Increasing demand for bigger and sporty vehicles in India is a great road safety and environmental challenge and the government should discourage sales of these bigger vehicles, David Ward, executive president, Global New Car Assessment Programme (Global NCAP) said.
"India, a country with one of the highest fatal road accidents, should avoid going the United States way of going in for more sports utility vehicles (SUVs) as they make the roads less safe for other small car occupants, pedestrians and cyclists," he said.
"Increasing growth and demand for SUV's in India and other countries is a major road safety and environmental challenge. The governments should discourage sale of these big vehicles," he said, adding that numerous studies have found that SUVs and pick-up vehicles are more deadly to vulnerable road users (VRUs) in almost any crash.
Ward was addressing a three-day 'Global Road Safety Initiative' being organised by the Institute of Road Traffic Education (IRTE) in partnership with the ministry of road transport & highways the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).
According to Ward, it is critically important for countries like India that the government push the market towards vehicles that are more fit for purpose and safer for all road users.
Ward further said that the risk of fatal injuries to vulnerable road users increases as the bonnet height of the vehicle hitting them increases. According to Ward, a pedestrian or cyclist hit by a car with a bonnet 90 cm high runs a 30% greater risk of fatal injury than if hit by a vehicle with a bonnet 10 cm lower.
"Large SUVs increased the risk of serious injury to other road users by about a third more than medium-sized SUVs," he said.
Since October, 2023, India has moved away from GNCAP to indigenously developed Bharat NCAP to tighten the safety and crash test norms for vehicles.
As per the road ministry, over 0.46 million road accidents were reported in India in 2022, resulting in 0.16 million fatalities and 0.44 million injured. This marks an increase of 11.9% in accidents, 9.4% in fatalities, and 15.3% in injuries compared to the previous year. The government aims to cut down road accidents in India by 50% by 2030.