Terming the road accident situation in India 'alarming and much more serious than COVID-19 pandemic', the Union Minister for Road and Transport, Nitin Gadkari, said that more than 40,000 km of highways are being audited for safety to check deficiencies causing accidents.
He said it is a filthy state of India, that Indian roads witness 415 deaths in accidents every day causing 3.14 % loss to the national GDP.
As per the press release of Press Information Bureau, India accounts the highest road accidents globally with 1.5 lakh people dead and more than 4.5 lakh people injured in road accidents every year in the country.
While inaugurating webinar series launched by the International Road Federation, India chapter, on the theme of "Road Safety Challenges in India and Preparation of an Action Plan," the Minister said that seventy percent of deaths were in the age group of 18 to 45 years old.
"There are 415 deaths per day in road accidents in India. I would say this scenario is very much serious than COVID-19 pandemic and it is becoming an alarming situation for us year on year."
"Unfortunately we stand at number 1 position in road accidents in the world, ahead of US and China. Being the transport minister, I am sensible and serious for the subject," Gadkari said.
Outlining the efforts taken by his Ministry, Gadkari said that road safety audit during different stages of development appears the most suitable way to correct all deficiencies causing accidents. More than 40,000 km of highways are being audited.
The Minister said, "Prevention is better than cure" and took a dab at people who are behind the faulty detailed project reports (DPRs) and sought collaboration from the International Road Federation (IRF) and other bodies for vetting these in a fortnight's time.
"Many DPRs are in worse shape with lots of technical deficit which create further black spots (accident spots). DPRs should be proof-checked and revised by competent authorities, third party agencies and educational institution before implementation," he said.
The central government has proposed a state programme to incentivise the states with funds of ₹14,000 crores to improve road safety.
Gadkari prompted the states to copy the Tamil Nadu model. If Tamil Nadu could reduce road accidents by 38 percent and deaths by 54 percent then why not other states can do it. He also stressed the need for qualitative, comprehensive and uniform accident data collection and recording.
"The government is working on correcting more than 5,000 accident black spots on the highway network," said Gadkari.
He further added that 78 percent of road accident deaths in India were of two-wheeler riders, bicyclists and pedestrians. Protection and safety of these sensitive road user group is the first priority of the Centre.
The minister sought the co-operation of all stakeholders to reduce road accident deaths to 50 per cent by 2025 and expressed confidence in achieving it.
"There is a need for developing digital technologies, drones and app-based platforms. Over 60 percent of the accidents occur at the road junctions which undeniably show that there are failure in their design and construction. Can we find an alternate solution for junctions by redesigning them into roundabouts/rotaries, grade separators, flyovers or channelised diversions," the Minister added.
Gadkari also mentioned that the chairman of the National Road Safety Council will be announced soon as this body will be responsible for collecting accident data and suggesting measures to further reduce road accidents.
Emphasizing on that 70 percent of accidents death in India are due to over-speeding, he said that fitness check of all vehicles has been mandated through Automated Vehicle Inspection and Certification (I&C) centres.
The Minister also added that the government had recently announced scrapping policy to deal with old, unfit vehicles and their safety concern. It is expected that more than 1 crore such vehicles would be removed.