News / Asia

Traffic Growth in Emerging Economies Drives Deadly Accidents

Vehicles move slowly during morning rush hour in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad (FILE).
Vehicles move slowly during morning rush hour in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad (FILE).

Major traffic accidents claimed the lives of at least 65 people in India, China and Egypt this past week alone. Rising incomes in the developing world are giving more people the chance to own their first vehicle, but lax safety standards, poorly designed highways and hordes of novice drivers are proving to be a deadly combination.

Tragedy struck China's highways on Monday, when 14 schoolchildren were killed in one accident in Hunan province, and seven people died in a 100-car pileup in neighboring Guizhou.

The dangers faced on China’s increasingly busy roadways have become commonplace in the developing world. Etienne Krug, the director for violence and injury prevention at the World Health Organization in Geneva, says this is an instance where the positive aspects of development can have serious drawbacks.

“New roads are being built, more cars are taking the road, more drivers are taking the road every day by the thousands," he says. "Unfortunately these good developments are not being matched with the necessary safety measures, and road safety has not been given the priority it deserves to match these very quick changes in development.”

India's Traffic Woes

This is no truer than on India’s chaotic roadways, where most of the world's traffic fatalities occur. The latest major accident happened this past Saturday, when mourners traveling from a funeral wound up needing a funeral of their own after a bus crashed into their van. Thirty-six people died in the accident in Uttar Pradesh state.

JP Research, a U.S.-based firm, has been compiling data on accidents like this in India’s Tamil Nadu state. Ravishankar Rajaraman, the group’s project manager in India, says many new roads were modeled after Western highways, which can be problematic because Indian commuting habits are vastly different.

“In India, nearly 70 percent of the vehicles are actually two-wheelers," Rajaraman says. "Cars, passenger cars form only about 15 to 20 percent.”

The big, wide-lane highways that accommodate cars and trucks traveling at high speed in the West become a safety hazard when clogged with two-wheeled vehicles.  

“What happens is when vehicles keep moving and changing lanes in order to avoid another vehicle in front, which has stopped to basically take a turn or to take a u-turn, that's when these changing of directions creates problems for two-wheelers which are around,” says Rajaraman.

Lax Safety Standards

New highways often lack proper road signs and lighting, as was the case in Egypt this past Sunday, when a bus driving on a dimly lit road crashed into a parked truck. Eight American tourists were killed in the pre-dawn accident as they drove from Aswan towards the Abu Simbel temple.

Krug, of the WHO, says even if the proper rules are in place, and regulations are followed, drivers and passengers in emerging economies face the added challenge of riding in vehicles with inferior safety mechanisms.

“We see vehicles that look the same in some of these emerging countries but are not the same as the ones that we use because they have been stripped of some of the basic safety measures,” Krug says.

Vehicles targeted for low-income consumers often lack the more expensive safety features of autos sold in the West. But that discount comes with a price.  Nearly 1.3 million people die in road accidents every year, most of them in low and middle-income countries, according to the WHO.

Prevention Better Than Cure

Krug says people can reduce that number by strapping on motorbike helmets, wearing seatbelts and not speeding or driving drunk. Governments, he says, should have better trauma response and uphold strict safety rules, as they have in Vietnam.

“We've seen almost overnight after the introduction of motorcycle law in Vietnam an increase from about 20 percent of motorcycle helmet wearing to about 100 percent,” he says.

Another option is to stay off the roads altogether. That was Rajaraman's choice this week when he bought a train ticket to make a 12-hour journey to Mumbai.

You May Like

Photogallery Strong Words Start, May End, S. African Xenophobic Attacks

President Jacob Zuma publicly condemned rise in attacks on foreign nationals but critics say leadership has been less than welcoming to foreign residents More

Video Family Waits to Hear Charges Against Reporter Jailed in Iran

Reports in Iran say Jason Rezaian has been charged with espionage, but brother tells VOA indictment has not been made public More

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Action to Stabilize Libya

Amnesty International says multinational concerted humanitarian effort must be enacted to address crisis; decrepit boats continue to bring thousands of new arrivals daily More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs