General Information on Road Safety

This page gives brief information about Roads and Road Safety.

History of Roads

A road is a thoroughfare or route on land connecting places, made of sand, soil and stone or improvised surface to allow travel by foot, cart, bicycle or motor vehicle. Street has been found from the first human settlements around 4000 BC in cities of the Indus Valley Civilization. Roads developed in historic periods were straight and long, intersecting one another at right angles.

Romans were the first who built straight roads. There are still a large amount of roman roads around. Scottish engineer John Loudon McAdam is the one who designed the first modern roads. He developed an inexpensive paving material of soil and stone aggregate (known as macadam).

The United States has the largest network of roads in any country with 6,853,024 kilometres as of 2019. India has the second largest road system in the world with 5,903,293 kilometres of road as of 2018. The People's Republic of China is third with 5,012,500 kilometres of road (2019). Brazil has the fourth largest road system with 1,751,868 kilometres (2013)..

Considering the length of controlled-access highway network, also known as expressway, freeway, motorway, and so forth, The People's Republic of China is far ahead from any other country with 149,600 kilometres of freeway. The United States has the second largest network of freeways with 95,932 kilometres. Spain and Canada are on 3rd and 4th position with around 17,000 kilometres of freeway. India is on 37th place considering the freeway roadway length with 1,643 km..

The Pan American Highway is the world's longest highway system, stretching over roughly 16,000 miles. Drivers who take on the entire route cross through 16 countries, including the United States, Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica, and Peru..

The German autobahns are the fastest highways in the world. German Autobahn are motorways only for cars. In fact, bicycles, mopeds, pedestrians or any means of transportation unable to go faster than 38 mph, are prohibited from entering..

History of Indian Roads

The first evidence of road development in the Indian subcontinent can be traced back to approximately around 2800 BC in the ancient cities of Harrapa and Mohenjodaro of the Indus Valley Civilization. Ruling emperors and monarchs of ancient and medieval India continued to construct roads to connect the cities. The existing Grand Trunk Road was re-built by the Mauryan Empire, and further rebuilt by subsequent entities such as the Sur Empire, the Mughal Empire and the British Empire.

In the 1830s, the British East India Company started a programme of gravel road construction, for both commercial and administrative purposes. The Grand Trunk Road – from Calcutta, through Delhi to Peshawar; roads from Bombay to Pune, Bombay to Agra and Bombay to Madras were constructed; and a Public Works Department and the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee were founded, to train and employ local surveyors, engineers and overseers, to perform the work, and to maintain the roads. This programme resulted in an estimated 2,500 kilometres of metalled roads being constructed by the 1850s.

In December 1934, the Indian Road Congress (IRC) was formed, on the recommendations of the Indian Road Development Committee (Jayakar Committee) of the Government of India. In 1943, they proposed a twenty-year plan to increase the road network from 350,000 kilometres (220,000 mi) to 532,700 kilometres (331,000 mi) by 1963, to achieve a road density of 16 km per 100 km2 of land. The construction was to be paid in part through the duty imposed, since 1939, on petrol sales. This became known as the Nagpur Plan. The construction target was achieved in the late 1950s. In 1956, a Highways Act was passed, and a second twenty-year plan proposed for the period 1961–1981, with the ambition of doubling road density to 32 km per 100 km2. This second plan became known as the Bombay Road Plan.

In 1988, an autonomous entity called the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) was established by an Act of Parliament, and came into existence on 15 June 1989. The Act empowered NHAI to develop, maintain and manage India's road network through National Highways. However, little happened until India introduced widespread economic liberalization in the early 1990s. Since 1995, NHAI has increasingly privatized road network development in India.

Roads are an important mode of transport in India. India has a network of over 5,897,671 kilometres as of 31 March 2017. This is the second-largest road network in the world, after the United States with 6,645,709 kilometres. At 1.80 kilometres of roads per square kilometre of land, the quantitative density of India's road network is equal to that of Germany, and substantially higher than the United States (0.68 km), China (0.49 km), Brazil (0.18 km) and Russia (0.09 km). Adjusted for its large population, India has approximately 4.87 kilometres of roads per 1,000 people. As of 31 March 2017, 63.24% of Indian roads were paved. India's road network carries over 65 percent of its freight and about 85 percent of passenger traffic. It contributed 4.7 percent towards India's gross domestic product. This is in comparison to railways, which contributed 1 percent from 2009 to 2010.

Since the 1990s, major efforts have been underway to modernize the country's road infrastructure. The length of national highways in India has increased from 70,934 km in 2010–11 to 142,126 km in 2018–19. As of May 2017, India had completed and placed into use over 28,900 kilometres of four- or more-lane highways connecting many of its major manufacturing, commercial and cultural centres. According to the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, as of March 2019, India had about 142,126 kilometres of national highways and expressways, plus another 176,166 kilometres of state highways. Major projects are being implemented under the National Highways Development Project, a government initiative. Private builders and highway operators are also implementing major projects.

History of Road Accidents

In 1869, an Irish scientist, Mary Ward was riding in a steam-powered automobile built by her cousins. As the vehicle turned a bend in the road, Ward was thrown from her seat and fell in the vehicle’s path. One of the wheels ran over her and killed her instantly.

Ohio City claims the first accident involving a gasoline-powered auto, a little closer to today’s automobile. In 1891, James Lambert, an engineer was driving one of his inventions, an early gasoline-powered buggy, when he ran into a trouble. The buggy, also carrying passenger James Swoveland, hit a tree-root sticking out of the ground. Lambert lost control and the vehicle swerved and crashed into a post. Both men suffered injuries.

The first recorded pedestrian fatality by car came a few years later. In 1896, Bridget Driscoll stepped off of a London curb and was struck and killed by a gas-powered car driven by Arthur Edsall. While the car had a top speed of four miles per hour, neither Edsall nor Driscoll were able to avoid the collision. Edsall was arrested, but the death was ruled an accident and he was not prosecuted.

About Safe Roads

A road with good infrastructure in a way that minimizes the likelihood of serious road crashes—i.e, even when a crash does occur, the consequences be as limited as possible can be called a safe road. Smarter road design, traffic calming measures, higher safety standards for vehicles plying , empowered road safety agencies, and a myriad of other interventions contribute to safety aspect of a roadway. For major roads safety can be enhanced by providing limited access from properties and local roads, grade separated junctions and median dividers to reduce the likelihood of head-on collisions.The placement of safety devices like guard stone, railing barrier, sand-filled barrels, or buffer areas reduce the risk of crashes and lessen its impact. Speed limits can improve road safety and reduce the number of casualties from traffic collisions. A Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention by the WHO identify speed control as one of the important interventions likely to contribute to a reduction in road casualties.

Safe Roads and Economy

Transport infrastructure is one of the key factors on which country’s growth depends. The transport system is seen as the controller of the country’s economy and offers a vital link between production and consumption. The amount of traffic moving on the roads of the country can demonstrate its progress. The current transport system in India includes different modes such as rail, air, road, and coastal shipping. Over the years, the transport has recorded a considerable growth in India both in terms of distance as well as the output of the system.

When the transportation developments increase the accessibility of public and businesses to reach the jobs, goods, services and activities, the productivity also increases. This rise may be due to transport infrastructure enhancements and decreased travel time. As the labor market temporarily is brought closer to their workplaces because of improved travel time, companies experience improvements in worker’s productivity.

Although India has a huge and diverse transport industry with its own challenges, they are shifting to implement more and more energy-efficient technologies and customer-centric approach. It won’t be wrong if we call it the ‘lifeline’ of a nation.

1) Transport contributes in growth of industries whose product requires quick marketing. Perishable articles like fish and green vegetables are carried to various consumers quickly even in distant markets through transport.

2) Transport helps in increase in the demand for goods. Through transport newer customers in newer places can be easily contacted and products can be introduced to them. Today markets have become national or international only because of transport. Introduction

3) Transport creates place utility. Geographical and climatic factors force industries to be located in particular places far away from the markets and places where there may not be any demand for the products. Transport bridges the gap between production and consumption centers.

4) Transport creates time utility. Of late transport has started creating the time utility also. It has been made possible by virtue of the improvements in the speed of transport. It helps the product to be distributed in the minimum possible time.

5) Transport helps in stabilization of price. Transport exerts considerable influence upon the stabilization of the prices of several commodities by moving commodities from surplus to deficit areas. This equalizes the supply and demand factor sand makes the price of commodities stable as well as equal.

6) Transport ensures even flow of commodities into the hands of the consumers throughout the period of consumption.

7) Transport enables the consumers to enjoy the benefits of goods not produced locally. This increases the standard of living, an essential factor for further development of marketing and economy.

8) Transport identifies competition, which in turn, reduces pries. Prices are also reduced because of the facilities offered by transport for large-scale production. Advantages of large-scale production is possible only due to transport.

9) Transport increases mobility of labor and capital. It makes people of one place migrate to other places in search of jobs. Even capital, machineries and equipments are imported from foreign countries through transport alone. Importance of Roads:

Classification of Roads

The roads can be classified in many ways. The classification based on speed and accessibility is the most generic one. As the accessibility of road increases, the speed reduces. Accordingly, the roads can be classified as follows in the order of increased accessibility and reduced speeds.

Freeways: Freeways are access-controlled divided highways. Access is controlled through the use of interchanges, and the type of interchange depends upon the kind of intersecting road way (rural roads, another freeway etc.)

Expressways: They are superior type of highways and are designed for high speeds ( 120 km/hr is common), high traffic volume and safety. They are generally provided with grade separations at intersections. Parking, loading and unloading of goods and pedestrian traffic is not allowed on expressways.

Highways: They represent the superior type of roads in the country. Highways are of two types - rural highways and urban highways. Rural highways are those passing through rural areas (villages) and urban highways are those passing through large cities and towns, ie. urban areas.

Arterials: It is a general term denoting a street primarily meant for through traffic usually on a continuous route. They are generally divided highways with fully or partially controlled access. Parking, loading and unloading activities are usually restricted and regulated. Pedestrians are allowed to cross only at intersections/designated pedestrian crossings

Local streets: A local street is the one which is primarily intended for access to residence, business or abutting property. It does not normally carry large volume of traffic and also it allows unrestricted parking and pedestrian movements.

Collector streets: These are streets intended for collecting and distributing traffic to and from local streets and also for providing access to arterial streets. Normally full access is provided on these streets. There are few parking restrictions except during peak hours.

Road Classification in India

  •   National Highways
  •   State Highways
  •   Major District Roads
  •   Other District Roads
  •   Village Roads

Key Performance Indicators of Road Safety


International Road Assessment Programme (iRAP )is an initiative supported by the World Bank and the FIA Foundation aimed at developing risk mapping and audit protocols for low to middle income countries. iRAP works on a global and regional basis to promote safer road infrastructure, use Star Rating to measure the safety level of roads. Star Ratings are based on road inspection data and provide a simple and objective measure of the level of safety which is ‘built-in’ to the road for vehicle occupants, motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians. Five-star roads are the safest, while one-star roads are the least safe.iRAP assessments have been used to star rate roads in 299 countries of the 53 ESCAP member countries. Globally, iRAP assessments have now been undertaken in over 100 countries.

iRAP Star Ratings are an objective measure of the likelihood of a road crash occurring and its severity. The focus is on identifying and recording the road attributes which influence the most common and severe types of crash, based on scientific evidence-based research. In this way, the level of road user risk on a particular road section or network can be defined without the need for detailed crash data, which is often the case in low and middle income countries where data quality is poor.

The iRAP metrics have been adopted and used by national governments, state and local governments, development banks, and the private sector. They are recommended for use by the United Nations, WHO, FIA Foundation and other leading institutions.


Road Safety Screening and Appraisal Tool (RSSAT), used by World Bank. The RSSAT complements the Good Practice Note (GPN) with guidance on road safety in investment projects, prepared by the World Bank’s Transport Global Practice and the Global Road Safety Facility (GRSF). With the tool, project teams can evaluate road safety performance based on existing conditions and screen for safety improvement opportunities in road and roadside infrastructure. It is possible to estimate fatality rates under scenarios with and without the project, as well as the associated economic costs. After successful trials in 2019-2020, use of the RSSAT is now required for all World Bank transport projects, and it is also recommended for other operations that can have road safety impacts, such as urban and agriculture projects. All new World Bank transport projects must:

● Estimate the economic cost of road crashes on project roads using RSSAT and include these road crash costs in the economic analysis.

● Achieve a RSSAT Project Safety Impact index of 1 or below for all its road segments before approval.

Stakeholders of Road Safety

  •   Government: Drafting policies and procedures for road sfaety, funding of road safety programs and implementing road safety
  •   Driver Training and Licensing Agencies: Along with practical sessions, theoretical sessions covering road ethics, traffic laws, vehcile safety should also be included. Driving simulation sessions may also be included
  •   Educational Institutions: Foster road safety culture and habit in children from very young age
  •   Vehile manufacturers: Ensuring vehicle safety and load stability. Enhanced security features
  •   Media/advertisers: Advertisers are most influential media for enhancing community awareness. Media shold responsibly advertise and keep away from promoting advertisements impinging road safety
  •   Professional organizations/corporates: Developing safe practices in operation of their vehicles and should encourage defensive driving among staff
  •   Insurance Agencies: Promote sfae road habits. Promoting innovative scheme by providing incentives to customers who drive safely
  •   Police/Enforcement Agencies: Strict Enforcement policies, educating public on road safety
  •   Road and highway planners: Appropriate planning, design, construction and maintenance of road and highways by implementing crash reduction and crash prevention techniques. Regular Rod Safety Audits
  •   Health Centres/professionals: Building efficient and effective emergency care. Eductae citizens on health aspects of accidents
  •   Transport: Public transport should focus on safe driving measures. Special care to be given to safety needs of vulnerable road users