The increase in the number of vehicles on Indian roads has also lead to an increase in the number of road accidents. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 1,37,000 persons were killed and an estimated 2 million were seriously injured in road crashes across India in 2013. Social losses on account of these crashes are estimated at over Rs 1,00,000 crore annually or 3% of our GDP. The irony is that these casualties are rising at 5.5 % annually. Meanwhile, India accounts for 10% of the global road crash fatalities - with an average of one fatality every 3.5 minutes, one of the highest in the world. Approximately 43% of the fatalities are powered two-wheeler riders and car occupants. Statistics show that globally more than a million people die due to road accidents every year and if we do not do anything about it by 2020 this figure will double. Thus, the UN has announced 2011-2020 as the "Decade of Action for Road Safety" with an aim to reduce fatalities by 50%. Five pillars have been identified by the UN to achieve this target - road safety management, safer roads and mobility, safer road users, post-crash response and safer vehicles. India is yet to adopt a system of scientific investigation and analysis of road crashes. Many other developing countries fall in the same category.
Globally, road safety is evaluated by the number of crashes and their consequences in terms of deaths, serious injuries and economic loss to nations. Logically, therefore, to improve safety, the factual causes of crashes should be known. In other words, road safety can only be initiated with the knowledge of the causative factors as well as that of consequences of serious and fatal road crashes.
A consumer trends study had shown how consumers consider vehicle cost, mileage and comfort when buying cars. When people were interviewed on their priorities in India, safety ranked seventh in a list of 10 features. In China, on the other hand, safety ranked third and in Japan it ranked fourth. A majority of buyers, especially those looking at compact cars and sedans, are highly cost-sensitive. They are more excited about the fancy features offered instead of paying a premium for safety features like airbags, Anti-Braking System (ABS) and Electronic Stability Control (ESP).
An investigation conducted by Bosch Accident Research looked at the accident database of the Road Accident Sampling System for India (RASSI). It aimed to find out how vehicle systems can help avoid accidents taking place and also how they can minimise injury in the case of impact. Results were recently published at the SIAT 2015 conference.
The findings suggested that 20% of all passenger car accidents with casualties on highways could have been avoided with ABS (while 6% could have been avoided during full braking and 14% during steering and braking).
The Anti-Lock Braking System for powered two-wheelers (PTW ABS) could have helped prevent 33% of rural accidents involving motorcycles. Every third rural accident with casualty involving a powered two-wheeler could be avoided by PTW ABS. A reduction in collision speed is estimated for nearly every fifth accident.
A further accident study pointed out that though 78% of passenger car seats were equipped with seat belts, only 13% passengers used them; 84% of passenger cars were not equipped with airbags. We can conclude that more awareness and education is needed to improve seatbelt usage and a higher installation rate of airbags can help to reduce the number on fatalities and casualties in passenger cars.
All the studies discussed above provide necessary support to the Indian Government in establishing evidence-based safety legislations in India. In a recent announcement, the Indian Government has declared that all passenger vehicles produced in India will be fitted with airbags and all powered two-wheelers will be fitted with ABS with effect from 2017. Discussions have been completed and the final declaration is yet to be notified by the government.
A few important steps to ensure injury-free driving in India:
• Ensure safer road infrastructure by scientific design of roads and bring them in consonance with international best practices keeping in view Indian traffic conditions.
• Educate vulnerable road users on compulsory usages of seatbelts and helmets.
• Focus on schoolchildren and college students for road traffic safety education and training, in an effort to start awareness early.
• Implement road safety publicity campaigns to propagate good road safety practices in the community.
• Establish a road safety information database to improve the quality of crash investigations and of data collection and analysis.
• Implement Intelligent Transport Systems (ITSs) to establish a safe and efficient transport system.
• Stringently enforce safety laws in order to ensure their effective and uniform implementation.
• Ensure that all persons involved in road accidents benefit from speedy and effective trauma care from emergency medical services for road accidents.
Note: Some facts mentioned above are basis a research conducted by Bosch in association with the Road Accident Sampling System for India (RASSI); this is an ongoing research undertaken to evaluate the benefit of the state-of-the art vehicle safety systems known as Antilock Braking System (ABS). RASSI is also the name of the relational accident database developed to record the scientific data from on-spot accident investigations.