Steps taken to check vehicle speed on roads in India could alone have the biggest impact on ensuring road safety by saving 20,554 lives annually, says a new Lancet study, which underlines that interventions focusing on four key risk factors such as speeding, drunk driving, non-use of crash helmets and seatbelts could prevent 25% to 40% of 13.5 lakh fatal road injuries worldwide every year.
This is the first study that gives country-specific estimates of the effect of addressing the four main road safety risk factors through interventions for 185 countries.
In India, interventions to check speeding could save 20,554 lives and promotion of crash helmets could save 5,683 lives. Encouraging the use of seatbelts can also save 3,204 lives in the country.
The estimate for drunken driving was not available for India because either the percentage of total deaths due to alcohol consumption was not reported or calculations were found to be unstable.
The report uses mortality data from Global Burden Diseases 2017, which are based on modelling and estimated 2,18, 876 deaths due to road injuries in India in 2017, while the government of India’s figures which suffer from under-reporting stood at 1,47,913 for the year.
According to the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways’ 2020 report, there were a total of 1,31,714 deaths due to road accidents, where speeding accounted for 69.3% of deaths ( 91,239), non-wearing of helmets resulted in 30.1% deaths ( 39,798) and non-use of seatbelts caused 11.5% of deaths (26,896).
Steps undertaken to reduce speeding such as infrastructure changes and electronic speed control could save an estimated 3,47,258 lives globally each year, while measures to tackle drunk driving such as enhanced drink driving enforcement could save a further 16,304 lives. An estimated 1,21,083 and 51,698 lives could be saved by enforcing rules on wearing seatbelts and motorcycle helmets, respectively.
Improving seatbelt use would have a particularly large effect on reducing road deaths in the U.S. by saving an estimated 14,121 lives every year and 13,228 lives could be saved in China. Tackling speeding would be the single most effective measure to reduce road fatalities in most countries, preventing an estimated 88,374 deaths in China, 22,353 in U.S. and 17,898 in Brazil.
Road traffic injuries (RTIs) are the eighth leading cause of death globally for all ages and the first cause in the 5-29 years age group. Close to 14 lakh people die each year, and up to 5 crore are injured by RTIs. India accounts for almost 10% of all crash-related deaths, while accounting for only 1% of the world’s vehicles.
“Given the existing challenges in the field of road safety and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, achieving the ambitious goal of the second Decade of Action for Global Road Safety will be a challenge and will require the global road safety community to act on the implementation of evidence-based actions in different countries. By providing country-specific estimates on the potential lives saved by road traffic interventions, this study highlights the urgency of implementing of a safe systems approach in which specific interventions can effectively address road injury deaths by 2030,” the paper says.
The second decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030 sets an ambitious target of preventing at least 50% of road traffic deaths and injuries by 2030 and the Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari aims to halve the numbers for India by 2024.