Terming road accident scenario in India more "dangerous than COVID-19 pandemic", Union minister Nitin Gadkari on Saturday said there could be a saving of Rs 90 lakh per person by preventing deaths and reducing injuries to minor ones in such incidents.
The minister stressed that the accident cost as a tremendous burden to society and the nation and the estimated cost of a death in a road accident is around Rs 91.16 lakh.
Releasing the World Bank report on 'Traffic Crash Injuries And Disabilities: The Burden on India Society', prepared in association with Save Life Foundation, Road Transport, Highways and MSMEs Minister Gadkari said in this alarming scenario his ministry will formulate policies to protect the interest of the poor and embark on several reformative steps.
India accounts for the highest number of road accidents globally, with 1.5 lakh people being killed and more than 4.5 lakh crippled annually in 4.5 lakh road accidents with losses amounting to 3.14 per cent of the GDP.
"For Government, each life is precious whether that is from poor or rich family, urban or rural area, male or female and at any level of society. The situation is alarming... there are more deaths than in COVID-19...It is more dangerous than COVID-19," Gadkari said terming the World Bank report an eye-opener.
In India cost per seriously injured person comes at Rs 3.64 lakh while cost per minor injured person stands at Rs 77, 938 and the cost per death is estimated at Rs 91.16 lakh, he said.
"So death cost is 100 times more than injury cost. It shows that if we succeed in preventing deaths in a road accident and restrict the life of accident victims to minor injuries only, we can save around Rs 90 lakh per person," the minister said addressing the event.
"We needed to change law and make special policies. Accident cost as a tremendous burden to society and nation. There are lots of lapses in the legal system, police system. We need to protect the poor," he said adding that policy interventions are on the anvil apart from a number of steps, already initiated by his ministry.
Around 70 per cent of deaths are in the working-age group of 18 to 45 years old while India accounts for 415 deaths per day in road accidents.
Emphasising road safety audits, besides audit of detailed project reports, engineering plans and schemes pertaining to the injured, the minister said various audits can correct deficiencies causing accidents.
Earlier, 40,000 km of highways have been brought under auditing.
The minister said IITs and engineering colleges could take up highway stretches for road safety audit with some financial aid while third-party road safety audits will help in finding engineering faults and correcting them.
Emphasising that his ministry was one such ministry which did not believe in protecting the wrong-doers and was transparent, the minister said there is a need that DPRs should be proof-checked and revised by competent authorities, third-party agencies, and educational institutions before implementation.
He urged states to replicate Tamil Nadu model which could reduce road accidents by 38 per cent and deaths by 54 per cent and added 78 per cent of road accident deaths are of two-wheeler riders, bicyclists and pedestrians and protection and safety of these vulnerable road user groups is the foremost priority of the Centre.
Gadkari further said the chairman of the National Road Safety Council will be announced soon as this body will be responsible for collecting accident data and suggesting measures to further reduce road accidents.
Stressing that 70 per cent of accident deaths In India are due to over-speeding, the minister said fitness check of all vehicles has been mandated through Automated Vehicle Inspection and Certification (I&C) centres.
Gadkari also said it is essential that automobile manufacturers should further enhance safety features.
Broadly, the Report says that road accidents are a tremendous burden to society and the nation and states and reducing accident deaths and injuries can boost income growth and large welfare gains can be achieved from proven cost-effective road safety interventions.
The minister said road accident deaths and injuries strike down prime working-age adults in low and middle-income countries and added that accidents are a public health issue and challenge in countries like India.
Gadkari said the government is working with the World Bank on various projects, one of which is to streamline the road crash database that is iRAD.
Pointing out that one of the key findings of the report is that the number of accident deaths is double in poor families as compared to rich ones, he said it is very important to have a streamlined and robust and accessible legal, insurance and healthcare ecosystem.
The minister said that recommendations of the report on the safety of vulnerable road users, cashless treatment, improvement of civic and health infrastructures, penetration and compensation mechanism of insurance, post-crash response ecosystem and integration of stake-holders would help in revising the Motor Vehicle Amendment Act 2019 and Motor Vehicle rules.
The World Bank report comes even as the country is observing an extended first-ever "Road Safety Month" currently to build awareness of road safety.