National highways in south account for most road accidents, black spots; UP, Tamil Nadu top among states

·8 min read

In India, every year more people die of road traffic injuries or road accidents than of malaria, tuberculosis or HIV. In 2019 alone, over 1.51 lakh people died due to injuries caused by road accidents. This was more than the total deaths caused by the three diseases combined.

In 2019, malaria killed 7,700 people, the human immunodeficiency virus killed 58,960 while tuberculosis claimed 79,144 lives.

The situation, however, seems to be improving. Between 2018 and 2020 India witnessed a drop in road traffic injuries. While 1,40,843 road accidents were reported in national highways and expressways in 2018, they fell to 1,37,191 in 2019. The number of road accidents reduced further to 1,16,496 in 2020 (provisional data). The reduction in road traffic injuries was witnessed across all the seven major regions - south, north, east, west, north-west, north-east and central India.

NHs and expressways in south report maximum road traffic injuries

However, government data show that road accidents are concentrated in a few problem states such as Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh, or regions such as south India.

As per the 2020 provisional data, south India (includes the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Goa, and the UTs of Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, and Puducherry) accounted for 41.6 percent or 48,476 of the total 1,16,496 road traffic injuries. The figures were 59,280 in 2018 and 57,457 in 2019.

In contrast, all other regions, north, west, east, central, north-west and north-east reported less than 15,000 road accidents in 2020.

Region

States

Year 2018

Year 2019

Year 2020

South

Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Goa, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Puducherry

59280

57457

48476

North

Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand

17014

16843

14219

North West

Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Chandigarh, Delhi and Rajasthan

18307

17118

13867

Central

Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh

13962

14251

13296

East

West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha and Jharkhand

13910

14285

12884

West

Gujarat, Maharashtra, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu

13352

11871

9735

North East

Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura

5018

5366

3986

Grand Total

140843

137191

116496

SOURCE: Press Information Bureau, Government of India

Among other regions, in 2002, north (Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand) reported the second-highest (14,219) road accidents in 2020. The north-west region (Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Chandigarh, Delhi and Rajasthan), which reported the second-highest road traffic injuries in 2019 at 17,718 reduced the numbers to 13,867 in 2020.

It's to be noted that south India also accounts for the maximum length of national highways at 24,098 kilometres as of 2017.

But then, among states, Tamil Nadu in the south reported 15,269 road accidents, the highest in 2020. The southern state had 4,946 kilometres of national highways as of 2017. Uttar Pradesh, which had 8,712 kilometres of national highways (second highest in 2017), accounted for 13,695 road traffic injuries and Karnataka (6,762 kilometres of NHs in 2017) reported 11,230 road accidents. These three states have contributed the maximum number of road accidents in 2018 as well as 2019.

However, Maharashtra, which accounted for the largest network of national highways at 15,437 kilometres in 2017, reported 9,355, 8,360 and 6,501 in 2018, 2019 and 2020, respectively.

What's the solution?

Reducing deaths due to road traffic injuries in India has been a major focus of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MORTH) under Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari.

Stating the need for an engineering-driven approach to reduce road traffic injuries in India, the Union minister in June 2021 had said that 50 percent of the road accidents in India are due to road engineering problems. He added that the government has taken special initiatives to identify and improve black spots.

The ministry, according to a report published in June this year, is allocating ‚¹14,000 crores for states, the National Highways Authority of India and other stakeholders to remove black spots under a scheme sanctioned by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

On Thursday, PIB issued a statement by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MORTH), stating that it has already identified 5,803 black spots on national highways based on accident and fatality data between 2015 and 2018 in 30 states and UTs.

The ministry said that temporary measures have been taken on 5,167 black spots and 2,923 Black spots have been permanently rectified.

What are black spots?

In transportation, a black spot is not a literal spot on the road, but a short stretch of the road usually of about 500 metres in length, which is prone to accidents.

As per MORTH, a stretch of road is termed a black spot if "five accidents involving serious injuries/fatalities or ten fatalities took place during the past three calendar years".

However, "some times a single accident can have multiple fatalities, hence a number of fatal/grievous accidents at the same location is a better indicator of problematic road/road environment (ie, black spot) than the number of fatalities".

Why are they crucial?

Identification and rectification of black spots on national highways and state highways (SHs) have been one of the dimensions of India's policies to reduce road traffic crashes. The rectification of black spots is done using short-term remedies such as installing cautionary road signs and markings, transverse bar markings, rumble strips and solar blinkers, etc, as well as long-term remedies such as providing flyover, underpasses, foot-over bridges, service roads, etc, wherever required.

The MORTH statement on Thursday said that some of these steps are being taken to rectify black spots. Besides, the NHAI, which is primarily responsible for constructing and managing national highways in India (NHIDCL and PWDs of states also manage them) has delegated financial power of up to Rs 50 crore to its regional officers to carry out rectification of black spots including land acquisition without sending files to NHAI headquarter for approval.

The ministry also said that it is taking traffic calming measures such as traffic warning signs, delineators, road studs, bar markings, humps at approach roads, etc, at vulnerable sections of National Highways to reduce road accident fatalities.

Is there a connection between black spots and accidents?

Earlier in the story, we looked at the states and regions which account for the maximum number of road accidents in national highways and expressways, now let us take a look at the concentration of black spots in the national highways and expressways from 30 states and UTs, data for which has been collected by MORTH's Transport Research Wing (TRP).

Region

States

Black spots

South

Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Goa, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Puducherry

2,493

East

West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha and Jharkhand

992

North West

Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Chandigarh, Delhi and Rajasthan

967

North

Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand

459

Central

Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh

445

West

Gujarat, Maharashtra, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu

304

North East

Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura

143

Grand Total

5,803

SOURCE: Press Information Bureau, Government of India

As it's clear from the data above, national highways and expressways in south India account for the maximum number 2,493 of black spots -- nearly 43 percent of the 5,803 identified by the TRP.

While the concentration of black spots in other regions does not follow the same pattern as road accidents (check table at the top), the concentration of black spots is located majorly in five regions -- south, east, north-west, north and central -- which also reported the maximum number of road accidents.

Going beyond the national highways, expressways

India reported a total of 4,49,002 accidents in the year 2019. These accidents led to 1,51,113 accidental deaths and 4,51,361 accidental injuries. Based on recent data released by MORTH, of the nearly 4.5 lakh accidents that took place in 2019, 1,37,191 or 30.5 percent occurred in national highways and expressways.

These figures are indeed a matter of concern for the MORTH which owns the national highways, especially given the low distribution of the national highways -- the NHs accounted for just 1.94 percent of India's total roads as of 2017. But the situation on the flipside (other roads) seems just as alarming.

The remaining roads -- state highways (2.97 percent), district (9.94 percent), rural (70.65 percent) and urban roads (8.93 percent) and project roads (5.58 percent) -- are likely to be where the remaining 69.5 percent road accidents might be taking place.

While the MORTH's focus on improving black spots in national highways and expressways is a crucial initiative that needs to be completed on priority. Any initiative to reduce road accidents in India will be incomplete if it fails to include the state highways, district roads, rural roads.

MORTH didn't release any data related to road safety initiatives on these roads on Thursday.

Also, given the existing regional disparities in the national highway network in India, and the concentration of traffic-related injuries to a few states or regions, a localised approach may be more suited.

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