Despite having fewer people and fewer cars than neighboring China, India’s law enforcement is abysmal when it comes to enforcing traffic laws, leading to a state of daily, banal chaos on India’s roads. Traffic deaths in other emerging markets have either declined (as in China’s case) or stabilized, while India’s traffic deaths have leapt 40% in five years. The last year for which numbers are available is 2008, when 118,000 people were killed.
According to the New York Times, evidence of this sad state of affairs litters the roadways. It describes India’s roads as a scattered collection of broken windshield glass, helmet scraps, twisted car parts and bicycle seats.
According to safety experts, the Indian government has been slow to act and is just now beginning to understand what kind of massive and growing problem it has on its hands. The Highway Ministry is set to expand highway systems by raising $45 billion from private investors to extend the country’s 3.3-million kilometer (about 2 million miles) network of roads. While the expansion is necessary to keep India’s economy growing, everyone knows the more highways built will mean even more traffic deaths.
Getting a handle on road fatalities will require stricter penalties for drivers who break the law, but also enforcement of those laws.
India Steadily Increases Its Lead in Road Fatalities (The New York Times)