Government vehicles in India claimed the lives of 4,201 people in the country in road accidents, a report by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) revealed. However, fatalities by private vehicles, including two wheelers, in road accidents were shockingly over 18 times more than government vehicles with 77,890 deaths being reported.
Accidents by taxis claimed the lives of 3,803 people and injured 13,267 others, while school bus accidents killed 422 people and injured 1,622 others in 2015. Government vehicles include cars, buses, jeeps and SUV/Station Wagons.
Road accidents in India claimed the lives of 1,48,707 people in 2015, a 5.1 percent increase in road accident fatalities in India from 2014 when the death toll was 1,41,526, according to the report. On an average, at least 17 people died in road accidents every hour in 2015.
Director of Operations of SaveLIFE Foundation Saji Cherian told International Business Times India over phone: "The major reason is that there is no comprehensive legal framework to look at the problem in a holistic manner. The Motor Vehicle Bill of 1988 is redundant. There is no proper mechanism. A fine of Rs 100, according to the 1988 Bill, needs to be rationalised."
The report showed that at least 43,540 people were killed in accidents involving two-wheelers, while dangerous or careless driving or overtaking caused 1,46,059 accidents resulting in the death of 48,093 people. Truck accidents killed 28,910 people, while car accidents killed 18,506 people.
According to Cherian, "the real cause of the accident is not recorded. Drivers are blamed 80 percent of the time. There are licensing issues as well. Since state by state licenses are issued in India, most drivers, especially commercial ones, have multiple licenses. Poor weather can also cause accidents. Bad designing of roads is also one of the causes. There are potholes on roads. But the police never book contractors or civic agencies responsible for the construction of roads. It is always the driver's fault."
According to the reports released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Centre, India has the worst road safety standards in the world. The number of citizens who die each year in road accidents in India is greater than the total number of deaths suffered by the armed forces in India in all the wars fought since independence.
When asked as to why the common man usually does not come out to help accident victims despite the Supreme Court ruling that those who come forward to help will not be harassed, Cherian said: "There are multiple reasons - fear of being detained by the police or the hospital authorities, police harassment, the time-consuming judicial process. Also, another reason is that there is lack of awareness among the public about the SC ruling. The police are also unaware of this. Both the police and the public need to be sensitized and made aware of these laws."
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had earlier said that those who help accident victims would be rewarded. Karnataka became the first state to act on the SC ruling and introduce the Good Samaritan Law, which states that those who help accident victims have the right to stay anonymous. They will not be harassed by the police nor can the hospital authorities detain him/her for money. The Bill is currently awaiting the President's signature.
Cherian said that the citizens need to be made aware of such laws, which is possible through social media or by putting up billboards or hoardings. The Coimbatore Police, he added, has also begun rewarding those who come out and help accident victims. He further added that any new law or right takes time to be accepted. "Rewarding those who help accident victims might just encourage other citizens to reach out to those in need without any fear," Cherian added.
The WHO rated India's implementation of law as three on speed limits, four on wearing motorcycle helmet, four on drunk-driving and four on wearing seat belts out of 10. These ratings despite the country having road safety strategy and laws on speed limits, wearing helmets and seat belts and drunk-driving,
Children below 18 years of age constituted 10.5 percent of the total fatalities.
Cherian said: "There are no provisions for children safety while they commute under the 1988 Bill. Around 43 children die every day due to lack of protection. There is no law to ensure that a child wears helmets or seat belts while travelling. Also, the government needs to create child free zones near parks or schools or other areas where children are most likely to go and put restrictions on speed in such areas."
Uttar Pradesh reported the highest number of deaths with 18,407 people having lost their lives in road accidents. The state was followed by Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, both of which reported the highest number of road accidents besides Karnataka.
Maharashtra also accounted for the highest number of pedestrian deaths with 1,256 people having lost their lives in 2015.
Cherian further told IBTimes India: "The Motor Vehicle (Amendment) Bill needs to be come into force. There is a clause in the Bill which penalises those who drive on footpaths. Specific pedestrian zones need to be created."
Around 28 percent of road accidents and 33 percent of deaths took place on national highways, while 28 percent of road-mishap deaths took place on state highways in 2015.
When asked what could be done to control the situation, Cherian said: "The way accidents are recorded on the ground needs to be reformed. Usually, a constable goes on the ground and takes all the details. But he usually misses out on crucial information like the weather condition or the condition of the road where the accident happened. A scientific investigation needs to be done into the accident to find out the real cause instead of just blaming the driver. The form on which details are recorded needs to be made more robust."
He added that technology could also help in reducing the extent of the problem. "If the constable is given a smart phone with a 'Yes or No' kind of format, he can record all details on the device instead of having to write down all of it on paper. All the details can then be tabulated. Pictures of the accident site can also be clicked and saved on the device. CCTV cameras can also help to a large extent."
He also pointed out that the Motor Vehicle (Amendment) Bill needs to be passed in Parliament to curb the problem otherwise people will continue to die in road accidents in the country. "It is an epidemic. People are dying every hour. Countries around the world - be it at par with India or below - have progressed by leaps and bounds but we are still stuck in the same place."
However, any Bill that becomes a law in India takes a lot of time to be implemented. So what measures could be taken up to make sure the Motor Vehicle (Amendment) Bill is implemented soon if it is passed during the Budget Session ?
According to Cherian, "the state governments need to take initiative and adopt a mechanism that can effectively monitor whether the law is being implemented. NGOs and consumer groups can also take up the cause and act if they find the law is not being implemented. The citizens also need to be aware of the law and their rights. Pressure also needs to be built on the Parliamentarians so that they can ensure the implementation of the law."
"If the execution of the law is not done properly, people across the country will keep losing their lives to road accidents every year," Cherian concluded.