Driving in India is dangerous business. With some of the highest number of traffic fatalities in Asia, the problem is one that is in desperate need of solution, although determining what that solution should be has been a matter of some controversy. Last month, the Indian government took a drastic step to cut the number of fatalities on the road with large increases in fines for traffic violations, among other things. The move has been met by anger from drivers, but the most important question remains - will it work?
In an article for Livemint, Sneha Alexander and Vishnu Padmanabhan take a closer look at the scope of the problem and at whether or not increasing fines can help lower road fatalities. The price hikes put into effect this August are certainly steep, sometimes as much as 10x the previous amount for the same traffic violation.
One thing that is not in doubt is the problem. While Alexander and Padmanabhan point out that India does not have the highest percentage of road fatalities in the world, as suggested by Indian Roads Minister in defence of the new legislation, they number of fatalities is still high. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 22.7 out of every 100,000 people dies from a traffic collision in India. A whopping 70% of these fatalities are the result of speeding.
While increased penalties might seem to make some instinctual sense, Alexander and Padmanabhan point to research that suggests that, in the long run, it's not the best solution.
"According to TRIPP, the global experience with imposing stricter penalties has not proven to change driver behaviour and has even decreased overall enforcement of penalties. A better strategy, then, could be to ensure that speed limits are enforced more regularly."
Without enforcement, legislation like that introduced in August is useless. In India, whose enforcement levels have been rated as fairly weak by WHO, drastic increases in penalties can seem excessively harsh to drivers that don't see their government making real, practical efforts to reduce fatalities by ensuring that people be held responsible.
For more on this story and on the fall-out from India's new traffic regulations, read on here.