A Major Shift to Save India’s Precious Lives

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Traffic fatalities are one of the world’s leading causes of preventable deaths. If the numbers stay at current growth rates, traffic fatalities will become the world’s fifth-leading cause of death by 2030. Both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations (UN) have recognized road traffic injuries as a major global public health problem, with economic consequences that could affect the sustainable development of countries and hinder progress towards reducing extreme poverty and boosting prosperity.
 
In India, for example, almost 400 people are killed on roads every day. This is the equivalent of a jumbo jet plane crash but, unfortunately, road deaths don’t make headlines quite the same way. And there is no shortage of alarming examples regarding India’s road safety challenges, including:
 
  • India’s national highways are especially dangerous, accounting for only two percent of the country’s total road network, but more than 30 percent of road-related deaths and injuries.
  • Pedestrian fatalities are a large proportion of accidents. In New Delhi, for example, pedestrian fatalities account for 45-51 percent of all road traffic deaths.
  • Road traffic crashes in India cost the country an estimated annual GDP loss of three percent. (WHO estimates)
The good news is that India has taken the issue of road safety as a priority, thus shifting and adding resources to their national road safety agenda.

India’s Transport Minister, Nitin Gadkari, recently stated that "providing safe, efficient, cost-effective and faster transport across the country is our mission." In this context, the Government of India is currently seeking major changes through new legislation on public transport, licensing, vehicles safety, and overall behavior change on and off the roads.
 
At the World Bank, we are responding to India’s road safety efforts through multi-sectoral approaches, working on several fronts to support the country’s Road Safety Act. World Bank transport interventions have adopted a holistic focus that goes beyond hard infrastructure.
 
Much of our work is currently centered in Uttar Pradesh, the Indian state with the highest rate of death by car crashes, accounting for 17,000 fatalities per year. With these high numbers in mind and with an aim of reducing them, our team is partnering on a project with two primary goals: first, to support the improvement of the road network through the rehabilitation and widening of key corridors and, second, to foster collaboration amongst key agencies in supporting the implementation of the state’s road safety policy.
 
Highways in Uttar Pradesh exemplify India’s road safety challenges: just one 180-kilometer stretch of road accounts for 300 deaths each year. To help address this challenge, important interventions also need to happen at the enforcement level. The World Bank has connected police in Uttar Pradesh with highway traffic police from New Zealand. The success of this partnership will empower local police to help lead proactive road safety efforts at the national level.
 
These efforts are crucial in terms of recognizing the problem and implementing a comprehensive policy. In fact, leadership is a fundamental ingredient if we want to make real progress on the road safety agenda. Efforts like the one led by the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, who launched a state-wide road safety policy, are crucial in terms of recognizing the challenges and implementing comprehensive or holistic solutions. 
 
This shows decisive and thoughtful leadership that may not only benefit other Indian states, but also other countries around the world.
 
Through the India transport team and the Global Road Safety Facility, the World Bank is fully committed to supporting India’s efforts to improve safety along high-risk corridors. We see it as imperative of our broader poverty reduction efforts.
 
We are conscious, however, that many challenges remain ahead, and we stand ready to support the country to improve its road safety record and save thousands of precious lives. 

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