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What does data tell us about road accidents in India?

Jan 03, 2024 04:46 AM IST

Here is what data on road accidents and their treatment within the criminal justice system tells us.

​A strike by truck operators against the new provisions in the Bhartiya Nyay Sanhita (BNS) for hit-and-run cases has had a serious effect on transport services including that of essential commodities in various parts of the country. What is this controversy about? Here is what data on road accidents and their treatment within the criminal justice system tells us.

At least six people were killed after the car they were travelling in hit a road divider in Jamshedpur on January 1. (PTI)
At least six people were killed after the car they were travelling in hit a road divider in Jamshedpur on January 1. (PTI)

What is the share of hit-and-run cases in total accidents in India? Data from the ministry of road transport & highways (MoRTH) shows that the share of hit-and-run cases in total road accidents and deaths was 14.6% and 18.1% in 2022. These numbers were 16.8% and 11.8% in 2021. Are hit-and-run incidents the biggest cause of road accidents and road accident deaths in India? Data shows that there is no overwhelming cause of road accidents or road accident deaths in India and a number of causes such as head-on collisions, hit from back or hit from side have an almost similar share in these numbers. To be exact, share of hit-and-run among nine types of road accidents and related deaths was fifth and second in 2022.

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(See chart 1)

Rogue drivers are a big menace on Indian roads This shows in the dominance of speeding in the breakup of road accidents by type of traffic violation. About 72% of total accidents and 71% total deaths in road accidents in 2022 were on account of over speeding, MoRTH data shows. Data also shows that India’s highways are far more accident prone than normal roads. While national and state highways had a share of just 4.9% in total road length in 2022, 60.5% of the total deaths in road accidents happened on these roads.

(See chart 2)

Which kind of vehicles are the worst offenders when it comes to road accidents? Ironical as it may sound, the biggest offenders are also the biggest victims here. MoRTH data gives the break-up of road accidents by crime vehicle and victim vehicle. Data shows that two-wheelers led the pack in terms of both crime vehicle and victim vehicles. In fact, two-wheelers hitting two-wheelers are the biggest entry in the crime-victim matrix. As far as trucks and lorries are concerned, they were the second largest entry in the crime vehicle group and their biggest victims were two-wheelers.

(See chart 3)

Do perpetrators go free after a hit-and-run accident?Not if the trial is completed. Conviction in hit-and-run cases is better than in other accidents. For example, the conviction rate of hit-and-run cases where trial was completed in 2022 was 47.9%. For other accidents, this rate was just 21.8%. Even murder and culpable homicide not amounting to murder had lower conviction rates: 43.8% and 38.7%. It is another matter that over 90% of hit-and-run cases remain pending in courts in a year, similar to the other three crimes listed here. This trend also held true in years before 2022.

But police seem to have a harder time in filing a charge sheet in hit-and-run cases than the other three crimes listed above. Charge sheets were filed in only 66.4% of hit-and-run cases disposed of by police in 2022, compared to 81.5% of murder cases, 84% of culpable homicide cases, and 79.6% of other accidents. A big reason for charge sheet not being filed in hit-and-run cases is the police not finding evidence even if they believe the case to be true. Such cases of insufficient evidence/untraced/no clue accounted for 28% of hit-and-run cases disposed of by police in 2022 compared to 11% for murder cases, 9% of culpable homicide cases, and 11% of other accidents. This suggests that not finding the perpetrator could be a reason behind low charge-sheeting rate of hit-and-run cases. While the BNS clause might be motivated by this fact, it seems to have triggered a backlash in an important part of India’s transport economy.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Abhishek Jha is a data journalist. He analyses public data for finding news, with a focus on the environment, Indian politics and economy, and Covid-19.

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