Road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari has been able to impart momentum to road construction, but he admits that much remains to be done to bring down the number of road accident-related deaths in the country.
“We have done so many record-breaking stuff since we took over, but I have not been able to reduce the number of accident-related deaths on the roads. This is my one regret. My ministry, however, is sensitive to the issue and is working accordingly,” Gadkari said.
The plan is to reduce deaths from road accidents by a half in a time-bound manner, an uphill task, given that the loss of life in such incidents has been rising relentlessly in recent years.
With 1.4 lakh deaths on the roads in 2015, India accounts for 11% of all road traffic fatalities in the world. According to a World Bank study, road deaths have gone up by 53% in India in the last 10 years starting from 2005. Young people in the age bracket of 15-34 years account for 54% of all road deaths. India also holds the dubious distinction of being the No. 1 country in road deaths since 2006.
A ministry official said several reasons, including non-availability of crossover facilities, inappropriate movement of pedestrians along and across highways, high speed, lack of visibility, and lack of proper training of drivers are responsible for a large number of road deaths in the country.
However, unlike the popular practice of passing the buck to the drivers, Gadkari puts the onus on faulty project layouts for the maximum number of deaths and vows to punish those behind such reports. At the same time, he admitted the need for proper training of drivers before they are issued with driving licences.
The World Bank said political commitment, targeted programme focused on key risks, strong enforcement coupled with education aimed at behaviour changes are some of the key factors to bring down road deaths.
The Gadkari-led ministry has taken a slew of measures, including identifying black or accident-prone spots throughout the width and length of the country. His ministry has firmed up a plan to spend Rs 11,000 crore to fix such black spots in the next five years. It has also taken an initiative to pass the road safety Bill, which proposes to come down heavily on traffic offenders. A road safety authority is also proposed to be constituted.
Expressing concern over the way driving licences are being issued, the minister sought for an overhaul of the system and urged people to use seatbelts and helmets and not to use mobile phones while driving.