“Prevention is better than cure.” “Speed thrills but it also kills.” How many times have we heard these road safety slogans but decided to ignore them according to our convenience? The analysis of road accident data 2015 reveals that about 1347 accidents and 400 deaths take place every day on Indian Roads. It further reveals that 57 accidents take place and 17 lives are lost every hour on an average in our country There is a pressing need to recognize the dangers posed by road accidents, reduce them and take steps towards improving road safety. The Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill, 2016 which is pending in the Parliament, advances some major changes to improve the road safety policy and laws in India; however it fails to recognize and address some pertinent measures which are needed for a wholesome and well-rounded law which can actually improve road safety. The purpose of this articles is to highlight the need for a detailed Accident Information Report. The Accident Information Report serves a dual purpose it acts as a detailed report for motor vehicle accident claims and helps in determining the cause of the accidents to take preventive measures.
Detailed Accident Information Report
The Motor Vehicles Act, as it stands in its current form, fails to recognize the need for a detailed Accident Information Report. The drawback of not having any provision for the same can be seen since currently accidents are not investigated scientifically and the data is derived from the First Information Reports as prepared by the police under the Code of Criminal Procedure which have no detailed account to specifically address the need of determining how and why the accident occurred which in turn limits the scope of the investigation. The Accident Investigation Report (Form 54) of the Centeral Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989 which is used currently falls short on various aspects as it does not contain any information which can help analyze the data scientifically. The form requires the police to note only the details of the parties involved in the road accident.
The intention to incorporate a detailed accident information report can be seen in The Road Transport and Safety Bill, 2014. The Bill, in section 3 (6) defines “Detailed Accident Information Report” as the report to be filed by the Investigating Officer under section (242) of this Act”The Bill, in Schedule IV further goes on to provides for a format for detailed Accident Investigation Report which contains specifics such as road system, road character, environment condition, vehicle type among many other specifics. This format is an improved version of the Accident Information Report (Form 54) and contains several specifics which can be useful both for accident investigation and for claims in the tribunal for road accidents. A few of these details are discussed in the course of this article.
The Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill, 2016has incorporated a provision for information to be given regarding an accident under Section 159. “The police officer shall, during the investigation, prepare an accident information report to facilitate the settlement of claim in such form and manner, within such time and containing such particulars and submit the same to the Claims Tribunal and such other agency as may be prescribed.” However, it does not provide for a procedure, format, form or any guideline for the same in the Bill. There is a need to read the provisions as were suggested in the Road Transport and Safety Bill, 2014 which suggested that for Investigation under section 242(6) “The Investigating Officer shall file the Detailed Accident Information Report, including in the manner provided in the Schedule IV, with the Claims Tribunal within fifteen days of the accident, with a copy each to the Insurance Company, the claimant and the National Authority” While this provision suggests that the Accident Information Form has to be used for claiming insurance, it underlines that there is a need for the Investigating officer to fill this accident information form.
Accident Investigation Agency for Road Accidents
The current Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 in Section 135 provides that the State Government by notification in the Official Gazette can make schemes for “(a) an in depth study on causes and analysis of motor vehicle accidents.” The Amendment Bill of 2016 proposes to give this power to the central government as well, “(3) The Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette,make one or more schemes to conduct in-depth studies on the causes and analysis of road accidents.” If the Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill is passed, even though it would amend section 135 giving the central government the power to conduct in depth study of road accidents, it does not sufficiently address the problem of analysing the data of the road accidents/crashes.
These are essential for understanding the reasons behind accidents and effective mechanisms to reduce them. Road accident investigation and Road Accident Investigation Report would include a detailed account of the details of the accident and how it could have been prevented. This data could then be stored and analysed for trends and common linkages over a period of time and prove invaluable to map out targetted solutions. For instance, if there is a flaw with the manufacturing of the car by the company, the same could be determined by the road accident investigation agencies report. Currently, no such data repository exists and hence questions of common patterns in road accidents remain unanswered.
Data Analytics and lessons from around the world
Road accidents have been recognized as a growing threat and it is due to this recognition that the Brasilia Declaration has been signed. India is a signatory to the same and is obliged to reduce the number of road accidents and fatalities caused by road accidents by 2020. Various countries have come up with a robust Accident Investigation Agency.For example,Germany has an In-Depth Accident Study (GIDAS), which is a public-private joint project wherein the investigation is carried out using Accident Causation Analysis System (ACAS) tool. This has helped them in collecting data to conduct investigation on the filed and has also helped them in identifying the causes of accidents in their country. The European Road Safety Observatory has come up with recommendation for transport and independent road accident investigation for creation of transport and road safety investigation in all European Union member states.
Road accident investigation agencies can play a role in determining the real cause of the accident and to reduce them. Current data shows that 80% of the cases in India get categorized as “human errors”.However, in reality, there are several other factors in play such as faulty design of the car, road design, infrastructural design and the same can only be rectified if identified correctly.
The Takata Corporation lawsuit is an example of this,where the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), responsible for framing and enforcing safety in the US, inquired into the initial reports of faulty airbag inflators as manufactured by Takata. The NHTSA inquiry led to a massive recall of the vehicles fitted with Takata airbags in November 2014 at a national level. NHTSA had determined that the main problem was that the airbags that use ammonium nitrate based propellent without a chemical drying agent.The result of this was that the defect associated with the environmental moisture, high temperatures can improperly infiltrate the airbags and even send shrapnel into the occupant. If the same incident were to occur in India, there exists no authority which could identify such a situation and take an appropriate corrective action to address it.
For a road accident investigation agency to effectively carry out its responsibilities, it is essential to take into consideration the following factors These factors have been deliberated upon by Safety Net in their report on Recommendations for Transparent and Independent Road Accident Investigation:
- Sufficient financial resources
- Investigation programme should be independent, it should not be influenced by stakeholders who would have a vested interest in the data
- It should be at a central level as well as national level
- Investigators should be trained uniformly and sufficiently so that there is uniformity in the standard of investigation.
- The investigation teams should be informed at the same time as the emergency services
- Data should be collected about the human, vehicle and environmental components of a road accident
- A manual should be developed to document the common investigation methodologies and the data to be collected
- There is a special need to maintain the confidentiality and safe storage of the data acquired so that it is not misused.
- There can be classification of the types of accidents so that major accidents leading to fatalities and minor ones, leading to none or negligible bodily harm, due to genuine human error can be differentiated and appropriate remedies and prevention measures can be taken for the same.
In India, despite there being many laws and institutions/agencies established under these laws, their implementation, role and enforcement is in effective making it essential that the Road Accident Investigation Agency is established in a transparent, effective and independent manner laying down clearly its roles, functions and procedures. Guidance may be sought from the various Investigation Agencies established across the globe while taking into consideration the infrastructure and skill available in India.
In India there is no investigation agency even for dealing with and remedying the loss caused due to railway accidents. The World Bank submitted a report titled “Strengthening Safety on Indian Railways” in 2017. One of the recommendations in this report was the need to establish a “dedicated safety management system under the railway board chairman to strengthen accident prevention measures.” The report highlighted that the existing system of accident investigations by the Commission of Railway Safety (CRS) is inadequate and needs to be changed.  The need for a dedicated investigation agency has already been recognized nationally and internationally for the railways and the same is likely to resolve the challenges faced in the field of road safety in India as well.
- Save Life Foundation- Key provisions in Motor Vehicles (Amendment Bill) 2016 http://savelifefoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/MVA-Bill-Analysis_SLF_2016.pdf
- Road accidents in India -2015, Government of India, Ministry of Road Transport and highways Transport Research Wing.
- Safety Net – Recommendations for Transparent and Independent Road Accident Investigation
- Why India Needs a Vehicle Crash Investigation Agency, Ujjwal Pandey and Shubhranshu Suman on 08.2016
- World Bank Bats for independent investigative rail safety investigator, Arun Kumar Das on 02.09.2017,
- World bank gives Railway Safety tips, recommends yellow trains, high visibility clothing for employees, PTI on 01.09.2017,