Neelima Chakrabarty, Sr. Principal Scientist & Head (Traffic Engineering & Safety Division), CSIR-CRRI and Nandita Agrawal highlight the economic impact of road traffic accidents in India, which is considerably quite high.
Studies of the relationship between gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, growth of motor vehicles and road fatalities, have shown that fatality rates increase as GDP increases at relatively low levels of GDP per capita, but then start to decline with continued GDP growth. National estimates have illustrated that road traffic crashes cost countries more than 1-3% of their gross national product, while the financial impact on individual families has been shown to result in increased financial borrowing and debt, and even a decline in food consumption. Road traffic accidents are amenable to remedial action.
It has been emphasized in the National Road Safety Policy (2010) of India that the problem of road safety is multifaceted and has to be dealt with interventions encompassing “4 E’s” viz. Engineering, Enforcement, Education and Emergency care. However, the efforts so far, especially with respect to road safety engineering have been lacking, especially due to the absence of a single authoritative document to use for quantitatively estimating “safety”. According to 2014 statistics 1,41,526 road crashes occurred in India. Out of which 47.69% were due to over speeding, 41.5% due to dangerous and careless driving/overtaking, 5.3% due to poor weather conditions, 2.8% due to defect in mechanical condition of motor vehicle and 2.6% due to driving under the influence of alcohol.
The causes behind crashes can be generalized under three headings namely: driver related, roadway & environment related and traffic related. Most of the above mentioned causes in can be clubbed together under the driver related factors which thus accounts for 92% of the crashes. Moreover, the roadway and environmental factors are controllable to an extend but driver related factors depend on many other contributing factors like age, judgement, driver skill, attention, fatigue, experience and sobriety which are hard to be controlled.
Also driving task is a closed loop compensatory feedback control process meaning that the driver makes inputs (to the steering wheel, brake and accelerator pedal), receives feedback by monitoring the results of the inputs, and in response to the results, makes additional inputs. It is considered as a complex process which demands attention at every point of time and the time taken to react to different stimuli must be low in order to ensure a safe driving. There are two important characteristics of reaction time: first, the number of stimuli and the number of possible responses, and second, expectancy. If the number of stimuli and responses increases, then the reaction time becomes longer.
In economic terms, the cost of road crash injuries is estimated at roughly one percent of gross national product (GNP) in low-income countries, 1.5 percent in middle-income countries and two percent in high-income countries.
Appliance of Economical Methodology
Over the past decades, there has been little effort in India to assess the costs of road crashes due to the lack of systematic road crash information.
It is estimated that 3,80,000 Indians have been displaced by the disaster and reconstruction is expected to cost more than 1.2 billion dollars (approx. 5,500 crore Indian rupees) (World Bank). In 2009 only, 1.27 lakh people died in road accident in India resulting a financial cost of approximately 1,36,000 crore Indian rupees (Mondal et al, 2011). In 2009, for every 4.14 minute and 1.13 minute one death and one injury took place in India from road accident, respectively. The Planning Commission of India had assessed the social cost at `55,000Cr (`550 billion) on account of road accidents in India.