Road Accidents have been the leading cause of death among young adult males in India. India is also the country with most road accident deaths among 199 different countries. Though the number of road accidents has reduced by around 10% in the last 10 years, the number of deaths has increased. In the lockdown year of 2020, 26 States/UTs that have reported complete data, saw 18% less Road Accidents & 15% less Deaths.
India is among the countries that reports the greatest number of road accidents in the world. Every year, thousands of road accidents are reported across India resulting in fatalities and severe injuries. Road injuries are the leading cause of death among young adult males in India. According to the WHO, in 2019, road injury was among the top 10 causes of deaths globally. More people lost their lives to road injuries than to tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, or liver cirrhosis. Road accidents are a socio-economic burden on the victims’ households as well as on the economy. Unlike certain chronic illnesses and diseases, road injuries are preventable through effective interventions and stringent enforcement of rules, as most of them occur due to negligence, poor infrastructure, and carelessness.
An average of 1200+ road accidents were reported daily in India in 2019
Responding to a question in the parliament recently, the Union Government stated that the total number of road accidents in the country stood at 4,49,002 during 2019. Compared to 2018, the number has dropped by nearly 4%. The trend in the number of reported road accidents from 2010 as per the annual ‘Road Accidents in India’ report reveals that the least number of accidents were reported in 2019. In 2010, 5.28 lakh road accidents had taken place, and since then there has been a gradual decrease in the number of such accidents. Between 2010 & 2019, there has been a 10% reduction in the number of road accidents. The data is based on information supplied by the Police Departments of States and UTs. Hence, the actual number of accidents may be higher.
According to data presented in the Lok Sabha earlier this year, 26 states/UTs had submitted data for the entire calendar year 2020. The data indicated that the total number of accidents in these 26 states/UTs had dropped by around 48,500 in 2020, a reduction of more than 18% compared to 2019. The nationwide lockdown and movement restrictions imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19 may have also contributed to the reduction.
Fatality due to road accidents is highest in India
India ranks first in the number of road accident deaths among 199 countries and accounts for almost 11% of the accident-related deaths in the world, according to the Road Accidents in India 2019 report 2019. Though the number of accidents has reduced in the last 10 years, the number of fatalities has gone up. In 2019, 1.51 lakh persons lost their lives due to road accidents, which is merely 0.2% less than 2018. The fatalities number was about 1.35 lakhs in 2010 and has increased by around 12% between 2010 & 2019.
In 2020, the 26 states/UTs reported a decline in the number of deaths due to road accidents by more than 13,000 or 15%. Over 79,000 deaths were reported in 2020 in these 26 states compared to more than 93,000 deaths in 2019. As noted earlier, this could be because of the nationwide lockdown that restricted the movement of people & vehicles.
However, the possibility of under-reporting in fatalities cannot be ruled out. The data reported by police does not include the deaths that take place in hospitals after 30 days if the hospital data and police data are not linked. Further, fatalities in which the person who caused the accident cannot be identified will not be reported since crime/offence under IPC must be lodged against an individual and not against the road or vehicle or any object.
In 2019, around 4.51 lakh persons were injured in road accidents, the lowest since 2010. The number of persons injured in road accidents has dropped by almost 15% between 2010 & 2019.
90% of Road Accidents were reported by 15 states
A total of 15 states together account for more than 90% of the accidents since 2015. In the last five years, Tamil Nadu topped the list with an average of more than 65,000 accidents reported each year. The state reported more than 70,000 accidents in 2016 which has dropped to over 57,000 in 2019. Tamil Nadu reported close to 45,500 accidents in 2020, the lowest since 2015, yet the highest in India. The majority of the accidents in the state took place on the state and national highways. Tamil Nadu also had the highest number of black spots in the country, which is defined as a 500-meter stretch on the national highways where 5 road accidents or 10 fatalities took place in the last three years. Though Tamil Nadu reported the most accidents, Uttar Pradesh reported the greatest number of fatalities.
Since 2015, among the top 15 states, the states of Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, and West Bengal have reported a drop in the number of accidents whereas the states of Bihar, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, and Kerala have reported an increase in the number of road accidents. Seven of these states- Telangana, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, and Gujarat which have reported data for January to December 2020, have reported a drop in accidents even in 2020.
2 out of 3 fatalities in road accidents were due to overspeeding
Over speeding was the reason behind more than 70% of the accidents and 67% of the fatalities, in 2019. Other contributors to the high incidence of road accidents in the country are drunken driving, driving on the wrong side or lane indiscipline, jumping red lights, and usage of phones which are due to poor enforcement of traffic rules.
India ranks 3 globally in terms of total accidents
According to World Road Statistics- 2018 of the International Road Federation, India ranks 3rd in terms of total accidents, among 199 countries. The USA tops the list with more than 31 Lakh accidents. In terms of the incidence of accidents per lakh population, India’s incidence is 36 per lakh people which is much less than many developed and developing countries like the USA (684), Japan (393), Iran (365) and Turkey (233). However, in terms of fatalities, India tops the list.
Road crash had a severe impact on the vulnerable- poorer households, rural households, and women
A study titled ‘Traffic Crash Injuries and Disabilities: The Burden on Indian Society’ was conducted by the World Bank to assess the socio-economic impact of road crashes in India across 4 states — Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, and Maharashtra which accounted for most road accident deaths in the country. It surveyed accident cases and corresponding families of victims to understand the relation between road crash fatalities and poverty, inequality, and vulnerable road users in India. The key findings of the study are as follows-
- Fatalities from road crashes are higher among poor families: The risk of a victim undergoing disability after a crash was also 2 times more likely among poor rural households.
- The burden of the road crashed is disproportionately borne by poor households: More than 75% of poor households reported a decline in their income because of a road accident, as compared to 54% among high-income households. About 42% of the poor household respondents reported that their household went into debt because of borrowing money after a crash as compared to 11% of respondents from richer households.
- Sharp rural-urban divide: The severe impact of the decline in income was highest among poor households in rural areas (56%) compared to those in urban areas (29.5%).
- Women have been highly impacted: Women in the families of victims, irrespective of income, often had to take up extra work, assume greater responsibilities, and perform caregiving activities. 50% of women said they were severely affected by the decline in their household income after an accident. While around 11% reported taking up extra work to deal with the financial crisis, 40% of women reported a change in their working patterns post-crash.
- Inequality in Insurance coverage and compensation: Insurance coverage was significantly higher among high-income households and households in urban areas as compared to lower-income households in urban areas. About 24% of respondents from high-income households said that they received compensation while, among poorer respondents, only 14% received compensation from insurance companies.
- Other issues: In addition to financial distress, poor households also experienced a deterioration in their quality of life accompanied by psychological suffering and emotional distress.
Policy-based approaches have been recommended to save lives
The report suggests policy-oriented approaches for saving lives and improving the ability of victims and their families to get back on their feet. Some of the approaches suggested are the following
- Inclusion of provision for immediate financial, medical, and legal aid.
- Strengthening of health infrastructure and coverage to be made accessible and inclusive.
- Post-crash support needs to be strengthened with governments providing a social security net for crash victims from low-income households.
- Insurance coverage, especially for poor households must be expanded. An accessible legal framework for availing insurance and compensation for road crash victims should be created.
- Considering the gender impact, governments should work on providing special schemes to support women.
Featured Image: Road Accidents in Lockdown year 2020