The Alarming Facts of Road Accidents in India

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1 The Alarming Facts of Road Accidents in India! BMW Z3 Honda Accord On behalf of Indian Orthopaedic Association Prepared by Dr S Rajasekaran, President-Indian Orthopaedic Association 1

2 Introduction. Road traffic accidents kill more than 120 lakh people and injure more than 50 Crore people worldwide every year. Everyday about 6600 deaths and 3300 serious injuries occur due to RTAs. The global annual cost due to RTA s is a whopping 2,30,000 million US dollars. Unfortunately India has the dubious distinction of having the worst record of road safety in the world. Some Alarming Statistics for India. In India, 1,20,000 people die and 12,70,000 sustain serious injuries every year in Road Traffic Accidents. As per the statistics, there is one death on the Indian road every six minutes and this is expected to escalate to one death every three minutes by 2020 Even this may be an underestimation, as according to the Institute of Road Traffic Education (2006) Institute of road education, New Delhi, out of the estimated 1.4 million serious road accidents/ collisions occurring annually in India, hardly 0.4 million are recorded. Many road traffic deaths in rural areas are not recorded. Similarly, accidents which result in late deaths after the discharge from hospital due to the effects of morbidity also are not recorded. (Indian Journal of Neurotrauma (IJNT) 2008, Vol. 5, No. 2, pp ) India accounts for about 10% of road accident fatalities worldwide Although India accounts for only 1% of the registered motor vehicles, it accounts for nearly 9 % of RTA deaths. According to the experts at the National Transportation Planning and Research Centre (NTPRC) the number of road accidents in India is 3 times higher than that prevailing in developed countries. The number of accidents for 1000 vehicles in India is as high as 35 while the figure ranges from 4 to 10 in developed countries World Health Organization has revealed in its first ever Global Status Report on Road Safety (2009) that more people die in road accidents in India than anywhere else in the world, including the more populous China. 2

3 Socio-Economic Implications of Road Accidents National crime records Bureau statistics show 13 people die in our country every hour due to RTAs. The average cost of RTA s in India is approximately 12.5 billion dollars (Rs.7 lakh crores). This does not include the economic burden of permanent disability of the more than 10 lakhs people who survive major accidents every year.. 85 % of the victims of these fatalities are men in the age group years. Majority of these men are the bread- winners for their families. RTA fatalities and serious injuries place a huge strain on the economic and social fabric of the family and the society at large. The family loses the source of income in addition to their loved one. Searching for a new source of income is a challenging task and is fraught with uncertainties and exploitations. The larger ramifications of this include children dropping out from the school for employment and elderly being forced to work. Physical disability resulting from RTAs also hugely impacts the society. For example, spinal cord injury permanently disables the patient resulting in him/her being confined to wheel chair or bed for the rest of their life. The plight of their family is similar to, if not worse, than those of the fatally injured. The costs of rehabilitating the spinally injured patient is enormous, with little help expected form the government. Most of these patients are employed at the time of injury and the injury changes their lives forever. Spinally injured patients, depending on their level of injury need assistance in feeding, personal hygiene and basic mobility. In addition they are highly susceptible to a variety of complications like bed sores, pneumonia, urinary infections, respiratory distress and sepsis. These complications require frequent hospital visits and involve huge costs. In addition to losing the financial productivity of the patient, another person needs to stay back with the patient to take care of him/her. Thus the family loses the financial productivity of two persons in addition to incurring the enormous medical expenses. 3

4 The average expenses of a spinally injured patient in the US is estimated to be about $2,40,000 to $8,30,000 in the first year. Indirect expenses ( loss of wages and productivity) is estimated as $ 65,384 per year. Although similar Indian data is lacking, the enormity of the expenses involved can be imagined. Sadly in India, this economic burden resulting from RTA is borne out solely by the family of the patient. How can we overcome the Problem? Global status report on road safety (2009) published by WHO compiled data from 178 countries. The report shows that developed nations have been able to significantly reduce the number of RTA deaths in the past decade. This has been mainly achieved by proactive measures from the Government and strict enforcement of laws. In any country, where the Government is a simple bystander to the problem, no improvement has been possible. For example - wearing a seat-belt reduces the risk of death among front-seat passengers by 40-65% and can reduce deaths among rear-seat car occupants by 25-75%. The use of child restraints (infant seats, child seats and booster seats) can reduce deaths of children by between 54% and 80% in the event of a crash. The report shows that although basic laws for road safety exists in India, their enforcement is extremely weak. Enforcement of wearing of seat belts for passengers of cars scored 2 out of a scale of 10. Motorcycle helmet law enforcement also scored 2 out of 10. Enforcement of drink law (0.03g/dL) scored 3 out of 10. Speed limit laws are existent; however data regarding their enforcement was not available. Child restraint laws are not existent in India This can be possible only by strict enforcement of laws by the Government. In India, the number of RTA fatalities has been growing at nearly 8% per year and shows no signs of fall. The results suggest that, in India, road safety laws need to be made more comprehensive while enforcement should be strengthened. India occupies 86 th rank in healthcare spending among the nations with the government spending just 6.1% of GDP on healthcare. Hence it is imperative on the part of the government to take measures to increase safety on Indian roads. 4

5 What we expect from the Government? It is obvious that road traffic accidents are evolving into a biggest threat for human survival in India. At present the death on the roads account for twice more than the death in India by the combination of all serious diseases like HIV, Malaria, Cholera etc all put together. For example, the deaths due to Malaria every year in India is only around 15,000. It is time we wake up to this fact. A developing country like India can scarcely afford the financial and social burden of road traffic accidents of this proportion A person who does not follow road rules often kills or disables another innocent person on the road. Many law-abiding citizens are killed for no fault of theirs. It is the Government s responsibility to safeguard its citizens and make our roads safer for them. If a drunken person kills another person, it is considered murder but if a drunken driver kills a whole family on the road due to negligent driving, he can get away with a minimal fine. This is a serious lapse of law in our country. We all know how easy it is to get a driving license in India. We also know how easy it is to escape after a road offence in India. RTO Offices are traditionally considered to be one of the biggest centres of corruption and bribe in India. Drivers fault is the single most important factor responsible for accidents : Revealed by an analysis of road accident data by Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (20-October-2011: Press Information Bureau, Govt. of India).This highlights the fact that Government must enforce stricter road rules in India and also provide adequate infrastructure to safeguard its citizens. As quoted by Dr. P. Hrishikesh, Chairman of Institute of Health Systems, Nobody cares for traffic rules in India. They treated like best practices rather than compulsory. Talk about human error is ridiculous; or perhaps, which human s error are we talking about? Unless there is a grand national mindset change (or strict governance) things will remain as they are. At present an innocent person who is injured on the road for no fault of his has no support from the Government. The entire burden of treatment and support to the family falls on him. The Government has absolved itself of its duties and responsibilities. This is morally not correct. It is the fundamental duty of the Government to enforce laws and make road safe for its citizens. 5

6 Road Safety: Let s act before it s too late Indian Orthopaedic Association is very aware of the seriousness of this problem. Orthopaedic Surgeons are all aware that although we treat patients with the best of available technology, often patients cannot be restored to normalcy. It is our practical experience that no major improvement can happen without strict enforcement from the government. We would like to engage the Government on this important issue and look for possibility of public interest litigation on behalf of all the citizens of India. *** A wife in Grief on seeing her husband run over in front of her eyes. Can we join hands to stop this tragedy? 6

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