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Minister’s Death in a Crash: A Wake up Call for India

Arnab Bandyopadhyay's picture
It is true for a country like India that thousands of deaths every year is just a statistic, but a single death can move the entire nation to take a serious look into an issue.

Merely eight days after being sworn in, the newly elected Indian Minister for Rural Development, Mr. Gopinath Munde, died in a tragic car crash. While the nation grieves at the passing of an immensely popular and celebrated leader, politicians and the public got a reality check on the seriousness of the road safety epidemic prevalent in the country today.

The irony of the event was that a day before the incident, both authors of this post met with the Joint Secretary and Executive Officers of the Ministry of Rural Development to discuss improvements to road safety under the existing World Bank-funded Rural Roads project. This news is a stark reminder for the government and the Bank alike that a lot remains to be accomplished if we are to achieve a sustainable reduction in road deaths in India.

The Minister’s death added to the alarming list of fatalities that make India’s roads among the most dangerous in the world. Official statistics say around 140,000 people in the country die of such preventable crashes every year and health reports suggest even more. Simply put, 10% of the world’s road deaths take place on India’s roads – which account for less than 3% of the world’s vehicles! In light of those figures, India urgently needs to take comprehensive action to make its roads safer.

Toward safer roads in Brazil - A partnership between the World Bank and the State of São Paulo on Road Safety

Eric Lancelot's picture
According to WHO data, road transport kills about 1.3 million people each year, turning into the 8th leading cause of death worldwide. Although road deaths are a global epidemic, Latin America has been hit particularly hard by the road safety crisis: the region accounts for a tenth of traffic fatalities and 6 million serious injuries every year, although it is home to only 6.9% of the world’s population.

Within that regional context, Brazil, often on the frontline and seen as an example by many on the development agenda, lags behind in road safety, especially when compared to nations with similar socioeconomic characteristics. Recently, the federal and state governments have started to take concrete action in an effort to stop the carnage on their roads, and a recent seminar on road safety in Sao Paulo gives some reasons to believe that Brazil is indeed moving in the right direction.

A Global Check-up: We Need Safer and Cleaner Mobility

Marc Shotten's picture
Many years ago in Bangkok, on my first World Bank mission, I made an error in judgment by taking a Tuk-Tuk, the ubiquitous three-wheeled "golf cart" taxi, in order to experience local transit patterns in a more intimate manner. At least that's how I retroactively justified what was nearly a fatal decision as the driver weaved in-between two buses which narrowly avoided squashing the tiny vehicle. What struck me more than anything at that time were the overall chaos of the transit system and the lack of safe mobility, unfortunately both quite common in a majority of low and middle-income countries which shoulder 90% of the world's road crashes.

In this context, and to better assist countries achieve safer and cleaner mobility, the World Bank,  in partnership with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), has issued a new report: Transport for Health: The Global Burden of Disease from Motorized Road Transport. The IHME is the home of the Global Burden of Disease study, widely considered among the preeminent global health metrics publications.

The Transport for Health report, for the first time, quantifies the global health loss from injuries and air pollution that can be attributed to motorized road transport. The results are stark and call for immediate action: deaths from road transport exceed those from HIV, tuberculosis, or malaria; together, road injuries and pollution from vehicles contribute to six of the top 10 causes of death globally. Moreover, road injuries are among the top-10 causes of death among women of childbearing age and the fourth leading cause among women aged 15-29.

India’s First Crash Test Results Show Vehicle Safety Challenges

Dipan Bose's picture
In most developed countries, you might have a good sense of how safe your new vehicle is. Or at least you will be able to access information on safety standards and independent crash test results at the time of purchase. But if you live in a developing country this information either does not exist or is not readily available.

Few consumers in developing countries are aware of the standard safety features in vehicles, and in most cases, the government has failed to mandate the minimum crashworthiness safety standards as recommended by the UN. But the situation is starting to change, and it is exciting to see some progress since the last time I wrote about this important topic. In that blog, I had mentioned how the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) in Latin America highlighted the fact that new cars sold in that region were 20 years behind in safety technology compared to similar models sold in the US and the European Union.

Earlier this year in New Delhi, the Global New Car Assessment Program, a consumer-awareness non-profit, presented for the first time independent consumer crash test results for five of India’s most popular small cars. Besides increasing awareness among Indians about safety performance of the cars they buy, the event also explored how regulatory standards, in combination with consumer information and incentives, can create a ‘market for safer vehicles’ in the rapidly motorizing nations of the developing world.

Why Vehicle Safety Matters in Crash-Related Deaths

Dipan Bose's picture
As a researcher in vehicle safety, my friends in the US often ask, “Which is the safest car to buy?” My friends and family back in India, on the other hand, have never connected with that question. Cars sell for brand-name, comfort and fuel economy, not for the way they perform in a crash.

The Future of Driving and Finding the Right Incentives for Behavior Change

Julie Babinard's picture

What would blogs be good for if it were not for their intent on steering a bit of controversy?
So here it is… I do not believe that behavior change interventions can effect lasting change in people’s travel patterns unless real choices are available to them within the local context.

Advocating for the Youngest Victims of Road Traffic Injuries

Moira Donahue's picture

A multi-lane highway with a speed limit exceeding 70 mph, a dirt road without shoulders or protective barriers, and a city street where child pedestrians and cyclists share space with cars, buses, trucks, and motorcycles can be among the most dangerous places in the world. 

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