally taking the police in his own car to make the arrest. Megh Singh, the investigating police officer for the case, said in an interview that the police were eager to investigate but hampered because the station has only one jeep for its 18 to 20 inspectors.

The truck driver, now awaiting trial on charges of negligent death in Akshay's case and murder in a second man's case, has been released on bail. The truck, which appeared to be carrying an illegally heavy load, was returned to its owner without incurring any fees or fines.

Dozens of letters Mr. Singh wrote to local and national politicians asking them to investigate overloaded trucks in the area have not been answered.

"No one wants to be responsible," he said. "They are all passing the buck."
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Old 9th June 2010, 15:11   #2
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Safety is for all to follow, Drivers and Pedestrians alike, displine is the key.
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Old 9th June 2010, 20:30   #3
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How I think highway regulations should be:
  • Highways are not a place to stroll or to cross.
  • Now there are enough highways in India, we need a highway trooper force who shall exclusively patrol highways. That may be by state or a national force.
  • Highways MUST be made off limits to pedestrian traffic by fence + ditch method.
  • Moving violations (hit-and-run / DUI) should carry harsh penalties and not a measly Rs 2000 fine.
  • As India is not sparsely populated USA, we cannot have long strecthes of highways with no crossings. But we cannot have a galore of traffic signals either. The only option is the construction of 2 lane overpasses for traffic and vehicles to cross.
If all these can be implemented by our government - I am sure the death tolls shall come down.
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Old 11th June 2010, 14:42   #4
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Government planners warn that fatalities are unlikely to decline soon.

When highways ...(Continued on next page)

are built, "there are always more accidents," said Atul Kumar, chief general manager of road safety with the National Highways Authority of India, part of Mr. Nath's ministry.

Mr. Kumar said that his agency had spoken with local residents before building and expanding roads near towns and villages but that it could not always satisfy them. "If we accept all their demands, we'd have an underpass every kilometer," he said. The expansion has to be "viable for bidders," he said, and "underpasses and flyovers are expensive."


This just shows the attitude of our government - ministers and bureaucrats. This sort of statement from the man in charge of safety is shocking. Look at the sense of inevitability. Underpasses and flyovers are expensive; human life is cheap?

If you are taking highways past villages and towns you have to provide for safety. If the project costs go up then higher toll needs to be charged.

The classic attitude of "You have to break eggs to make an omelette".

Srivathsa
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