High poor quotient in road fatalities hurdle to safety policy?

December 16, 2013

NEW DELHI: Is it because mostly poor and vulnerable people die on roads that safety policies are taking a backseat in India? At least some global road safety experts and legal luminaries feel so as figures show one person dies in every three minutes from road accidents in the country.

Speaking at a conference on Strengthening Road Safety Legislation in the national capital On Saturday, Delhi High Court judge justice J R Midha said that though India lose over 1.38 lakh lives every year in road crashes the issue has never found traction because mostly “poor” die on roads.

Director of violence and injury prevention at World Health Organization (WHO) Etienne Kurg said that half of the people dying in road crashes cannot afford a car. He observed since majority of the victims are not high profile the road safety issue and policies are not priority in many countries.

Out of the over 12 lakh people killed on roads across the globe, around 50% are pedestrians or cyclists. The pattern is similar in major Indian cities, including Delhi.

Pushing for strong and actionable legislation, experts from WHO and World Bank said that the pending amendment in the Motor Vehicle Act should be passed by Parliament. The amendments mainly focus on increasing penalty for traffic violations and are aimed at reducing fatalities. Globally, increase in penalty and good enforcement has worked in making roads safer.

On Saturday, road transport and highways minister Oscar Fernandes announced government’s vision to reduce deaths by 50%. Fernandes said strengthening motor vehicle related legislation will certainly result in road safety.

However, while regretting for disruptions in Parliament proceedings Fernandes said efforts will be made to get the Motor Vehicle Act passed in the ongoing winter session. “The Bill (Motor Vehicle Amendment Bill) is listed. Every day I am trying that the Bill is passed in Lok Sabha but unfortunately no business is being transacted. In the last two days we will make every effort that it is passed,” Fernades said.

The minister added that if the House is extended by a couple of days then they should be able to take it up.

Amid reports of high fatalities on Indian roads, Krug said that there are countries that have set example of building more roads, adding more vehicles and yet reducing fatalities and crashes. “There is no single magic bullet. There have to be several legislations, enforcement norms and constant monitoring,” he added.


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