EVERY DEATH in a road accident causes depletion of around seven months’ household income in poor families, and pushes the kin of victims into a cycle of poverty and debt in India, according to a new World Bank report.
The report, “Traffic Crash Injuries and Disabilities: The Burden on Indian Society”, surveyed accident cases and corresponding families of victims spread across four states – Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra – that account for 35 per cent of road accident deaths to find link between road crash fatalities and poverty, inequality, and vulnerable road users in India.
India has seen around 4.5 lakh road accidents resulting in at least 1.5 lakh deaths over the past few years.
In the survey, more than 75 per cent of poor households reported a decline in their income as a result of a road crash death. Around 64 per cent of low-income households reported a deterioration in their standard of living (more than twice reported by high-income households), while more than 50 per cent reported mental depression post-crash.
Signifying a clear gender impact of road accidents, the report found that women in the families of victims bore the burden of the crashes across poor and rich households, often taking up extra work, assuming greater responsibilities, and performing caregiving activities after a crash.
About 50 per cent of women were severely affected by the decline in their household income after a crash. About 40 per cent of women reported a change in their working patterns post-crash, while around 11 per cent reported taking up extra work to deal with the financial crisis.
The study, done in collaboration with NGO SaveLIFE Foundation, assesses the social, financial, gender, and psychological impacts of road crashes on poor and disadvantaged households.
It recommends policy-oriented approaches to save lives and improve the ability of victims and their families to get back on their feet, including providing immediate financial, medical and legal aid.
Releasing the report on Saturday, Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari termed the findings an “eye opener”.
“I am committed to reducing road crash deaths by 50 per cent by 2025,” he said, adding that very soon the authors of the report and top officials of his ministry would meet to discuss how government policies on road safety can benefit from the key takeways of the study’s findings.
The report also brings out the sharp rural-urban divide and the disproportionate impact on women. The survey shows that the income decline for low-income rural households (56 per cent) was the most severe compared to low-income urban (29.5 per cent) and high-income rural households (39.5 per cent).
“The findings identify the areas that require immediate improvements such as efforts towards post-crash emergency care and protocols, insurance and compensation systems. It also presents an opportunity for development agencies, policymakers and respective state governments to prioritise a complete policy overhaul of the existing system and implement sustainable solution-oriented, inclusive measures to improve their performance on road safety,” said Piyush Tewari of SaveLIFE Foundation.
The study also revealed low rates of access to insurance coverage and poor awareness related to legal compensation among truck drivers.
“Road crashes can have a devastating and disproportionate impact on the poor, thrusting a family into deep poverty,” said Hartwig Schafer, World Bank Vice President for the South Asia region. “The World Bank is committed to supporting the Indian government in creating safety nets for poor households to ease their financial burden and help them cope with the sudden emergency linked to road crashes.”
The report recommends making health infrastructure and coverage more accessible and inclusive; providing social security net for crash victims from low-income households through state support and creating an accessible legal framework for availing insurance and compensation for road crash victims.