India No 1 in road accident deaths

Geneva: India suffers from the highest number of deaths – around 1,05,000 in absolute terms annually- due to road accidents in the world owing to poor infrastructure and dangerous driving habits, the World Health Organisation said on Thursday.

As "road traffic crashes take the lives of nearly 1.3 million every year, and injure 20-50 million more" in the world, India along with China are listed among countries with the highest number of deaths.

Poor road infrastructure, failure to comply with speed limits, growing drinking and driving habits, and refusal to use proper motorcycle helmets and use child car seats, are among the main factors contributing to deaths from road crashes, WHO said in its report on `Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2010`.

Despite strong laws and regulations, India has been unable to prevent the growing number of accidents on its roads. With around 1,05,000 death deaths annually, the country has overtaken China.

With growing middle class which is encouraged to buy new and latest vehicles, the youth- people aged between 15-29 years – have become the main victims of injuries.

"Over 90 per cent of road traffic deaths and injuries occur in low-income and middle-income countries, which have only 48 per cent of the world`s registered vehicles," the report noted.

More disturbingly, a large number of deaths from road accidents are borne by "vulnerable road users" such as pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.

Around 13 per cent of the victims from road-related deaths are pedestrians in India as compared to 15 per cent of accidents from passenger cars and taxis and 27 per cent of riders of motorised two-or-three wheelers.

The road traffic crashes, which result in the grief and suffering, contribute to economic losses to victims, their families, and nations as a whole, to the tune of 1-3 per cent of their respective gross national product, the report noted.

"Road traffic crashes are a growing health and development concern affecting all nations," said Dr Margaret China, WHO`s director general, suggesting that it is important to have an action plan for an intensified response.

The global plan sets out a detailed programme of action that would call for improving the safety of road and vehicles, enhancing emergency services and building up road safety management.

More importantly, the plan calls on nations to enforce laws for using helmets, seat-belts and child restraints.

It emphasises strict and stern action against the drinking driving and those violating speed limits.