India has the dubious distinction of having maximum number of fatalities on our roads. During the year 2012, 138275 people were killed in 4,90,000 accidents. Improvement of roads and availability of new age vehicles have led to increased speed on the road and thereby increased accidents. As such road safety is an area of concern for all the Government. V L Patankar, Director General (Road Development), Ministry of Road Transport and Highways writes on road safety measures being put in place.
Reduction in number of accidents and fatalities involve 6Es, namely, Education, Enactment, Enforcement, Engineering (Vehicles), Engineering (Roads) and Environment & Emergency Care. In the Indian scenario, these aspects come under different authorities and therefore road safety is a complex issue where great efforts are required in achieving the objectives.
Ministry of Road Transport & Highways, the nodal agency at the central level has two wings, namely Roads wing and Transport wing. Roads wing deals with the development and maintenance of the National Highways and is mainly responsible for the engineering aspect of road safety. The Transport wing deals with the formulation of broad policies relating to regulation of road transport in the country which inter-alia includes framing of policies related to vehicle standards, vehicle safety norms etc. Besides formulation of policies this wing is also responsible for administering certain central sector schemes related to human resource development, publicity and awareness campaign on road safety, national highway accident relief service, computerisation of road transport sector, strengthening of public transport system, setting up inspection and certification centres, model driving training schools and creation of road safety board.
The Government has approved a National Road Safety Policy in March 2010, based on which the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has adopted a multi-pronged strategy to improve road safety. The Ministry has focused on all 6-Es. The Ministry?s initiative includes:
Development of National Highways: A number of major projects have been taken up which also includes NHDP. Under this programme, capacity augmentation and construction of bypasses/ring roads have been undertaken for about 50,000 km of NHs. Remaining stretches of NHs are also being developed through the various State executing agencies. While developing a NH, due care is taken regarding road safety and project parameters are decided accordingly. Another major decision taken, related to development of NHs, is specifying minimum carriageway width as two-lane with paved shoulders. Availability of additional lanes and paved shoulders, coupled with segregation of local traffic from through traffic, is expected to give major relief in reducing the accidents. This will make road travel safer.
Road Safety Audit: To ensure compliance of the road standards from the point of view of Road Safety, road safety audits are undertaken. The Audit is a critical assessment of the shortcomings in the various elements of the road and traffic control system that lead to unsafe conditions. Based upon this assessment, suitable measures are suggested to facilitate safe, smooth, comfortable and efficient movement of traffic. Road safety audits are carried out while preparing the proposals for upgrade of roads, during construction as well as during operation. IRC has also brought out a manual to facilitate these audits.
Even in projects developed through private sector participation, road safety audit through an independent safety auditor is mandatory and forms part of the concession agreement prior to issue of commercial date of operation.
Safety feature during project preparation: Currently, emphasis is laid on designing roads for the vulnerable road users, mainly pedestrians. This has now been made an integral part of project preparation. While preparing a project proposal, adequate provision for signage, markings and facilities for vulnerable users in the form of under-pass, foot over bridge (FoB), rest area, wayside amenities, crane, ambulance, patrolling vehicle, emergency call system etc are provided. Major projects have provision for highway traffic management systems.
Safety in Construction Zone: Road projects, primarily aiming at upgrading the existing facility, have unique characteristics. Users utilize project highways, even when the project is under implementation. As a result, safety of road users and the workers engaged in upgrade becomes a challenge for the implementation agency. To address this concern, Indian Roads Congress has brought out two publications, one for safety in construction zone for highway projects and other for safety in construction zone for bridge projects. These documents now form part of the contract document.
Selection of projects: Presently, the Ministry is earmarking 10% of annual plan provision towards taking up works for improvement of road safety. Based on the data received from the Transport Authorities of the State Governments, the Ministry has identified black spots at which frequent accidents have been reported. Temporary measures to improve road safety have already been implemented and permanent measures are at varying stages. Data will continuously be updated to identify more such locations so as to ensure no such spot exists in the NH network.
Standards for vehicles: The Ministry has also notified mandatory specifications for manufacturing of vehicles which include speed governor, anti-locking system in brakes etc. Tightening of safety standards of vehicles ? helmets, seat belts, power-steering and rear view mirror ? is in place.
A significant part of our population depends on bicycles for transport. Bicycle users happen to be one of the most vulnerable road users, susceptible to a high rate of road accidents. Non-visibility of bicycle rider due to lack of proper reflective devices is the most critical reason for the high rate of accidents. The Ministry has taken requisite action for framing the minimum standards for reflectors/reflective tapes on cycles. The Ministry has also requested Department of Consumer Affairs to make the BIS norms mandatory for manufacture of bicycles. The Chief Secretaries of all the States would look into making rules to ensure that bicycles have proper reflectors which comply with BIS standards.
Road Safety Councils: The Government has constituted National Road Safety Council as the apex body to take policy decisions in matters of road safety. The States/UTs have to set up State Road Safety Councils and District Road Safety Committees and frame a proper mechanism of diverting 50% penalties collected from traffic violations into road safety fund.