Road Safety is a multi-sectoral and multi-dimensional issue. It incorporates the development and management of road infrastructure, provision of safer vehicles, legislation and law enforcement, mobility planning, provision of health and hospital services, child safety, urban land use planning etc.
In other words, its ambit spams engineering aspects of both, roads and vehicles on one hand and the provision of health and hospital services for trauma cases ( in post-crash scenario) on the other, Road safety is a shared, multi-sectoral, responsibility of the government and a range of civil society stakeholders. The success of road safety strategies in all countries depends upon a broad base of support and common action from all stakeholders.
At a plenary meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on 14th April, 2004, a resolution co-sponsored by India expressed grave concern about the large number of fatalities in road crashes. The World Health Organisation also declared the year 2004 as the Year of Road Safety and launched World Health Day in April 2004 with the slogan – “Road Safety is no accident”.
The World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention of the World Bank and World Health Organisation (WHO) in the year 2004 stated that road safety injuries are a major but neglected global public health problem requiring converted efforts for effective and sustainable prevention. Of all the systems that people have to deal with on a day-to-day basis, road transport is the most complex and the most unsafe mode of transportation.
The tragedy behind the regularly occurring road crashes attracts less media attention than other, less frequent but more unusual types of tragedies. The report forecasts that without any increased effort and new initiatives, the total number of road traffic injuries and deaths worldwide would rise by 65 per cent between 2000-2020 whereas in low-income and middle income countries, deaths are expected to increase by as much as 80 per cent .
The majority of such deaths are at present of “vulnerable and road users, pedestrians, pedal cyclists and motorcyclists”. In high income countries, deaths among car occupants continue to be predominant but risk per capita that vulnerable rod users face is high. The report also underscored the concern about the detrimental impact of an unsafe road transport system on public health and global development. Obviously, the level of road deaths and injuries is unacceptable and to a large extent avoidable.
According to WHO statistics ( year 2002) about 11.8 lakh people die every year in road accidents, the world over, of which 84.674 deaths are reported to take place in India. In 2004 the number of deaths had increased to 92618. The mortality rate in India is 8.7 per hundred thousand population as compared to 5.6 in UK. 5.4 in Sweden, 5.0 in The Netherlands and 6.7 in Japan.
In terms of mortality per 10,000 vehicles, the rate in India is as high as 14 as compared to less than two in developed countries. The cost of road crashes has been assessed at one to two per cent of GDP in developed countries.
A study by the Planning Commission in 2002 estimated the social cost of road accidents in India at Rs. 55,000 crore annually ( 2000 prices), which constitutes about 3 per cent of the GDP
With massive investment in roads and the exponential growth in the number of vehicles it has become necessary to have a system, which integrates all disciplines that influence road safety and which at the same time would have linkages with established institution that cater to the different aspects of road safety viz engineering, education, enforcement, medical and behavioural sciences.