Addressing the Road Safety Need in India
The growth of the Indian automotive sector has been phenomenal in the last few decades. Personal vehicles have seen unprecedented growth. From selling fewer than million vehicles in 2005 to selling over million vehicles by the end of 2014, India has now become the 5th largest automotive market by sales. Future projection for 2020 of the present trend points towards India consolidating its position as the 5th largest market for automobiles.
Despite the unparalleled growth of the Indian automotive industry, the vehicle usage pattern reveals a rather sorry state of unsustainable growth, as traffic and safety concerns are ignored. For instance, during 2009-2014, population grew at %, while passenger vehicle sales increased by %.
Motor vehicle population has grown at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of % between 2009 and 2014, spurred by a rising tide of motorization. Concomitantly, traffic, pollution, and accidents have grown. According to data collected by the World Health Organization (WHO) for 2015, India registered casualties, which accounts for casualties every hour. Half the fatalities involved are motorcyclists, pedestrians, and cyclists. A heterogeneous traffic mix of high-speed vehicles sharing the road space with vulnerable road users as well as unsafe road infrastructure and vehicles that are in poor condition are seen as the contributing factors. Recently, Government of India proposed to mandate crash test for OEMs. Due to the impending regulations, airbags and ABS are expected to be offered as standard equipment across all vehicle models sold post 2017. This whitepaper looks at impending safety regulations and discusses if the solution proposed can resolve the problems. According to a study conducted by the Indian government in 2010, road transport contributed % towards the GDP of the country. However, the loss to the Indian economy due to road accidents, injuries, and fatalities stood at % of the GDP. Moreover, in accident victims in India were in the age group of 25-65 and out of fatalities involved pedestrians, bicyclists, and two-wheelers.
According to WHO statistics, India is the highest ranked country when it comes to the number of road traffic deaths. Moreover, despite being the 5th largest car market, India is the only country in the top ten car markets to lack proper safety regulations and testing programs.
Road safety in India should be of utmost importance and needs to be addressed sooner rather than later in a well-structured and planned manner. Most Indian cars sold in the market are unsafe. This has been reaffirmed by NCAP’s testing of popular vehicles from popular brands sold in India. Testing agencies such as NCAP had taken base variants of these vehicles and crash tested according to global NCAP norms. The result confirmed what most of the consumers in India have known for long: “Indian cars are unsafe”.
However, addressing passenger safety is easier said than done. Approaching it with a narrow mindset and implementing existing solutions such as strapping half a dozen airbags and ABS to a vehicle is unlikely to serve the purpose.
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