Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari, in reply to a question in Lok Sabha on March 18, 2021, claimed that with the help of World Bank, Tamil Nadu has reduced road accidents by 52% and fatalities in these mishaps by 54%. But the National Crime Records Bureau data tells a different story.
Since, Gadkari didn't specify in how many years, FactChecker went as back as 2012 and found that, according to NCRB, there has been a drop of 16% between then and 2019. When it comes to deaths in road accidents, the drop stands at 35%.
In 2019, the state saw 57,228 road accidents compared to 67,250 in 2014 and 67,757 in 2012, according to NCRB data. Fatalities in such accidents stood at 10,525 in 2019, 15,190 in 2014 and 16,175 in 2012.
While addressing a virtual event from New Delhi in October 2020, Gadkari had quoted a different number. According to a news report, he had said that Tamil Nadu government successfully reduced road accidents and deaths by 25%.
According to NCRB data, between 2014 and 2019, road accidents reduced by around 15% and deaths in such accidents dropped by 31% in Tamil Nadu.
According to a blog post on World Bank's website titled 'Road safety: How a state in India is leading the way to lower road crash deaths', road deaths in the state fell by 25% between 2014 and 2019.
According to a study by the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways, Tamil Nadu topped the number of road accidents in 2019 and bagged this spot from 2015 to 2019.
"If traffic management is not done systematically, everything will collapse which is happening in Chennai city. Most of the fatalities are happening in Chennai city and in the outer part of the city since most parts of the city is covered by national highways," Vinod Kanumala, founder and chief functionary, Indian Federation of Road Safety, a non-profit based in Hyderabad, told FactChecker.
"Construction of metro routes has reduced the width of roads resulting in traffic congestion. People tend to avoid the one-way driving route which as it is narrower to avoid traffic jams thereby breaking the rules and traffic laws. Chennai only has two metro routes and hurriedness of the office goers to cut down the longer route in a way leads to accidents since they take by-lanes and other short routes to be on time," he added.
In fact, a study conducted by World Bank in collaboration with SaveLIFE Foundation, a Delhi-based non-profit, found that fatalities post-crash are higher in low-income households as compared to high-income households in states like Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. It emphasizes the need to tailor road-safety initiatives according to socio-economic status of road-users as road-traffic injuries in India mostly affect the economically poorer section.
"Inequality in insurance coverage and delay in accessing compensation mars the quick recovery process for low-income households. Insurance coverage was significantly higher among high-income households and households in urban areas vis-à-vis low-income households & rural areas," read the study titled 'Traffic Crash Injuries and Disabilities: The Burden on Indian Society'.
However, the TN government is making efforts to reduce such mishaps, but, according to experts, they don't seem to make a difference. "Tamil Nadu government, in collaboration with IIT-Madras, has developed a software to identify the risk areas and black spots and provide data to police stations and municipal corporation so that the risk areas get tracked and rectified. But the impact of such monitoring is not felt on ground completely," said Kanumala.