Just one team to probe all road accidents

December 9, 2013

Dipak Kumar Dash, TNN



NEW DELHI: India is home to the world’s deadliest roads reporting 1.4 lakh deaths annually, but has a solitary expert team to investigate all road crashes to find the exact cause.

Government reports claim 90% crashes involve vehicles, but only 1.4% of accidents and another 2% are caused due to defect in vehicles and roads. Lack of scientific investigation has been the biggest stumbling block.

 Though 52 people died last month in two separate accidents, involving Volvo buses, the preliminary findings of an investigation team into the incidents are still pending. Sources said that when the team headed by IIT-Delhi professor Anoop Chawla was finalizing the findings of the first crash at Mehboobnagar in Andhra Pradesh, another one occurred at Haveri in Karnataka.

“The same team had to be rushed to investigate the case since the two incidents were similar where buses caught fire after crashes. There is no other team to investigate such cases,” said a government source.

Professor Chawla and his team get all such cases that are referred by National Automotive Testing and R&D Infrastructure Project (NATRiP).

In fact, road deaths’ reports since 2008 show how few crashes are attributed to mechanical snags in vehicles and defects in road condition since rarely there is any scientific investigation of fatal accidents. For example, government data claims that only 2,752 people were killed in road accidents in 2008 due to defects in vehicles. While, the toll stood at 2,739 last year.

“Here, accidents and fatalities data come from FIRs. We can’t expect a policeman without adequate knowledge and training to pin point the cause of crashes while writing an FIR. We also don’t carry out crash investigation which can help government take measures to prevent accidents. For some time we are training cops in accident investigation as a part of home ministry’s initiative,” said Rohit Baluja, a road safety expert and president of Institute of Road Traffic Education (IRTE).

The chief of US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) chief David L Strickland said that correct data form the basis of taking right decisions to improve road safety. “For example, we have undertaken research how to prevent drunk driving and collision after our data showed that these are two major reasons of fatalities on our roads,” he told TOI on the sidelines of UN Europe-Asia road safety forum meeting at IRTE.

Road transport ministry officials said that the government is trying to address the concern by setting up a vertical to undertake research and investigation under its proposed Road Safety and Traffic Management Board. “We plan to collaborate with NHSTA to improve our road safety programme. We have very few dedicated manpower to deal with the issue. Establishment of the new body will have more men and fund to undertake research to make our roads safe,” said road transport secretary Vijay Chhibber.



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