With road crashes claiming more than 150,000 lives in India, it is essential to make road safety focus of any road project in the country says Nupur Gupta, Senior Transport Specialist, World Bank Group
In line with international experience and practice, the World Bank has progressively developed a comprehensive approach to road safety that doesn’t just consider infrastructure design but brings together all key stakeholders that have a stake in making and keeping roads safe, from police authorities to transport and health departments as well as infrastructure providers.
One example of this approach is the 138.6km long Kadapa to Renigunta safety demonstration corridor implemented by the Government of Andhra Pradesh under the Andhra Pradesh & Telangana Road Sector Project (APTRSP).
The corridor itself was chosen based on its poor safety performance in 2010 through an International Road Assessment Programme (iRap) survey. To enhance the safety of the demonstration corridor, the following measures were proposed:
• Infrastructure improvements
• The creation of a new fully equipped trauma care center at a local hospital
• Improved enforcement of traffic laws
• Targeted initiatives focused on particular road users.
The Transport Department was designated the Lead Agency for implementing the Safe Road Corridor and a Road Safety Cell was set up within the Department. When we started implementing these interventions back in 2014, this was one of the first deliberate multi-sectoral efforts to improve the safety of a road in the country. As the project is nearing completion, now is a good time to look at preliminary results. Between 2009 and 2017, the number of fatalities declined by 40%, from 0.26 to 0.16 per ten thousand vehicles. While these numbers are certainly encouraging, we know we can take this further, so let’s take stock of what worked and what could be improved.
The impact of civil works: Civil works were focused on the most vulnerable sections of the road, and involved interventions such as curve and junction improvements, widening, retro-reflective signage, lane markings, safe pedestrian crossings, crash barriers and road studs. The results were impressive: locations where curves and junctions were improved saw a 53% reduction in road crashes and 42% reduction in fatalities.
Effective enforcement for safer driving: Two Highway Patrolling Outposts were created at Rajampet and Renigunta and equipped with
towaway cranes, patrolling vehicles, speed laser guns, breath analyzers etc. The focus of enforcement was on checking over-speeding and drunken driving, and accidents involving cars, auto-rickshaws and light commercial vehicles dropped.
Evidence-based interventions: The Transport Department took a close look at available data to understand the main risk factors that contributed to crashes on the corridor. The exercise revealed, for instance, that many collisions involving trucks occurred because many drivers did not take the time to rest and freshen up during their shift—which led to the development of the innovative Stop-Wash-Go Program. Using the same method, government officials also realized many drivers were speeding because they wanted to reach the holy town of Tirupati in time for early morning ceremonies.
Some room for improvement
Coordination with the Health Department has not always been seamless: As an example, the newlybuilt Trauma Care facility at Rajampet remains unutilized due to a lack of specialized staff.
The case for a more ambitious civil works program: The targeted stretches accounted for only a small subset of accidents and fatalities. The majority of accidents are spread across the rest of the corridor, which would have benefited from a more comprehensive treatment.