Data from the ‘Road Accidents in India-2022’, published by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways indicates that the number of road accidents & fatalities has increased in 2022 to reach pre-pandemic levels after a decline in 2020 & 2021. The data also indicates that rural areas accounted for more than two-thirds of the fatalities in road accidents while about 70% of the accidents were caused due to over-speeding.
Road accidents in India have been a longstanding concern due to their high incidence and impact. As India is witnesses a rapid expansion of road infrastructure and increasing number of vehicles, the number of accidents and fatalities is also increasing. Its impact is far-reaching and affects various facets of society including loss of lives, injuries & disabilities, economic burden, and disruption of livelihoods, among others.
The Annual Report, ‘Road Accidents in India’ is published by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH). It provides comprehensive data on various aspects of road accidents, including contributing factors, time and locations, and their impact on different categories of road users. It is based on the information received from police departments of States/UTs on a calendar year basis in standardized formats as provided by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) under the Asia Pacific Road Accident Data (APRAD) base project. The report for 2022 was published recently.
As observed earlier, the number of accidents and fatalities in 2020 and 2021 had declined due to the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak and the resultant stringent nationwide lockdown which was phased out gradually. However, in 2022, a total of 4.61 lakh road accidents were reported across the country which claimed the lives of nearly 1.69 lakh persons and left over 4.43 lakh persons injured. In the year 2022, the number of accidents, fatalities and persons injured have gone back to the pre-pandemic levels.
Severity of road accidents has increased gradually over the years
The data from 2005 to 2022 reveals an increase in the number of persons killed in road accidents. An indicator used in the report to monitor road accidents is the extent of road accident severity. It is measured as the number of deaths/fatalities per 100 accidents. A higher severity means there are more fatalities relative to the total number of accidents.
The severity of road accidents has increased from 21.6 to 36.5 in 2022. This means that for every 100 road accidents, 22 lives were claimed in 2005, which has now increased to 37 in the last three years. In absolute figures, the severity was the highest in 2021 when it touched 37.3.
Fatalities in rural areas has gone up by nearly 35% in the last decade
The share of urban areas in accidents and fatalities has dropped over the years. Data for the last decade, from 2013 to 2022 shows that the share of road accidents in urban areas has dropped from nearly 46% until 2015 to less than 40% in the last three years. Meanwhile, the same has increased for rural areas.
While the number of accidents in urban areas has reduced in the last decade, the number of fatalities in these accidents has not varied much. It has been below 60,000 throughout. The number of persons injured has also decreased over the years. However, in rural areas, not only has the number of accidents increased by 7.8% between 2013 and 2022, but the number of fatalities has also gone up by 34.5% during this period. Except for 2020 and 2021, the number of persons injured has revolved around 2.7 lakhs in rural areas. Rural areas accounted for more than two-thirds of fatalities in road accidents at the national level.
Highways account for 5% of the road network but more than 50% of the accidents
The National and State Highways which accounted for only 5% of India’s total road network saw a disproportionately larger share of accidents. Every year, on average, 55% of the total road accidents take place on both highways together. Higher vehicle speeds and an increasing volume of traffic may be the reasons behind this. The share of accidents on National Highways (including Expressways) has increased from 28% in 2013 to 33% in 2022 while that on State Highways stood at an average of 25%.
The fatalities reported on the Highways accounted for more than 60% of the total fatalities across all the years considered. The share of fatalities on the National Highways went up from 33% to 36% in the last decade while that on State Highways dropped from nearly 30% to 24%. Other roads include District Roads, Rural Roads, Urban Roads, and Project Roads which accounted for 39% of the fatalities in 2022, up from 37% in 2013. The share of injured persons was around 44% throughout the years on ‘other roads’ while it increased from 29% to 33% on National Highways.
7 in 10 accidents and fatalities were due to over-speeding
Data on the traffic rules violated resulting in road accidents has been considered from 2017 to 2022. The categorization of the data is uniform for this period which makes comparison easier to understand the trends.
Over-speeding was the main violation associated with accidents and fatalities between 2017 and 2022. Every year, about 70% of the accidents were due to over-speeding. It also accounted for about 70% of the fatalities in 2021 and 2022, up from 64% in 2018.
Lane indiscipline or driving on the wrong side was the cause of about 5% of the accidents between 2018 and 2022. It was also the cause of about 5.6% of the fatalities during this period. Driving after consuming alcohol or drugs resulted in around 2.4% of the accidents between 2018 and 2022 and constituted about 2.7% of the fatalities. The use of mobile phones caused about 1 to 2% of the accidents and fatalities. The share of accidents and fatalities due to jumping red lights is below 1% and declined over the years.
Others is a residual category for tying up the totals and include accidents /fatalities on account of reasons other than human errors listed above.
Road accidents cost 5 to 7% of India’s GDP
According to a World Bank’s study, India accounted for only 1% of the world’s vehicles, yet almost 10% of all crash-related deaths globally were reported from India. Road crashes were estimated to cost the Indian economy between 5 to 7% of the GDP. Considering the human and economic cost of road accidents, India must implement stringent measures to bring accidents down.
MoRTH implements a multi-pronged strategy to address the issue of road safety based on Education, Engineering (both roads and vehicles), Enforcement and Emergency Care. It implements various programs to spread awareness of road safety. Road safety has also been made an integral part of road design from the planning stage as well as in vehicle engineering. The Motor Vehicles Amendment Act of 2019 also increased the punishment and penalties for road rules violations. A Good Samaritan Scheme is also in place to encourage citizens to help the victims of accidents. However, these measures are not enough to address the issue, as revealed by the data.
A more focused approach is needed to deal with these accidents and their impact. For instance, a higher share of fatalities in rural areas may be because of inadequate trauma care facilities/emergency medical facilities. The increasing severity of accidents also calls for the need for improve trauma care, impact-calming measures, and improved safety systems in vehicles.