Feature Public health

India’s deadly roads

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f6912 (Published 18 November 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f6912
  1. Patralekha Chatterjee, journalist, New Delhi, India
  1. patralekha.chatterjee{at}gmail.com

About 14 people die every hour on average in traffic crashes and most do not receive prompt medical care. Will public interest litigation pave the way for better road safety? Patralekha Chatterjee reports

One early morning last month, Sunita Narain, one of India’s best known environmental activists, was cycling to the Lodi Gardens in the heart of Delhi when she was hit by a car. Luckily, a passerby spotted the grievously injured Narain and took her to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, the country’s top government hospital.

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Narain, the head of the Centre for Science and Environment, a non-governmental organisation, had nine hours of surgery, during which two titanium rods were implanted into her broken arms.

A few days later, newspapers filled their front pages with details of another horrific incident in which 45 bus passengers had burnt to death in the Mahbubnagar district of Andhra Pradesh. Media reports said that the driver of the bus had tried to overtake another vehicle and lost control. The bus had hit a divider, and the fuel tank had exploded.

India’s deadly roads continue to claim tens of thousands of lives. Indeed, road traffic injuries are estimated to cost low and middle income countries 1-2% of their gross national product, estimated at more than $100bn (Rs 6289bn; £62bn; €74bn) a year, according to the World Health Organization’s The Global Status Report on Road Safety 2013.1

India’s road traffic crashes are of particular concern because of the huge number of deaths. Estimates of injuries and deaths vary widely, but according to India’s National …

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