India leads world in road deaths NEW DELHI: In a dubious distinction for the country, the World Health Organization has revealed in its first ever Global Status Report on Road Safety that more people die in road accidents in India than anywhere else in the world, including the more populous China. Calling road fatalities an ‘‘epidemic’’ that will become the world’s fifth biggest killer by 2030, the report said while rich nations had been able to lower their death rates, these were sharply on the rise in the third world. It said 90% of deaths on the world’s roads occur in low and middle-income countries (21.5 and 19.5 per lakh of population, respectively) though they have just 48% of all registered vehicles. The statistics for India are chilling. At least 13 people die every hour in road accidents in the country, the latest report of the National Crime Records Bureau reveals. In 2007, 1.14 lakh people in India lost their lives in road mishaps, that’s significantly higher than the 2006 road death figures in China, 89,455. Road deaths in India registered a sharp 6.1% rise between 2006 and 2007. However, road safety experts say the real numbers could be higher since many of these accident cases are not even reported. ‘‘There is no estimate of how many injured in road accidents die a few hours or days after the accident,’’ points out Rohit Baluja, member of the UN Road Safety Collaboration and Commission of Global Road Safety representing Asia. The report, based on 2006 and 2007 statistics collected from 178 participating countries, said globally over 1.2 million people die in road accidents every year and 20-25 million people suffer non-fatal injuries. Baluja said both central and state governments, while pushing for construction of more highways and roads, were doing precious little to make them safe. ‘‘We don’t have scientific traffic engineering which forms the basis of road safety improvement practised in US and UK since 1930s. This still remains a matter of consultancy in India as we are yet to have our own traffic engineering wings,’’ Baluja adds. In fact, the report shows while only 3,298 people died in road accidents in UK in 2006, the figure, at 42,642, was much higher in the US. According to a WHO report, India is home to largest number of deaths due to road accidents in the world. The report pointed to speeding, drinking-driving and low use of helmets, seat belts and child restraints in vehicles as the main contributing factors. In 2004, road accidents was the top ninth cause of death in 2004. ‘‘Speed is the main reason behind accidents. An increase in average speed is directly related to both the likelihood of a crash occurring and to the severity of crash consequences. A 5% increase in average speed leads to an approximately 10% increase in crashes that cause injuries and a 20% increase in fatal crashes. Zones of 30 kmph can reduce crash risk and injury severity and are recommended in areas where vulnerable road users are particularly at risk,’’ the report said. Only 29% countries had managed to reduce traffic speed in urban areas and 10% have been effective in managing it. The report stated traffic calming measures were lacking in areas with no traffic segregation.