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

    Vietnam Urges US to Lift Lethal Weapons Ban Amid S. China Sea Tensions

    US president’s upcoming visit to Vietnam underscores strength of relationship, and lifting embargo would reflect that trust, ambassador says

    Are US Schools Turning a Blind Eye to Radical Qatari Preachers?

    Parade of radical Islamist clerics using mosque at Qatar’s Education City draws mounting criticism for American universities that maintain satellite branches there

    Why Islamic State Is Down But Not Out

    Despite loss of territory, group’s ferocious attacks over past three months seen as testimony to its continued durability and resourcefulness

    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.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora