Rapid expansion of the road network and unchecked surge in motorisation apart from human error, poor infrastructure and management has resulted in a high number of accidents on India’s highways.
National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (NHIDCL) is working towards the construction of national highways in the strategic areas of the country. It is currently entrusted with 109 projects in 13 states. The total lengths of the projects are 7148 km and are at various stages of development.
Even though efforts are being made to reduce the severity of road accidents, the results have not been significantly fruitful. Considering the fact that national highways constitute a very small part of road network in India, the decrease in the number of accidents over the past three years do not reflect a major deviation from the general norms.
The strategic approach towards prevention and control of accidents is primarily based on four ‘E’s viz. education, engineering (both of roads and vehicles), enforcement and emergency care. Advocacy/publicity campaign on road safety through the electronic and print media also plays a major role in creating awareness among people.
Road safety being a multi-dimensional concern, it is important that a multipronged approach is made to tackle it. According to the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MRTH), high priority has been accorded to identification and rectification of black spots (accident prone spots) on national highways. Around 700 such black spots have been identified for improvement so far. In addition, infrastructural standards have to be maintained during the construction of national highways, and therefore, road safety has been made an integral part of road design at planning stage by the MRTH.
The Indian government has set a target for reducing road accident fatalities by 50 per cent by 2020. The steps taken up by the government to control road accidents on highways are:
- The constitution of the National Road Safety Council in March 2016 as the apex body to take policy decisions in matters of road safety outlines various policy measures such as promoting awareness, establishing road safety information data base, encouraging safer road infrastructure including application of intelligent transport, enforcement of safety laws etc.
- MRTH has requested all states/union territories to set up State Road Safety Council and District Road Safety Committees.
- The National Highway Accident Relief Service Scheme, aimed at the development of national highways, ensures that cranes and ambulances are provided to various state governments. National Highways Authority of India also provides ambulances at a distance of 50 km on each of its completed stretches of national highways under its operation and maintenance contracts.
- The current traffic threshold, for four laning of national highways, has been reduced from 15,000 passenger car units (PCUs) to 10,000 PCUs. Also, about 52,000 km of stretches of state highways has been identified for conversion to national highways.
- Pilot projects for providing cashless treatment of road accident victims on Gurgaon-Jaipur, Vadodara-Mumbai stretch of National Highway No. 8 and Ranchi-Rargaon-Mahulia stretch of National Highway No. 33, have also been launched.
As commuting on highways cannot be regulated in its entirety, basic measures must be taken at once to ensure safe commute. Tightening of safety standards for vehicles such as wearing seat belts, power-steering, anti-lock braking system etc., strict norms on speeding and drunken driving, setting up of model driving training institutes and providing refresher training to drivers of heavy motor vehicle in the unorganised sector can significantly bring down the number of highway accidents.
—Inputs from Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Government of India, 2016.