Road and Highway Safety – National Road Safety Policy, Good Samaritans, etc.

Indian road accident scenario: More serious than Covid-19


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Road accidents and road safety In India



  • Cricketer Rishabh Pant’s accident near Roorkee resulting in some injuries, has once again drawn attention to the problem of road safety in India. Nitin Gadkari, Minister of Road Transport and Highways, Government of India, recently said that the Indian road accident scenario, with 415 deaths and many injured every day, is more serious than Covid-19. This is a frank admission that even with comprehensive road safety programmes, India’s record shows little signs of improvement.

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Road Accidents in India A lookover

  • In spite of several years of policymaking to improve road safety, India remains among the worst-performing countries in this area.
  • Total 1,47,913 lives lost to road traffic accidents in 2017 as per Ministry of Road Transport and Highways statistics.
  • The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) figure for the same year is 1,50,093 road accident deaths.

An overall apathy: Road safety and traffic norms violation

  • Easy licences without basic road signage knowledge: The fact of the matter is that simple but serious issues, like road users’ inept understanding of the basic traffic rules and road signage, easier access to driving licences without a meaningful ground scrutiny of skills and unchecked selfish and aggressive driving behaviour continue to dominate Indian road traffic.
  • Road traffic rules are grossly violated and goes unchecked: Deadly violations of lane driving, speed limits and traffic signals, instances of at-will parking on the fast-developing modern, smooth highways all these go mostly unchecked and unquestioned.
  • Human errors are major factors: The causes of road crashes, such as the ones above, are well known. Human error on the roads is admittedly the single-largest factor responsible.
  • Lack of understanding of basic traffic rules: Nobody seems to know which lane they’re supposed to be in; not even the traffic police personnel on duty can tell.
  • Charges are often framed against the driver but rarely against the officials: Further, in case of a serious road crash, charges are framed against the erring drivers, but rarely (or, never) against the road-safety public officials for non-performance, non-enforcement of traffic rules, not taking urgent corrective action on conspicuous road-hazards and the black spots.
  • Engaged more in paperwork than ion ground: At the macro level, various institutions of road safety, both at the national level and in the states, are engaged in routine paperwork and bear no accountability for the failure to produce desired results.

What is road safety?

  • Road safety means methods and measures aimed at reducing the likelihood or the risk of persons using the road network getting involved in a collision or an incident that may cause property damages, serious injuries and/or death.

What needs to be done?

  • The enforcement of traffic norms is the key to road safety: All ongoing programmes towards enhancing safe road conditions and vehicles have to go on. However, the priority goal and the global mandate is to significantly reduce the rising number of road crashes.
  • Scare resources and complex nature of road safety: The central and state governments run complex road safety programmes with their scarce resources, with little success. The World Bank has chipped in with a $250 million loan to India to tackle the high rate of road crashes through road-safety institutional reforms and the results-based interventions.
  • Wise administration and enforcement of rules is necessary: Regular, professional enforcement of rules and swift and innovative solutions to traffic indiscipline and bottlenecks by the administration could help evolve a healthy safe-road culture.
  • An example to be followed: In Delhi too the government’s insistence on drawing a bus lane on the city’s major roads has been accepted overnight, and largely implemented. The lessons from such sporadic but crucial initiatives are apparent and inspiring.

What are the proposed measures?

  • To begin with, identify the two worst roads in a specific area:
  1. Notify each identified road as a Zone of Excellence (ZOE) in road safety (RS) This could include a state or national highway/road/part thereof and adjoining areas
  2. Provide road marking/written instructions on road-surface/road signage
  3. Take care to provide lanes for emergency vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians etc, as feasible
  4. Ensure adherence to basic traffic rules/ safety norms. Create multiple checkpoints (CP), every 2-4 kms for example, with each CP supported by road safety volunteers in addition to police
  5. Use tech aids, judiciously combined with manual interventions/ volunteers
  6. Supplement enforcement with road safety education/ awareness measures
  7. Station ambulances and lift cranes for swift response to accidents
  8. Make reliable arrangements with hospitals/ trauma centres through formal MoUs
  • The administrative structure for the implementation of road safety can be set up in three tiers.
  1. Tier 1 would be the Managing Group (MG), which would look after day-to-day operations and would be autonomous and financially empowered. The MG would meet daily to introspect, analyse issues, incorporate suggestions and assign tasks. It would organise training and refresher programmes for traffic police and road safety volunteers.
  2. Tier 2 would have district level monitoring. Exclusive personnel would be earmarked for ZoEs with a district. This is where urgent solutions would be sought, budgetary allocations made and review modes fixed. It would also ensure adherence to targets.
  3. Tier 3 would have top management and control, represented at the level of the Union or state government. It is at this level that a dynamic road-safety ecosystem would be developed. Existing road safety institutions would either be dismantled or rejuvenated, and there would be monthly reviews, with directions, accountability and disciplinary action
  • The expected results would include:
  1. A logical, simple, practical and convincing model that would add new perspective to road safety measures
  2. A potentially effective action plan, plus a dynamic live-experiment lab for road safety
  3. Application of best practices, both local and global
  4. Proactive engagement of elected public representatives, NGOs, RWAs, educational institutes and voluteers
  5. An evolving standing expert think tank
  6. Revitalisation and development of existing and new institutions of road safety
  7. Employment generation
  8. Traffic decongestion and lane discipline
  9. A carnival of road safety on the ground overnight, throughout the country, which would make road safety visible and respectable
  10. A model that would be replicable in other low and middle-income countries

Way ahead

  • The need here is to return to the basics, with courage and coordination: A newly power-packed Motor Vehicles Act, a decentralised federal structure, down to the level of district and panchayat administration, and the Supreme Court committee on road safety and its regular monitoring of the related issues.
  • Regular monitoring: What is further required is a specific regime whereby road safety authorities are given clear targets for reducing road crashes over a defined period.
  • Ensuring accountability: Further, the authorities should be subjected to close and regular monitoring, review and accountability.


  • In spite of several years of policymaking to improve road safety, India remains among the worst-performing countries in this area. It is absolutely necessary for citizens to follow road safety norms but government cannot look away from its responsibility.

Mains question

Q. Road accidents in India is a serious and a silent pandemic. Discuss where lies the overall apathy and discuss mention few proposed measures.

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