Drawing on 15 years of global urban transport experience, WRI contributed independent research and capacity-building to inform stakeholders in India who shaped major new proposed vehicle legislation prioritizing safety. If passed into law, the India Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill 2016 could save a total of 300,000 lives by 2020, setting an example for road safety worldwide.

The Challenge

India’s Motor Vehicles Act of 1988 was created as the country was starting to undergo economic reforms that encouraged the use of motor vehicles. Provisions for safety and references to non-motorized vehicles and pedestrians are entirely absent. India now has just 2 percent of the world’s motorized vehicles but suffers 11 percent of global traffic fatalities. The government has recognized the need for systemic reform.

WRI’s Role

WRI has been part of the Bloomberg Initiative for Global Road Safety – in coalition with the World Bank, the Global Road Safety Partnership, and the World Health Organization – which has worked for years to demonstrate the importance of safety for all road users through independent research. In India, WRI has focused road safety strategies on sustainable mobility, such as non-motorized and public transport.

When proposals to include road safety in India’s motor vehicle laws came up for public discussion in 2014, WRI used the opportunity to raise awareness about road safety and sustainable mobility, spreading the message through opinion pieces, workshops, and training for civil society groups and trucking and taxi associations. This helped to build a consensus that sustainable mobility can play an important role in improving road safety.

The Outcome

For the first time, the Motor Vehicles Act is poised to take into account all types of road users, including calling for a National Transport Policy with rules and guidelines for non-motorized traffic. The Union Cabinet of India has approved the amendment; if passed by Parliament, it could cut traffic fatalities by 50 percent per year, potentially saving a total of 300,000 lives by 2020.

India serves as an example for countries committed to the Brasilia Declaration on Road Safety of 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals, and the New Urban Agenda of Habitat III (the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development), all of which feature principles of safer mobility. WRI’s research and participation over the past 10 years in global efforts such as the Bloomberg Initiative for Global Road Safety have contributed to this growing momentum. India’s progress is among the first of many important steps to come.