India’s efforts to curb its high road toll are now focusing on hospitals and their capacity to save lives.
To drive along any road, anywhere in the world is a risk, but in India this goes to a whole new dimension of heart-in-your-mouth mayhem as every mode of transport fights for space in streets where, well, there isn’t any.
Children play in the shadow of roaring trucks and buses, and pedestrians stride alongside rickshaws, motorbikes, cars, cows and the occasional elephant. The streets are a riot of movement, colour and deafening noise – a road-safety nightmare.
“Pedestrians claim ownership of the road as much as drivers so you have a lot of people on the street,” says Professor Nobhojit Roy, a Mumbai trauma surgeon who every day experiences firsthand the consequences of this clash. “We have cars colliding with children and pedestrians, and a huge number of motorcycles.”
The bald statistic behind the mayhem and tragedy is that one person is killed on the roads every two to four minutes in India. The official annual road toll is more than 140,000 and rising: the result of poor road conditions, an increasing number of faster and heavier vehicles, and streets still full of people.
While traffic congestion means speeds often are not as high as in developed countries, people on foot and motorbike are vulnerable in any collision.