Strengthening Road Safety Legislation: Saving Lives

WHO Country Office for India in collaboration with the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways, Government of India, and World Bank organized a consultation of key stakeholders for strengthening road safety legislation in India on 14 December 2013.

The deliberations chaired by Mr Oscar Fernandes, Minister of Road Transport & Highways, Government of India were addressed by Justice J.R. Midha, High Court of Delhi; Dr Nata Menabde, WHO Representative to India; experts from the World Bank and WHO, and Mr Sanjay Bandhopadhya, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Road Transport & Highways.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Oscar Fernandes said, “Appropriate legislation plays a very important role in making our roads safer. Enforcement of comprehensive and clear legislation with appropriate penalties, accompanied by public awareness of the laws is a critical factor in reducing road traffic injuries and deaths.”

“However, the laws need to be reviewed and amended from time to time to keep pace with the changing requirements of the time and also to assimilate the good practices that are identified based on sound evidence of effectiveness. Accordingly, the Government initiated the process of amendment of the Motor Vehicle Act,” he added.

Congratulating the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways for taking the lead in organizing the consultation on road safety legislation, Dr Nata Menabde, WHO Representative to India, said, “We strongly believe that strengthening the road safety legislation will save lives. We, therefore, urge all stakeholders to come together and facilitate the passing of the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2012.”

The Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, which is the principal legislation for governing the movement of motorized transport on Indian roads, has an important bearing on road safety in India. Reflecting the current road safety issues, the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2012, has many good provisions: enhancement of penalties, delegation of more powers to the states, improving the responsiveness on the part of Regional Transport Authorities, removal of anomalies and provision for new/emerging requirements and facilitating prompt and just compensation to road accident victims.

Road traffic injuries are the ninth leading cause of death globally, and the leading cause of deaths for young people aged 15-29 years. Current trends suggest that by 2030 road traffic deaths will become the fifth leading cause of death unless urgent action is taken.

India accounts for about 10% of road crash fatalities worldwide. Approximately 140 000 people die every year, with additional hundreds of thousands more being injured due to road crashes.

Adequately funded strategic interventions, based on the safe system approach are, therefore, needed to reverse the trend of road related mortality in India. The consultation discussed these issues, including the need for a stronger and appropriate legal and regulatory framework to address the issue of road safety in India.