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India: Road Death Capital of the World
Cars, buses, motorbikes and rickshaws compete for space in Pune, India. Photo by Deadly Tedly.

Cars, buses, motorbikes and rickshaws compete for space in Pune, India. Photo by Deadly Tedly.

Every year, more people die from road traffic injuries in India than anywhere else in the world, and the toll shows no signs of abating, according to a recent New York Times article. In 2008, more than 118,000 people were killed on the roads, an increase of 40% from the previous year. Vulnerable road users – pedestrians and cyclists – are particularly at risk.

India’s roads are notoriously congested, with cars competing for space with buses, motorcyles, bicycles, auto-rickshaws, pedestrians and the occasional cow. Enforcement of traffic laws is lax, and car ownership is booming thanks to the introduction of sub-$2,500 cars such as the Tata Nano, with others in the pipeline. The government is on a road-building spree as part of the National Highways Development Project, as road infrastructure is fast becoming a bottleneck to economic growth. However, without a concerted government effort to improve safety, India’s infrastructure development will come at the expense of its citizens’ lives.

The public health community has begun focusing more attention on the problem of road safety. Late last year, Bloomberg Philanthropies launched the Road Safety in 10 Countries (RS10) project , providing $125 million to six organizations (including EMBARQ, the producer of this blog) to improve road safety in the 10 middle- and low-income countries that account for almost half of road traffic injuries worldwide. Speaking at the recent launch of the Regional Road Safety Report for the Americas at the Pan American Health Organization, Dr. Adnan Hyder of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health pointed out that “road safety interventions are among the most cost-effective public health measures” that can be undertaken. Some simple road safety interventions that can significantly reduce road traffic injuries include better lighting on roads and crosswalks, barriers between vehicles and pedestrians, and enforcing the use of helmets and seatbelts.

In urban areas, investing in mass transit can improve public health by reducing the number of cars on the road, improving air quality and encouraging people to walk or ride bicycles. Nancy Kete, former director of EMBARQ , explains that “[t]hese solutions not only provide safer streets, but they also lead to cleaner air, reduced carbon emissions, more physically active citizens, and greater social inclusion.”

As India continues to invest in transportation infrastructure to fuel its economic growth, the government needs to ensure that roads are designed to provide safe mobility for all its citizens. As Dr. Etienne Krug of the World Health Organization points out in the New York Times article, road safety “requires political commitment of the highest level.” India’s government has acknowledged road safety as a major priority and has introduced legislation to create a national road safety board, encouraging first steps.

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  • See below the five numbers of simple, zero cost and easily implementable
    road safety suggestions capable of thousands of lives each year.


    ( Some of the points may not be valid in developed countries. Poor road / traffic conditions , poor law enforcement in under developed / developing countries should be kep in mn\ind while evaluating the suggestions. The suggestions are capable of saving thousand of lives, each year. )

    Simple suggestion No. 1 : Use bright color for containers.

    The color of most of the Containers is very dull. Hence container carriers are likely to cause crash when parked near road side, especially under low light conditions. This point has more relevance in India, under developed / developing nations where law enforcement, parking and lighting conditions are poor compared to developed nations. Yellow or bright color should be promoted for containers, internationally.

    Simple suggestion No. 2 : TV Commercials involving dangerous driving / riding should be banned.

    Advertisements by automobile companies which include scenes of dangerous and risky riding or driving should be banned. Youngsters are likely to imitate the same. Small kids watching such advertisements may decide “I will also do like this when I grow up” and they will do this for sure when they grow up. Statutory warnings will not help. It may be noted that small kids cannot read such warning. Such advertisements will result in irreparable character formation regarding riding and driving in kids and children. Such children may cause accidents in future.

    Following link is an excellent example of such ads.

    Simple suggestion No.3 : Black vehicles should be discouraged.

    Black vehicles are more likely to be involved in accidents because of its low visibility. According to the Vehicle Color Study by Monash University Accident Research Centre of Melbourne, black cars are less visible and are 12 % more likely to be involved in an accident. Black vehicles consume more fuel also to maintain the air conditioner cooling, as black color absorbs more heat from atmosphere.
    Hence black vehicles, especially cars and motor cycles should be discouraged by educating people about the higher crash risk and higher fuel consumption. If future production of black vehicle can be banned, well and good.
    By discouraging black vehicle we can save lives, save fuel, reduce carbon emission. Even if the fuel saving is as low as a single drop per kilometer, the total fuel savings for the globe is going to be enormous.

    Simple suggestion No.4 : Use bright colored uniform for school children.

    Next point is also more relevant in under developed nations. Bright colored dresses should be promoted for Children. Dark and dull colors should not be the prominent shade of school uniforms. All schools should be asked to change to bright colored uniform as early as possible. This should be implemented slowly with a notice of one or two years, without causing any financial burden for the parents. Public also should be educated not to use dark shades for dresses. Individuals from developed countries may find these ideas ridiculous, but I am sure that such simple ideas will help to save many lives without any additional cost.

    Simple suggestion No. 5 : Black color should not be used for cycles also.

    Black color should not be permitted for Cycles also. Black colored cycles are more likely to be involved in accidents, when used under low light conditions or when used by immature children. Drunkard, careless, safety unaware cyclists who enter the main road suddenly can cause accidents. Some of these accidents could be averted, if the color of the cycle were yellow or other easily visible shade. Default color for Cycles should be changed to Yellow. Public should be educated about this point. Automobile and cycle manufacturers should be asked to stop producing black and dark vehicles. Yellow or other bright colored vehicles should be produced instead.

    Please bring the points to the attention of authorities in your area / country.

    Please make use of the suggestion to achieve the goals set in DECADE OF ACTION.

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  • India: Road Death Capital of the World |

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • India: Road Death Capital of the World |

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • spandana

    promoting walking and cycling in india may be difficult because of weather conditions. what can be the solution to avoid the huge temperatures while walking or cycling?

  • India: Road Death Capital of the World

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter