Last year, road crashes claimed more than 150,000 lives in India, making road safety an essential element of any road project in the country.
In line with international experience and practice, the World Bank has progressively developed a comprehensive approach to road safety that doesn’t just consider infrastructure design but brings together all key stakeholders that have a stake in making and keeping roads safe, from police authorities to transport and health departments as well as infrastructure providers.
One example of this approach is the 138.6-km-long Kadapa to Renigunta safety demonstration corridor implemented by the Government of Andhra Pradesh under the Andhra Pradesh & Telangana Road Sector Project (APTRSP).
The corridor itself was chosen based on its poor safety performance in 2010 through an International Road Assessment Programme (iRap) survey. To enhance the safety of the demonstration corridor, the following measures were proposed:
- Infrastructure improvements
- The creation of a new fully-equipped trauma care center at a local hospital
- Improved enforcement of traffic laws
- Targeted initiatives focused on particular road users.
The impact of civil works. Civil works were focused on the most vulnerable sections of the road, and involved interventions such as curve and junction improvements, widening, retro-reflective signage, lane markings, safe pedestrian crossings, crash barriers and road studs. The results were impressive: locations where curves and junctions were improved saw a 53% reduction in road crashes and 42% reduction in fatalities.
Effective enforcement for safer driving. Two Highway Patrolling Outposts were created at Rajampet and Renigunta and equipped with tow-away cranes, patrolling vehicles, speed laser guns, breath analyzers etc. The focus of enforcement was on checking over-speeding and drunken driving, and accidents involving cars, auto-rickshaws and light commercial vehicles dropped.
Evidence-based interventions. The Transport Department took a close look at available data to understand the main risk factors that contributed to crashes on the corridor. The exercise revealed, for instance, that many collisions involving trucks occurred because many drivers did not take the time to rest and freshen up during their shift—which led to the development of the innovative Stop-Wash-Go Program. Using the same method, government officials also realized many drivers were speeding because they wanted to reach the holy town of Tirupati in time for early morning ceremonies.
Some room for improvement
Coordination with the Health Department has not always been seamless. As an example, the newly-built Trauma Care facility at Rajampet remains unutilized due to a lack of specialized staff.
The case for a more ambitious civil works program. The targeted stretches accounted for only a small subset of accidents and fatalities. The majority of accidents are spread across the rest of the corridor, which would have benefited from a more comprehensive treatment.
The issue of motorcycle helmet use. More than 90% of motorcycle drivers and pillion riders drive without a helmet—a blatant safety issue that remains largely unaddressed. Alternate strategies for behavior change and political championship will be essential.
Toward a bigger, bolder road safety program
The state has identified Road Safety as a priority and constituted a State Road Safety Council headed by the Chief Minister which convenes every month. This in turn is supported by District Road Safety Committees (DRSC) which also meet every month and are required to submit district level data regularly to the Council. The state has set itself a target of reducing fatalities by 15% by 2020 and 50% by 2025, and a suitably empowered and data-savvy Transport Department leads this effort.
Based on the experience on the Kadapa-Renigunta demo corridor, the Transport Department now plans a sizeable scale up of the programs in each of the 13 districts in the state. Some 1620 km of vulnerable road sections have been identified to be part of the next phase. Building on the success of the first demonstration corridor, the World Bank looks forward to expanding this approach—and saving lives across the state.