It is a fact that India has more road fatalities than elsewhere in the world. A 17-18% of these fatalities occur in the urban areas itself. This poses a serious threat as the country is rapidly urbanising. A recent evaluation of road traffic fatalities in Delhi shows that pedestrians and bicyclists accounted for 63 per cent of total fatalities, against 11.4 per cent for the country as a whole.
Million-plus cities as well as small and medium towns have witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of fatalities per million populations. They also record more road traffic accidents in the evening, which could be attributed to higher speeds, drunk driving and poor visibility.
Things will probably get worse before they get better. Global experience shows that building safer motor vehicles and re-engineered road geometry does not translate into a better road safety record. Rather than focusing on improving the safety of fast-moving vehicles, the international road safety discourse now focuses on two objectives: reducing the average speed of vehicles and, importantly, reducing the total volume of vehicle kilometres travelled. Together, this is known as a “sustainable transport approach” to road safety.
Our Indian road planners should rationalise new road infrastructure investments by asking if it is a priority if only a small percentage of commuters own or drive cars. As is often repeated within the transport sector, a rich nation is not one in which the poor have cars but one in which the rich use public transport
S. Kammath, Bangalore