NEW DELHI: With the general vehicles mostly off the roads during the pandemic induced lockdowns, there appeared to be a corresponding decline in road accidents during the period, according to a report by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
Though road accidents claimed 1.3 lakh lives and injured over 3.4 lakh lives in 2020, the year most affected by COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions, the transport ministry observed that the accident parameters registered a significant decline.
The annual report ‘Road accidents in India 2020’ by the ministry says that the total accidents decreased on an average by 18.46 per cent, while the number of persons killed was down by 12.84 per cent. The number of injuries also saw a decrease by 22.84 per cent over the previous year’s average.
Other than emergency services, most offices including government offices were on work from home mode while the educational institutions were closed too which led to a significant decline in public mobility.
Interestingly, restriction in mobility means accidents involving buses also saw a sharp decline in 2020.
“During the pandemic, we received very less road accident cases and at times it did happen that not even one case of road accident was reported due to restricted traffic movements,” Dr Lalhming Mawii, from the Emergency Department at Indian Spinal Injuries Centre told The New Indian.
“However, once we stepped into normalcy, cases started coming in. Maximum road accident cases we look after are fractures of bones, head injuries and the number increases at night,” she said.
In 2020, 3,66,138 road accidents took place across India in which 1,31,714 lost their lives while 3,48,279 suffered injuries.
The Ministry says, “The number of road accidents has been on a decline since 2016 except for a marginal increase of 0.46 per cent in 2018.”
In the category of fatal accidents, it showed that 1,20,806 fatal accidents were reported in 2020, which is 12.23 per cent lower than those reported in 2019 which was 1,37,689.
Piyush Tewari, Founder and CEO of SaveLIFE Foundation, told The New Indian, “There are two aspects to it. First, there were two months of complete lockdown and three months of gradual unlocking. The crashes were reduced quite significantly. If month-wise data comparison can be looked at of three consecutive years starting from 2018, April, May and June shows quite a dramatic drop in 2020 and can be attributed to lockdown following covid.”
“But beyond this also there is a marginal decrease toward the latter half of the year. That is attributable to the gradual implementation of the motor vehicle amendment act. During pandemic many states started notifying the law and also started enforcing it,” he said.
Tamil Nadu recorded the highest number of road accidents in 2020 with 45,484 numbers, but with 19,149 deaths Uttar Pradesh leads in the number of persons killed during the accidents.
The “accident severity”, however, increased from 33.7 per cent in 2019 to 36 per cent in 2020.
“However key thing will be the 2021 data as this will show the actual trend. But the report shows that the number of crash severity has gone up and here how dangerous the roads remain a big problem. A continuous effort is required to fix engineering problems, improve trauma care, enhance enforcement and keep working on driver behaviour,” Tewari pointed out.
In 2019, 22,887 buses met with accidents where 6,529 persons got killed. The number was down to 9,739 accidents involving buses with 3,040 people killed.
With national highways, state highways and other roads reporting less number of accidents, fatalities and injuries in 2020 compared to last year, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka experienced a significant reduction in road accidents.
Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh are the other states that saw a significant reduction in road accident fatalities in 2020.
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