To understand how dangerous our Indian roads are, one just needs to look at the following statistics:
World Bank Report in 2020 says that India accounts for 11% of global road crash victims while having only 1 per cent of the world’s vehicles
Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari has acknowledged the menace and said, “It is a sordid state of affairs that Indian roads witnessed 415 deaths per day in road accidents, the highest in the world, and losses amount to 3.14% of GDP”. This equates to 1 person dying every 4 minutes on our roads!
Total road deaths in our country in 2019 was 1.51 lakhs (this was higher than the COVID deaths seen in 2020 -- which amount to 1.49 lakhs)
With such alarmingly high numbers of road accidents and road fatalities, we definitely need to find innovative ways to make our roads safer. We can see from other countries’ past experiences that stringent laws alone cannot reduce road deaths (India had amended the Motor Vehicle Act in 2019, increasing the fines for road traffic offences), but the effective enforcement of them is what matters and reduces accidents in the long run.
Technology can surely play an important part ineffective enforcement of these laws and create innovative ways to prevent accidents/reduce deaths. As we all know, the inventions of seat belts, airbags and advance anti-lock braking systems have already saved countless lives worldwide.
When it comes to the solid enforcement of traffic laws, CCTV and dash cameras can provide the Police with video evidence of the traffic violations and the number plates of offenders so that a challenge can be raised for each offence.
All new driver license cards are issued with a chip, so police can easily identify traffic offenders who have outstanding fines. Optical character recognition (OCR) software makes identifying number plates easy and can be used by Traffic Police at check posts to identify vehicles that have outstanding fines.
Soon, India should also introduce a ‘points-based license system, so that people who are repeat offenders will have their driver’s license revoked. Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be used strategically to populate road accident data to ensure the correct placement of warning signs and cameras at accident hotspots; this, in turn, shall make motorists aware that extra caution is needed.
In helping to reduce accidents, Driver State Monitors (DSM) and Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) have been developed and are being used in many developed nations worldwide. DSMs are cameras that use advanced AI algorithms to monitor a driver’s face and gesture to ensure that the driver is not falling asleep, smoking, using a mobile phone or being distracted from looking at the road ahead.
As nearly 40% of accidents in India are caused due to drowsy driving, this innovation (of DSM-enabled cameras) can prevent a lot of road deaths. Furthermore, speed limiters can be fitted to vehicles to ensure that they adhere to the speed limit.
ADAS Forward Collision Warning Systems have the ability to alert the driver of an impending collision with a slower-moving or stationary car in front of the driver. With cameras and AI becoming more advanced than ever before, these kinds of technological interventions will help warn drivers of situations in advance and prevent accidents (as these hi-tech cameras/safety devices never sleep or get distracted).
The cost of installing these new technological devices is much lesser (and viable) when compared to the number of lives that could be saved. The faster our country can adopt these new advancements, the safer our roads can be. However, Government and private citizens also need to continue to play their part in reducing the needless lives lost on Indian roads and highways.
Author: Vanesh Naidoo, Founder & CEO, Safe Cams