The growing trend of road accidents has created a need to understand the primary factors involved in these crashes and in the resulting severe injuries and fatalities. The Road Accident Sampling System (RASSI) India is an initiative aimed at collecting in-depth scientific road accident data, through on-site crash investigations, that will enable the government, industry and other road safety stakeholders to plan and execute data-driven road safety strategies for safer Indian roads says Ravishankar Rajaraman, Technical Director, JP Research India Pvt. Ltd.
India’s ever increasing traffic fatality rate has created an urgent need to understand the factors involved in serious and fatal injury crashes so that steps might be taken to mitigate these. But such understanding relies on having quality, in-depth data available for analysis, and lack of such data has been a big limitation in India. Road Accident Sampling System India (RASSI) is the brainchild of its founders, Jeya Padmanaban (President and founder of JP Research) and Ajit Dandapani (CEO of JP Research), conceived to become the first automotive accident database of its kind and is a comprehensive and evolving approach towards in-depth accident data collection in India for India and by India.
Road traffic accidents are primarily influenced by three main factors:
- Human (usually drivers and vehicle occupants, but also pedestrians and cyclists)
- Infrastructure (roadway and the environment)
Typically, accidents are analyzed for each of the above factors, and the accident is finalized as a result of a problem with only one of these factors. This type o f analysis results in an over representation of human failures and tends to identify driver errors as the main contributors to road traffic accidents. Thus, the commonly repeated wisdom – “Driver error is the cause of over 90% of accidents”. The problem with this type of analysis is the assumption that the driver initiated the accident and hence all responsibility lies with him/ her. Influencing factors which are vehicle-related and infrastructure related are often not accounted for, even though they are an inseparable part of the whole accident.
Under the RASSI initiative, road accidents are examined to determine all the possible contributing factors (human, vehicle and infrastructure) leading to that accident because each of these factors can influence an accident independently or as a combination. This kind of analysis gives a broader perspective and can help identify vehicle and infrastructure related solutions that can prevent accidents and mitigate injuries in spite of human errors.
Based on the Venn diagram analysis, important road infrastructure factors leading to road accidents and the resulting injuries could be highlighted in the following types of roads.
The significant points are:
- Pedestrian infrastructure needs focus on city roads and arterial roads passing through the city. Lack of basic pedestrian infrastructure like pedestrian refuge islands, zebra crossings, continuous unobstructed footpaths with a width of at least 2 meters results in pedestrians sharing the roads with vehicular traffic. This results in a high number of pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries in cities.
- Problems such as vision obstructions, poorly designed intersections, lack of road markings and signage, and sharp curved roads indicate that capacity building is required amongst Indian road/civil engineers for understanding the science of traffic flow so that roads can be built with good geometry and proper driver information is provided in advance for better driver decision making.
- Undivided roads are a major influencing factor for accidents on national and state highways where head-on collisions occur due to the natural tendency of drivers to overtake slower moving vehicles in front of them. The provision of narrow (1.5 m width) or no paved shoulders on both sides of divided roadways also lead to a number of accidents, especially on expressways.
- Road infrastructure must ensure that accident/broken down vehicles are effectively cordoned off from flowing traffic with advance warning signs, or towed away so that further accidents with such vehicles can be prevented.
The following table shows the predominant reasons for injuries to vehicle occupants due to road infrastructure factors. Usually, these infrastructure factors come into play when a vehicle loses control and veers off the roadway as a result of an accident or a driver maneuvers to prevent an accident. It can be seen that impacts with objects on the road side or median (trees, plantations and, surprisingly, objects created by road engineers on the road side for various purposes) are quite common in all the road types. Another common reason for injuries is when a vehicle veers off Road the roadway and drives into a steep slope or drop off on the road side. This results in rollovers and hard contacts with the ground that lead to severe or fatal injuries.
These problems are quite common in other countries such as the UK, USA and Sweden. The philosophy of creating clear zones (no objects within 10 meters of the roadway) or creating forgiving infrastructure by providing road side crash protective barriers such as jersey walls, guard rails, wire rope safety fences, impact attenuators, etc. can significantly reduce fatalities and serious injuries as a result of these infrastructure factors.
“Zero Fatality Corridor” Initiative
In a major initiative, the Maharashtra government launched an initiative for road safety to transform the 95-km Mumbai-Pune Expressway into a ‘zero fatality corridor’ over the next five years. The Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) signed a memorandum of understanding with Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd and road safety NGO SaveLIFE Foundation to reduce an average of 130 deaths per year in roads accidents on the Mumbai Pune Expressway. Making it a first 360 degree intervention across engineering, emergency care, enforcement, and education, the zero fatality corridor initiative will collaborate with the Maharashtra Highway Police, IRB Infrastructure, DY Patil University, Ogilvy ad agency, JP Research India Ltd, BVG, which runs the 108 ambulance service, and 10 private and government hospitals on the vicinity of the Expressway.
“MSRDC is committed to create the safest roads in India and hence associated with Save LIFE foundation and Mahindra & Mahindra on this unique initiative. We invite the general public to support us in this initiative by ensuring they drive safely on the expressway”, noted R L Mopalwar, MD and Vice Chairman, MSRDC.
Speaking on the occasion, Veejay Ramn Nakra, Senior Vice PresidentSales & Customer Care, Automotive Division, M & M Ltd, said, “As responsible corporate citizens, we at Mahindra are committed toward making India’s roads safer. In fact road safety is expected to improve significantly when every component of the road system including the vehicle, road infrastructure, traffic engineering, driver training, road etiquette, enforcement, education, awareness as well as the laws that govern the road system, have safety as an inherent virtue.
The seeds for this initiative were sown when SaveLIFE Foundation, an NGO, came across the Mumbai Pune Expressway Road Accident Study Report of JP Research India Pvt. Ltd. – a traffic safety research firm specializing in on-site crash investigation and in-depth accident data collection. This report identifies the various human, vehicle and infrastructure factors influencing accidents and injuries on the Mumbai – Pune Expressway based on an on-site scientific crash examination of 372 accidents over a period of two years by a team of trained crash investigators. SaveLIFE then asked JP Research India Pvt. Ltd. to conduct a road safety survey to identify the frequency of the various infrastructure factors on every km of the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. JP Research conducted a video survey of the entire expressway during the day and night and determined the frequency of each of the 15 major infrastructure factors, identified on the Mumbai – Pune Expressway, which influenced the occurrence of accidents and the resulting injuries. The survey report also determined the counter measures and provided a preliminary cost benefit analysis of each counter measure. This survey data is now being used for road engineering safety improvements on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway.
The 15 infrastructure factors influencing accidents and injuries on the MPEW
- Narrow/No shoulder
- Roadside/Median concrete structure
- Roadside steep slope/ drop-off
- Poor/ineffective road signage
- Sharp road curvatures
- Unguarded overhead bridge pillars
- Unguarded Bridge/Jersey wall
- Unguarded Underpasses
- Entry/Exit road
- Driver vision obstruction
- Roadside trees
- Curb stones
- Guardrail end taper
- Flower pots in the median