India and Global Road Safety Facility Launch Initiative to Reduce Road Fatalities

November 23, 2010

  • The Bank and Bloomberg Philanthropies team up for road safety in three states
  • India’s road death toll world’s highest
  • 1.3 million killed, 50 million disabled on roads every year worldwide

The Government of India and the World Bank launched a road safety initiative in November 2010 to reduce fatalities and serious injuries on Indian roads. The project will apply the methodology of the International Road Assessment Program (iRAP) to assist three Indian states—Assam, Gujarat and Karnataka—improve road safety on 3,000 km of high-risk roads.

This initiative seeks to reduce the number of pedestrians, cyclists and motorists who die on India’s roads every year, which is currently about 200,000 a year or 550 every day. India accounts for 15 percent of the world’s road fatalities, although it has just one percent of the world’s motor vehicles. Many of these deaths are preventable by improved road design and management.
As India’s rapid economic growth enables more people to own cars and scooters, the death toll on the country’s roads will rise unless efficient measures are implemented. India has now overtaken China to top the world in road fatalities and continues to pull steadily ahead.

This $400,000 project is undertaken with the support of the Global Road Safety Facility (GRSF), administered by the World Bank as part of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Road Safety Project (RS-10 Project). It follows up on the Government of India’s 2007 Sundar Committee Report on Road Safety and Traffic Management, which called for action to make Indian roads safer.

The Global Road Safety Facility, also supported by the International Automobile Federation’s FIA Foundation, as well as the Australian, Dutch and Swedish governments, generates and catalyzes increased funding to support initiatives aimed at reducing deaths and injuries in low and middle-income countries. Experience in high-income countries demonstrates that road deaths and injuries are preventable, and the potential benefits to low and middle-income countries are huge.

Building on success

The India project builds on the success of similar Global Road Safety Facility partnerships to apply the iRAP methodology to develop safe road investment plans in Vietnam, Serbia, Peru, Argentina and the Philippines. In Vietnam, for example, a recently launched iRAP project applied to a 3,000-km road is expected to prevent about 360 fatalities per year.

" Given the scale of this unique challenge, India cannot afford to emulate the slow path to safer roads taken by the high-income countries; rapid and innovative action is needed "

Roberto Zagha

India Country Director, The World Bank

“Enhancing road safety measures across the road network of the nation is a priority for India,” said Mr Venu Rajamony, Joint Secretary in the Department of Economic Affairs at the Ministry of Finance, Government of India. “There is a need to ensure that deaths and disabilities in accidents are reduced significantly. The new initiative of the World Bank for ensuring road safety is a welcome step. This project will enhance the capacity of the three states in addressing one of the major challenges of the road sector,”

“No other country has ever had such a high number of vulnerable road users,” said World Bank Country Director Roberto Zagha. “Given the scale of this unique challenge, India cannot afford to emulate the slow path to safer roads taken by the high-income countries; rapid and innovative action is needed.”

Road accidents kill 1.3 million

This problem is not confined to India. Around the world, road traffic injuries kill an estimated 1.3 million people, and injure or disable up to 50 million every year. What’s worse is that the death toll is mounting. Unless an effort to stem it is mounted, road fatalities are projected to increase by 66 percent worldwide between now and 2020.

A closer look at these projections reveals that road safety is a development issue, another—usually overlooked—dimension of the gulf separating the world’s rich and poor. These road fatalities are predicted to increase by more than 80 percent in developing countries, but decrease by 30 percent in the high-income countries.

For example, on the key indicator of fatalities per 1,000 registered vehicles, India registered 1.44 deaths per thousand vehicles in 2002, while the UK’s rate was 0.10. In other words, the fatality rate in India is 14 times higher than that in the UK. In Bangladesh, it is 39 times higher. In China, it is 25 times higher. And these ratios are expected to widen in the next decade.

A public health emergency

“This is an emerging public health emergency,” said Marc Juhel, the World Bank’s Transport Sector Manager. “In large part, it is the result of rapid economic and population growth, along with urbanization, which has produced more vehicles and congestion. Investments in safe road networks, road management and sector regulation have not kept pace. This needs to change, and quickly.”

The India Project will use the latest digital imaging technology on the identified stretches of road in the three states to bring in cost-effective improvements that could help reduce road deaths and injuries on these roads.

“Building capacity will be part of this Project so that local engineers can undertake this type of assessment on the rest of their State and National Highway networks in the future,” said World Bank Transport Specialist Said Dahdah.