Road Safety in India

SEP 14

Mains   > Industry and infrastructure   >   Infrastructure & Investment models   >   Roads


  • The death of Cyrus Mistry has once again triggered the debate on road safety in the country.


  • With only 1 percent of the world’s vehicles, India accounts for almost 10 percent of all crash related deaths.
  • As per Ministry of Road Transport and Highways statistics, 2017 saw 4.65 lakh road accidents that killed 1.48 lakh and injured 4.71 lakh people. while the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) figure sfor the same year is 1.5 lakh road accident deaths.
  • According to the Transport Ministry, more than 65% of those killed in road accidents in 2019 were in rural areas.
  • According to a World Bank study, road crashes are estimated to cost the Indian economy between 5 to 7 percent of GDP a year.


  • Demand Vs capacity mismatch:
    • Increasing urbanization and economic growth is not translating to proportionate increase in capacity of roads in India >> hence congestion of vehicles >> prone to accidents.
  • Infrastructural deficits:
    • Poor condition of roads and vehicles, blind spots, low emphasis on structural change such as raising engineering standards for roads, signages, signals.
  • Negligence:
    • Lack of precautions by road users such as not wearing helmets, triple-riding, over speeding, drunk driving, distraction while driving like talking over mobile phones.
  • Inadequate driver training:
    • In 2018, 26% of all road accidents were caused by drivers who did not have a valid license or were driving with a learner’s license. Moreover, high number of accidents indicate that the current licensing mechanism in India is unreliable.
  • Poor enforcement of laws:
    • India amended its law on motor vehicles in 2019, but its implementation by State governments is not uniform or complete. The focus of State governments, remains conventional, with an emphasis on user behaviour (drivers and other road users), education and uneven enforcement.
  • Lack of accountability:
    • The MV Act stipulates only a fine up to one lakh for failure to follow norms and stipulations by the designated authority, contractor, consultant or concessionaire, leading to death or disability, and there is little evidence that even this has been enforced after a public inquiry.
  • Weak post-accident measures:
    • India lacks a technically competent investigation arm that could determine the cause of accidents. This results in accidents repeating at same spots.


  • Socio-economic costs:
    • Road traffic injuries are one of the leading causes of death, disabilities and hospitalization in the country, imposing huge socio-economic costs.
    • As per World Banks estimation >> India loses 3.14% of its GDP due to road accidents, most of which are preventable.
  • Working age population is the most vulnerable group:
    • The age profile of road accidents victims in year 2016 reveals that the productive age group of 18 to 35 years accounts for the high share of 46.3 percent and the age group of 18-45 accounted for a share of 68.6% in the total road accident fatalities
  • Differential impact:
    • The World Bank estimates recognise that poor households bear a higher proportion of the socio-economic burden of road crashes due to loss of income (over 70 percent of crash victims in poor households), high medical expenses and limited access to social safety nets.
  • Ever increasing road infrastructure:
    • Road transport is the dominant mode of transport in India. With increasing population growth and economic development, the number of vehicles and the length of road network have increased tremendously over the years. Road safety needs to keep pace with this growth.
  • Challenge against attaining SDGs:
    • The persistently high annual death toll brings into question the country’s ability to meet Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3.6, which aims to halve the fatalities and injuries from road traffic accidents by 2030.



  • Motor Vehicles Act
    • The Act came into force in 1989 and was amended in 2019. It provides for grant of licenses and permits related to motor vehicles, standards for motor vehicles, and penalties for violation of these provisions. Its salient provisions are:
      • Offences and penalties: The Amendment in 2019 increases penalties for several offences under the Act.
      • Recall of vehicles: The Act allows the central government to order for recall of motor vehicles if a defect in the vehicle may cause damage to the environment, or the driver, or other road users.
      • Good Samaritans: The Act defines a good Samaritan as a person who renders emergency medical or non-medical assistance to a victim at the scene of an accident.
      • Compulsory insurance: The Act requires the central government to constitute a Motor Vehicle Accident Fund, to provide compulsory insurance cover to all road users in India.
      • Compensation for road accident victims: The central government will develop a scheme for cashless treatment of road accident victims during golden hour.
  • National Road Safety Policy:
    • It outlines the policy initiatives to be framed / taken by the Government at all levels to improve the road safety activities in the country
  • Road safety information database:
    • It will provide assistance to local bodies, Union Territories and States to improve the quality of crash investigation and of data collection, transmission and analysis.
  • Bharat New Car Assessment Programme:
    • Bharat NCAP rating will provide consumers an indication of the level of protection offered to occupants by the vehicle. It introduces the concept of safety rating of passenger cars and empowers consumers to take informed decisions.
    • The vehicles shall be assigned a star rating from one to five stars, based on scoring against various tests undertaken.


  • National Road Safety Board:
    • The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019 provides for a creation of National Road Safety Board.
    • It aims to oversee the issues related to road safety and evolve effective strategies for implementation of the road safety policy.
    • It will look into improving road infrastructure and adding new innovations for traffic control.
    • The board will also focus on road construction and traffic management in villages.
  • National Road Safety Council:
    • It is an advisory body which was established under Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 with the objective of improving road safety aspects in the road transport sector.
  • Transport Development Council:
    • It is the highest body to advise the Government on all matters relating to roads and road transport.


  • Bharatmala Pariyojana:
    • It aims to optimise the efficiency of freight and passenger movement across the country by bridging critical infrastructure gaps through effective interventions
  • Dedicated Freight Corridor Project:
    • The Indian Railways' quadrilateral linking Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Howrah, known as Golden Quadrilateral; will decongest already saturated road network and promote shifting of freight transport to more rail transport
  • National Road Safety Fund
    • To finance road activities through the allocation of a certain percentage of the cess on petrol and diesel.


  • Supreme Court had set up KS Radhakrishnan panel on road safety in 2014. The main recommendation of the committee were:
    • Ban on the sale of alcohol on highways (both state and national) to restrain drunk driving.
    • The states were directed to implement laws on wearing helmets.
    • Audit of road safety to be implemented by states to ensure the safety standards in the design, construction, and maintenance of roads.


  • Sustainable Development Goal 3.6:
    • By 2030, halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents.
  • Brasilia Declaration on Road Safety
    • It is adopted at the second global high-level conference on road safety held in Brazil. India has signed the Brasilia declaration.
    • It lays down recommendations on strengthening existing legislations, adopting sustainable transport and strengthening post-crash response.
    • Through the Brasilia Declaration, Countries plan to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 3.6.
  • 2010-2020: Decade of action for Road Safety:
    • Owing to the epidemic of road crashes United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2011 - 2020 as the "Decade of Action for Road Safety"


  • Ensure safer road infrastructure:
    • The Government should take measures to review standards pertaining to safety in the design of rural and urban roads and bring them in consonance with international best practices keeping in view Indian traffic conditions.
  • Use of technology
    • Continuing application of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) under a national framework to establish a safe and efficient transport system should be encouraged.
  • Raise awareness about road safety issues
    • The Government would increase its efforts to promote awareness about the various aspects of road safety, the social and economic implications of road accidents and what needs to be done to curb the rising menace of road accidents.
  • Safer vehicles and drivers:
    • The Government should take steps to ensure that safety features are built in at the stage of design, manufacture, usage, operation and maintenance of both motorized and non-motorized vehicles in line with international standards and practices.
    • The Government must strengthen the system of driver licensing and training to improve the competence and capability of drivers.
  • Research for road safety:
    • The Government will encourage increased activity in programmes of road safety research by identifying priority areas, funding research in those areas adequately and establishing centers of excellence in research and academic institutions.
  • National road safety plan by Bureau of Police Research and Development suggests the following:
    • Dedicated and separate agency for strict enforcement of the traffic violations across India, especially on National Highways.
    • Proposed National Highways Road Safety Police, state highway road safety police for strict enforcement on national highways.
    • Use of Artificial Intelligence techniques to communicate, monitor, operate and manage the highways in a sensible and organized way etc.
  • Emergency medical services for road accidents
    • The Government will strive to ensure that all persons involved in road accidents benefit from speedy and effective trauma care and management.


  • Tamil Nadu, which until recently, was one of the worst-ranked states in India for road crashes and fatalities. But decision-makers have turned the situation around through strategic vision and leadership.
  • Tamil Nadu focused on coordinated management by establishing a Road Safety Executive Leadership Group: responsible for decision making across the state. A Road Safety Management Cell was created to implement actions and review monthly statistics and targets.
  • Between 2014 and 2018, the state Highways Department spent almost USD 200 million on special road safety programs and on rectifying more than 200 crash hotspots.
  • Its web enabled GIS-based Road Accident Database Management System (RADMS) maps road accidents, identifies the most crash-prone hot spots, and pinpoints corrective action.
  • Teams of Police, Highways and Transport visited every fatal crash site and reporting on causative factors, remedial and punitive measures within three days.
  • The state established Emergency Care Centers and Accident Relief Centers on high crash-prone road stretches. This has brought down the post-crash response time of emergency medical teams to 14 minutes.
  • Stringent enforcement has also significantly improved road user compliance and transparency.


Q. Road safety is a critical development priority for India, impacting health, wellbeing and economic growth. In this context, analyze the steps taken by government to improve road safety in India?