In terms of official statistics, India ranks number one in deaths due to road accidents in the world with over 1,50,000 deaths last year. This means that India which has only 2% of the total global motor share contributes to 12% of the global road traffic fatalities. Traffic deaths are not only a public health issue, but an epidemic.
Over the years, several committees, expert groups, task forces have been setup at national, state, city level and various recommendations have been made on the same topic, but in vain. In fact, as one reads this article, Rajya Sabha, the upper house of Parliament, is debating the Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill, which aims to address the issue of road safety through stringent legislations. However, even with these initiatives, there has been no real impact on ground. On the contrary, the number of road fatalities have been increasing meteorically.
One of the main reasons why things haven’t changed is because most recommendations are around ‘what’ needs to be done, rather than focussing on “how” to get it. This is where the Haryana Vision Zero, or HVZ as it is known, has made a difference.
In terms of road safety, 5,200 lives were lost in Haryana due to road crashes. This meant that 14 people lost their life every single day on the state’s Roads in 2017. While the state may be ranked 13th in the total number of fatalities, it stood fifth in terms of number of fatalities per 1,00,000 population with 19.22 deaths.
The HVZ programme was launched in May 2017 when the Haryana government signed an MOU with Nasscom and WRI India to develop a strategy that aims to work towards achieving zero road traffic deaths. The first phase of HVZ started in July 2017 with the 10 most vulnerable districts chosen as part of the programme.
The HVZ programme involves four key areas of work — Engineering, Enforcement, Education and Emergency. As part of road safety work, education and emergency care have been addressed to the HVZ programme that brings into focus the components of engineering and enforcement to piece together the overall road safety strategy.
This involves crash investigation, road safety audits, black spot rectification, zero tolerance days for traffic violations and community outreach. Each district has one designated Road Safety Associate who acts as a focal point for all road safety work and is backed by a programme management team.
In the last one year, the HVZ programme has seen tremendous work with 4,160 km of roads being inspected for design and engineering flaws, 760 traffic crashes investigated in a scientific manner, 78 black spots audited, 295 zero tolerance drives carried out, 87 District Road Safety Committee (DRSC) meetings held in all the 10 districts and 1,040 reports submitted to the state government out of which 80% of infrastructure improvement recommendations have been implemented by the state government and National Highways Authority of India (NHAI).
The 10 districts under the HVZ programme have shown a decline of 10% in road traffic deaths while the rest of the state has shown an increase in the same. Smaller districts like Hisar and Ambala with 21% and 20% decline in road traffic fatalities have lead the way for the rest of the districts to follow.
Unfortunately, districts like Gurugram have fared very poorly with an increase in road crash fatalities by 16%. The district had conducted 136 crash investigations, 602 km of road inspections, 55 km of pedestrian audits, analysis of 14 blackspots and investigations of 839 FIRs, it has, however, done very little in implementing most of the recommendations.
The lack of work done on ground has meant that road crash fatalities have been on the rise. This in turn has brought down the overall average performance of the programme substantially. However, policymakers have seen the benefits of the HVZ programme and subsequently expanded it to all 22 districts of the state for the year 2018-19.
Road safety is challenging since it is multidisciplinary and involves multiple agencies. The HVZ may have just figured out a structure of getting things implemented on ground and is bound to be a game changer for the country, as India cannot afford to lose any more lives on its own roads.
(The writer is with WRI India)