Mobility and safety

Sibylle Rupprecht, Director General IRF, reports from the 3rd Regional Conference of the International Road Federation held 3-4 October in New Delhi, India

More than 1.2 million deaths and 23 million injuries are caused by road accidents worldwide every year. Of these, India accounts for 10 per cent of fatal accidents. These alarming figures were disclosed by the speakers at the 3rd Regional IRF Conference on ‘Mobility and Safety in Road Transport’ to some 250 engineers and experts who took part in this event. K.H. Muniyappa, Minister of State for Shipping, Road Transport and Highways, inaugurated this important conference organised by the Geneva-based International Road Federation.
In the context of massive road development activities in the region, and India in particular, road transport has become more and more attractive over the years. The high demand for mobility brought a substantial growth in motor vehicle ownership, including motorcycles, coupled with poor road user behaviour. This has led to a serious concern about the road safety situation.

Rising figures
The World Health Organisation estimates that worldwide road traffic injuries will move up from 9th position of leading causes of death in 2004 to 5th position by 2030. Thus the current figure of 1.2 million victims is set to double by 2030. Road crashes are the leading cause of death for young people aged 10-24. According to the WHO projections, road crashes will be the leading cause of disability and premature death for children aged five and over in developing countries by 2015.
Road crashes cost developing countries up to $100 billion each year, a figure equivalent to all official overseas aid. About two-thirds of road accidents and one-third of road fatalities occur in urban areas, with pedestrians and cyclists being the most vulnerable road users. Therefore, if we want to save lives, we need to ensure safer infrastructure, safer behaviour, safer vehicles and better enforcement of traffic rules.
The 3rd Regional IRF Conference looked into the following four broad themes: Urban Mobility and Safety; Road Developments and Safety Implications; Management of Mobility and Road Safety; and Institutional and Legislative Capacity for Road Safety.
The conference deliberations and the panel discussion showed a high degree of passion for ensuring mobility in developing countries without compromising on high standards of safety. In the valedictory session, 18 important proposals were elaborated, recognising that actions must include the three E’s (Engineering, Education, and Enforcement).

Taking action
Mr. K.K. Kapila, Conference Chair and Vice Chairman of IRF, summarised the recommendations as follows:

  1. It is recommended that all agencies must work collectively to reduce road fatalities substantially in the next three years with a built-in review mechanism. Besides, a mission-oriented concerted effort is required to reach safety targets by reducing the risks from all perspectives. This effort should include major advertising and educational campaigns for the public at large. The states are encouraged to subscribe to this. The IRF will consider introducing a national award to recognise the state with the highest reduction of fatalities. The traffic police officers demonstrating a high level commitment to reducing road fatalities are to be awarded a distinction as recognition.
  2. Urban roads must be planned and designed to meet the need for mobility effectively, but without compromising the safety for any of the various road users.
  3. The use of ITS should be recognised and fully used for effective management of mobility and safety.
  4. New cars should include all in-vehicle safety devices.
  5. The access to roads must be regulated to avoid mixed traffic, which leads to accidents and traffic interruptions. 
  6. Road Safety Audits should be made mandatory (similar to the system practiced in the railways sector) to ensure road safety aspects are built into all projects from planning to operating stage. 
  7. Enough funding should be allocated to make roads safe. The ‘Make Roads Safe’ campaign recommends that at least 10 per cent of road budgets provided by the World Bank and other major lenders are devoted to road safety.
  8. Accident statistics must be one of the priorities and collection of accident data can be made the responsibility of O&M Contractor, as he can provide suitably trained professionals for this purpose. Analysis of crash causes should be done soon after the accident by the professional team of O&M Contractor. A crash investigation laboratory should also be established in different regions of the country.
  9. There should be an earmarked budget for traffic engineering and safety management in urban and regional zones. The staff should be especially trained in these functions. 
  10. National Road Safety Board (NRSB) and State Road Safety Board (SRSB) are being created as a consequence of the Sunder Committee recommendations. These authorities should aim to enhance safety, setting targets and objectives to be met.
  11. A Road Safety and Traffic Management Department should be created in each city and in each district Head Quarter, manned by trained staff. All activities of the SRSB should be implemented through these departments.
  12. Road safety devices including ITS system technologies may be given duty exemptions, similar to specialised road construction equipment.
  13. Tax exemption should be given to the private sector for creating facilities such as pedestrian under- or overpass, cycle paths, pedestrian crossings. These initiatives enhancing vulnerable road user safety may be exempt up to the cost of creating the specified infrastructure and incomes generated from them.
  14. Underground parking in commercial complexes, parking facilities at transport terminals and stations should be created to encourage park-n-ride facilities and promote use of public transport systems.
  15. Local road safety committees should be setup in different urban zones and state districts. Representatives of road authorities, police, RWA's, local road professionals (senior citizens) shall be members of this committee, which shall meet on a monthly basis and should be made accountable for implementation of road safety measures. The committee shall report to the State Road Safety Board.
  16. The roads should be well maintained to meet the mobility and safety requirements, and any black spots should be identified and addressed as a priority.
  17. The problem of overloaded vehicles, which cause many accidents and have a negative impact on road infrastructure, should be addressed by stringent enforcement laws.
  18. All motorcycles, scooters, mopeds and bicycles should bear reflecting markings. All slow moving vehicles without motive power should be provided with reflectors both in front and rear.

At the IRF we consider it our duty to look into these problems and to examine solutions that anticipate and deal with traffic accidents in conurbations, to highlight the close links between safety and other objectives, such as multimodality, road sharing and quality of life.  We believe that sound mobility management strategies can increase traffic safety significantly, in addition to providing other economic and environmental benefits.

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