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This growth isn't crashing
Sunil Jain
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March 19, 2009

India's growth rates may be crashing, but the rates of growth of crashing on the country's roads, and those dying in these crashes, are growing by leaps and bounds.

According to a report done by the IIT-Delhi and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, road fatalities in India have been rising at the rate of 8 per cent per annum over the past five years as compared to 5 per cent in 1980-2000 (the correlation with rising GDP growth is obvious).

Given how crash rates are related to per capita GDP levels -- they rise with income growth, before levelling off, after a certain income level is attained -- the study estimates India's fatalities will rise to 260,000 by 2030, after which they could start declining.

The serious injuries could be 15 times this right now -- India has 98 fatalities, 1,474 serious injuries and 6,876 minor injuries per million people. India, by the way, has 98 fatalities per million people while it has just seven motorised vehicles per 100 persons -- the United Kingdom has 53 fatalities per million persons with 51 cars per 100 persons.

With more than 70 per cent of the victims either pedestrians (a study shows 53 per cent of those dying in Delhi are pedestrians, it's 78 per cent in Mumbai and 32 per cent on the major highways), cyclists or two-wheeler users, it's obvious traffic segregation is critical -- the study lists out several other important measures including better designs of vehicles, convenient road-crossing facilities at frequent intervals for vehicles/pedestrians, better policing, etc.

Given how the media, the BJP, and the well-heeled killed the one attempt at traffic segregation tried in the capital's BRT project, it's unlikely there will be much success in other parts of the country. In which case why shed crocodile tears every time there's a death on the highway?

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