IIT Kharagpur has recommended scientific and uniform nationwide speed management to reduce fatal road accidents.

The institute, in a policy document, recommended the constitution of state and district road safety councils comprising various departments, scientific fixing of speed limits and erection of road signage, engineering initiatives, audit of existing speed management measures, study of accidents, speed monitoring, strict implementation of guidelines and mass public awareness about road safety.

Recommendations to the West Bengal government

IIT Kharagpur has recently submitted its recommendations to the West Bengal government and it has accepted the suggestions in principle but there is a need for nationwide and uniform implementation of them, Professor Bhargab Maitra of the institute's Civil Engineering Department, who led a team of professors in formulating the document, told PTI on Sunday.

"We have made the recommendations based on road geometry, traffic characteristics and roadside environment. Although there are several Indian Roads Congress (IRC) guidelines which may be followed for better traffic management, the lack of a comprehensive and uniform speed management policy is an important concern in the Indian context," he said.

The document observed that a majority of the road stretches in the country, both in urban and rural areas, have mixed traffic, absence of lane discipline, uncontrolled access, roadside development and activities and a significant share of vulnerable road users.

There is a need to curb speed limits near potentially risky areas such as shopping zones, schools and hospitals. A few stretches have wide paved shoulders, median barriers, sufficient clear zones, access roads, good alignment and intersection treatments, which are important engineering aspects to ensure road safety.

“Hence, implementation of IIT Kharagpur’s recommendations will be beneficial with the ongoing massive road development across the country,” he said. Maitra, quoting statistics from the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) data, said that speeding caused more than 72 per cent of road accidents and 69 per cent of road accident fatalities in 2020.

Data by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways

"Road accidents are a leading cause of death and injuries in India, which tops the world in the number of fatalities due to such mishaps," he said and added 4.5 lakh road accidents took place in 2019, resulting in more than 1.51 lakh deaths.

Despite Covid-induced restrictions, on-road travel, accident severity value (persons killed per 100 accidents) was 36 in 2020, up from 33.7 in 2019.

"Besides creating enormous social causes for families, road traffic injuries put a heavy burden on health services and the national economy," he said.

In 2021, MoRTH proposed a reduction of road accidents and fatalities by 50 per cent by 2024. “Speed management may provide the scope of bringing down the severity of road accidents. Keeping in mind the reality of traffic on Indian roads, it is essential to revisit and set appropriate speed limits to enhance road safety,” he added.