Terming road accidents as one of the biggest challenges to orderly human existence, the Supreme Court of India on Tuesday ordered Central and state governments to implement the existing road safety laws and rules seriously.
The court also stated that it would monitor the steps taken by various government authorities. For this purpose, the court through its judgement (pdf) constituted a three-member committee and directed it to submit its report within three months.
The committee includes justice K S Radhakrishnan, S Sundar, former secretary of Union Ministry of Surface Transport, and Nishi Mittal, former scientist with Central Road Research Institute (CRRI).
One serious accident every minute
The order was given on a petition filed by orthopedic surgeon, S Rajaseekaran. The bench of justices P Sathasivam, Ranjan Gogoi and N V Ramana said that one serious road accident in the country occurs every minute and one person dies in a road traffic accident every four minutes.
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The total network of roads in India is approximately 4.7 million km, possibly the second largest network in the world after the US. This includes 200 km of express highways, 70,934 km of national highways and 163,896 km of state highways.
In its order, the court compared data of India with that of neighbouring China and said there is no doubt that Indian roads have proved to be killers (see table below).
The bench said the existing law is inadequate and also not implemented properly.
Medical infrastructure inadequate
The court also focused on inadequate medical infrastructure, which it said was a major factor compounding the problem. The order observed that number of ambulances, and trauma centres in different hospitals were grossly inadequate to deal with the rising number of accidents and that most of them lack even basic health care facilities.
The court decided it will follow a four-dimensional approach which the government has earlier attempted by setting up four different working groups for enforcement (of laws), engineering (road design), education and emergency care, known as the 4Es. The court said that it would be best manner to approach the problem.
Judgement: Judgement of the Supreme Court of India regarding road accidents in India and means to prevent it, 22/04/2014
Report: Road safety audit of pilot BRTS corridor at Pune
Report: Road safety action plan
Report: The pedestrian and the road
Report: Global status report on road safety 2013
Document: Pedestrian safety: a road safety manual for decision-makers and practitioners
Bill: The National Road Safety and Traffic Management Board Bill, 2010