Accident Insights

India loses approximately 1,50,000 lives on its roads –  every year! It is imperative for us to address the impossibly high traffic injury and mortality rate in our country. Interestingly, accident research has proven to be the best way to understand the characteristics of real-world traffic accidents. The USA, UK, Germany and Japan routinely use the results from accident research to reduce road traffic fatalities by a significant degree.

To understand the underlying mechanics of accidents and their causes in Kolkata, Team WHEELS teamed up with JP Research India Pvt Ltd (JPRI), a pioneering accident research and analysis firm that aims at improving traffic safety on Indian roads and highways.

JP Research India Pvt Ltd (JPRI) does in-depth crash investigations of road accidents with the support of Kolkata Traffic Police. A detailed scientific examination is conducted of the crash scene, vehicles involved and injuries sustained. JPRI researchers interview the accident victims, whenever possible, to understand the accident sequences better. CCTV footage is collected from the Kolkata Police Traffic Control Room. Measurements and observations are noted on objectively-designed accident data forms, which are used to build a database called ‘Road Accident Sampling System – India’ (RASSI). This scientific database is shared by a consortium of automotive manufacturers for improving vehicle design and developing India-specific safety technologies.

The study area for the following road accidents covers 400 kilometres of road in urban areas of proper Kolkata that fall under Kolkata Municipal Corporation. This report provides an in-depth analysis of accidents and fatal injuries and of the factors influencing them. The ‘contributing factors’ are also ranked based on the number of accidents they have influenced. The purpose is to help decision makers and stakeholders plan cost-effective road safety investments using data-driven strategies. Kolkata on WHEELS shares the JPRI report for the period April 2016 – March 2017 to familiarize its car-owning readers with the reality so that they may take adequate measures while driving.

Road traffic accidents are influenced by three main factors:
Human (drivers, vehicle occupants, pedestrians and cyclists)
Vehicle structure, design
Infrastructure (roadway and environment)
Typically, each of the above factors is not analyzed, and the accident is generally finalized as the result of a problem with only one of these factors resulting in an over-representation of human failures and tends to identify driver errors as the main contributor to road traffic accidents. Thus, the common misconception – “Driver error is the cause of over 90% of accidents” – is born! The obvious problem with this type of analysis is the assumption that the driver initiated the accident and hence all responsibility lies with him/her. The influencing factors which are vehicle-related and infrastructure-related are often not accounted for, even though they are an inseparable part of the whole accident and make the conventional assumption a gross mistake.

(Number of accidents notified: 246)

The pattern shows an increased danger of accidents when traffic is heaviest and, ironically, when traffic is lightest. During rush hour (6 am to noon & 6 pm to midnight) due to the volume of traffic being disproportionate to the road space, crashes occur. Conversely, from midnight to 6 am, is a fatal period as motorists get tempted by the empty roads and the absense of traffic police to speed up and ‘beat the traffic lights’ – thereby crashing into other motorists who think exactly the same way!

(Number of road users: 462)

Pedestrians:            30%        139 accidents
Two wheelers:         19%          88 accidents
Buses:                      17%          78 accidents
Trucks:                     14%          65 accidents
Cars:                          8%          37 accidents
Unknown Vehicles:   8%          37 accidents
Three wheelers:        2%            9 accidents
Bicyclists:                  2%            9 accidents
(Abbreviations used:  M2W – Two-wheeler / M3W – Three-wheelers or Auto rickshaw)

(Number of road user fatalities: 258)

Pedestrians:       50%        129 deaths
2-Wheelers:       30%          77 deaths
Bus occupants:    7%          18 deaths
Car occupants:     4%          10 deaths
Truck occupants: 4%          10 deaths
Bicyclists:             4%          10 deaths
3-Wheelers:         1%          3 deaths
Vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, M2Ws, and bicyclists constitute 84% of fatalities. In addition bus passengers constitute 7% of fatalities.

Fatal Accident Locations
(Fatal accidents plotted: 246)

The concentration of accidents is more or less evenly spread in Kolkata


Number of accidents: 148
To err is human. Accidents are unfortunate events and many-a-time human beings are to blame. Whether it is excessive speeding, pedestrian inattention or turning suddenly without indication, human errors constitute an entire gamut of accident causes. Analysed below are a few conditions along with the number of accidents and the total percentage influenced.

Conditions                    No. of Accidents               % Influenced
Excessive Speeding         45                                       30%
(11 Cars, 9 Trucks, 10 M2Ws, 8 Buses)
Although the driver/rider was travelling within the speed limit, their speed was not appropriate for the road/environmental conditions (e.g., curved road, slippery or crowded road, etc.) or vehicle type, and contributed to the occurrence of the crash.

Driver Inattention            41                                       28%
(3 M2W, 5 Cars, 8 Buses, 9 Trucks,
7 Unknown vehicles, 1 bicyclist)
The driver/rider was not paying attention to the road ahead. Driver Inattention is defined as “Insufficient or no attention to activities critical for safe driving.” Driver misjudgment should not be considered as Driver Inattention.

Dangerous Pedestrian Behaviour on Roadway   27           18%
(23 Pedestrians)
The pedestrians acted in a dangerous manner in the carriageway, purposely or through negligence. Examples include purposely crossing in front of speeding traffic, collapsing drunk in the carriageway, crossing a road where they are not supposed to enter the roadway and  children playing in the street.

Pedestrian Inattention     14                                         9%
(10 Pedestrians)
When a pedestrian either failed to check the road for traffic while entering the carriageway or looked but misinterpreted what he saw. Misjudgment should not be considered as Pedestrian Inattention.

Improper Lane Change/Lane Usage        6                  6%
(6 M2Ws, 1 Bus, 1 M3W)
When the driver/rider misjudging a lane-change manoeuvre, contributed to the occurrence of the crash. When the driver changed lane without any indication, and/or when the vehicle was travelling in the wrong lane and/or partially in an adjacent lane.

Violation of Right of Way     7                                     5%
(3 M2Ws, 2 Cars, 1 M3W, 1 Truck)
When a driver/rider did not stop at the “STOP” sign or give way at a “Give Way” sign or road markings and it contributed to the occurrence of the crash. It also includes manually-operated Stop/Go signs at work zones.

Overtaking on Left Side of Vehicle     7                      5%
(5 M2Ws, 1 Bus, 1 Truck)
When the driver/ rider overtook another vehicle on its left side which in turn contributed to the crash.

Turning Suddenly or Without Indication   6               4%
(5 M2Ws, 1M3W)
When the driver/rider turned suddenly to enter or leave the roadway which resulted in the crash and/or if the driver/rider turned without giving a prior signal to the other road users.

Speeding / Speed Limit Unknown              6              4%
(3 Cars, 2 Buses, 1 M3W)
When the vehicle’s speed influenced or contributed to the occurrence of the crash but there was no posted speed limit.

Other Factors                                               41           28%
Other factors consist of all the remaining human factors which have individually influenced the accident by less than 4%.

Number of accidents: 148
There are a few factors that have to be considered from the vehicle’s point of view that were responsible for fatal accidents.

Conditions                         No. of Accidents               % Influenced
Vision Obstruction                22                                           15%
(11 Buses, 9 Trucks, 2 Cars)
Due to vehicle interiors such as A-Pillar, ORVMs etc. or any other material which created a blind spot for the driver and resulted in or contributed to the occurrence of the crash.

Non Operational Doors         11                                            7%
(11 Buses)

Overloading People                 7                                            5%
(5 M2Ws, 2 Bicycles)
When vehicles carrying too many passengers contributed to the occurrence of the crash. E.g., an M2W with overloaded riders lost control, etc. Bus passengers are often exposed to falling down due to non operational doors.

Infrastructure aids in creating a safer road environment for all users. From broken/solid white lines to road signages, proper infrastructure is an essential cog, the absence of which might cause serious accidents/injuries to road users.

Conditions                       No. of Accidents               % Influenced
Poor Road Marking/Signages      148                         100%
(38 Buses, 38M2Ws, 25 Trucks, 28 Cars, 5M3Ws, 10 Unknown vehicles, 4 bicyclist)
When signboards indicating the roadway alignment (e.g., U – turn, curve road, etc.) or road marking (e.g. broken line, stop line) are absent and defective signboards or road markings (peeling or damaged signboards, degraded road markings) and the like contributed to the occurrence of the crash.

Poor Pedestrian Infrastructure /Crossing      32           22%
(32 Pedestrians)
When pedestrian or zebra crossing, raised pavement pedestrian crossing, etc. are not available within 100 meters of the crash spot that led to the crash.

Undivided Road                                   10                        7%
(2 M2W, 1 M3W, 2 Car, 3 Truck, 2 Bicyclist)
When a crash occurs because the two-way traffic is not divided by a physical barrier. A physical barrier refers to any barrier that does not allow a vehicle to pass through it, e.g., metal fence, jersey walls and the like. This factor is considered if the crash could have been prevented if the roadway had been divided with a physical median.

Vision Obstruction due to Man-Made Objects    9      6%
(4 Trucks, 2 M2Ws, 1 M3W, 1 Car, 1 Pedestrian)
When any of the man-made objects on the roadway or in the median/shoulder decreased the driver’s visibility.

Poor Bus Stop Facilities                                         9        6%
(7 Buses, 2 Pedestrians)
When there is not enough room for pedestrian waiting facilities such as a bus stop and the like, and this contributed to the occurrence of the crash.

Other Factors                                                        37           25%
(Each contributing less than 3%)

Common safety measures, when ignored, often lead to devastating injuries. Below are a few such factors discussed.

Conditions                        No. of Accidents               % Influenced
Helmet Not Used                      47                                     32%
(42 M2Ws, 5 Bicyclists)
When a helmet was not worn by the rider or pillion rider of the crashed vehicle which contributed to the injuries suffered.

Seat Belt Not Used                    11                                    7%
(7 Cars, 4 Trucks)
When the seatbelt was not used by the driver or passengers of the crashed vehicle which contributed to the injuries suffered.

Occupants in Cargo Area               2                                  1%
(2 Trucks)
Here, the occupants were travelling in the cargo area of a vehicle and during the occurrence of the crash this resulted in injuries to the occupants.

Overloading of Occupants            2                                  1%
(2 M2Ws)
When the number of occupants travelling in the vehicle was more than the specified capacity of the vehicle and during the occurrence of the crash this contributed to the injuries of the occupants.


Some accidents aren’t fatal but they may influence serious injuries. Let us take a look at some vehicle factors that contribute to or influence injury.

Conditions                      No. of Accidents               % Influenced
Knock-down                           75                                        51%
(28 M2Ws, 39 Pedestrians, 2 Buses, 1 M3W
1 Car, 1 Truck, 3 Bicyclists)
On impact of vehicle with a pedestrian, M2W or cyclist, and their fall due to the impact.

Run-over                                 53                                       36%
(23 Pedestrians, 15 M2Ws, 11 Bus occupants, 2 Bicyclist, 2 Trucks)
When a pedestrian, M2W or cyclist was run-over by a vehicle.
E.g.: Bus knocks down and runs over a pedestrian on its right side wheels.

Fall-down                                 13                                       9%
(11 M2Ws, 2 Bus occupant fall)
When an M2W/Bicycle fell down without any impact and resulted in injury to the occupants of the M2W or bicyclist.
E.g.: M2W skid fall down

Ejection                                     5                                        3%
(1 Car, 2 Truck, 2 M3W)
When an occupant was ejected out of the vehicle and it contributed to the injury of the ejected occupant.

Seatbelt Not Available             5                                       3%
(2 Cars, 2 Buses, 1 M3W)
When the vehicle didn’t have seatbelts or the seatbelts were not usable, which contributed to the injuries of the occupant.

Passenger Compartment Intrusion          3                     2%
(3 Cars)
When the passenger compartment was intruded as a result of underride/override impact with the colliding vehicle.


Traffic poles, divider trees, traffic barricades, etc. often influence injury by obstructing vehicles. Some of these factors are discussed below.
Number of accidents: 148

Conditions                         No. of Accidents               % Influenced
Object Impact – Roadside/Man-Made Structures     19          13%
(8 Cars, 6 M2Ws, 1 M3W, 2 Buses, 1 Truck, 1 Pedestrian)
Where injuries were caused due to impact with roadside man-made structures such as traffic barriers or poles, buildings, railings etc. For these accidents it is not necessary that the occupant physically contacted the object. It is also immaterial what the purpose of the object was at the accident scene. Eg., a Jersey barrier on a bridge.

Object Impact – Roadside Trees/Plantation          4              3%
(4 M2Ws)
Where injuries were caused due to impact with roadside trees or plants or other natural objects. While it is not necessary that the occupant physically contacted the object.

Object Impact – On Roadway (1 M2W)                  1              1%
Where injuries were caused due to impact with an object on the roadway.

Top 3 Factors for an Accident
Human (95%) Vehicle (26%) Infrastructure (98%)
Driver Inattention (30%) Vision Obstruction due to Vehicle Interiors (15%) Poor Road Marking/Signage (100%)
Excessive Speeding for Given Conditions (28%) No Operational Doors (7%) Poor Pedestrian Infrastructure –Crossing (22%)
Dangerous Pedestrian Behaviour on Roadway (18%) Overloading People (5%) Poor Bus Stop Facilities (6%)

(Note: The above conclusions are based on crashes investigated between April 2016 to March 2017)

The above chart represents the top accident causing factors. Some of them are discussed below:
Driver inattention: Causes the driver to not see an impending danger or collision and react too late to avoid it. Speeding and driver inattention related accidents can be mitigated only through proper education, awareness and enforcement. It is important to educate road users and make them aware of the problem through targeted campaigns and awareness drives. The campaigns should be data-driven and offer clear instructions on what drivers must do to prevent accidents.

Speeding: As per a speeding analysis in 2014-15, vehicles travelling above 30 kilometres per hour (kmph) inside Kolkata were considered as speeding, because 3 out of 4 fatal pedestrian accidents occured when the vehicles travelled at speeds more than 30 kmph. The data also shows that 76% of fatal pedestrian crossing accidents occur at or near junctions. Hence, the maximum speed limit at or near junctions can be considered as 30 kmph.

To address fatalities and injuries the above factors should be addressed. An alternating series of awareness campaigns and enforcement drives over a long period of time will help shape driver attitudes and, eventually, result in mitigating accidents and injuries.

Crash investigation is a tool that generates vital results that help in the evolution of road safety. These results help in developing data driven policies by which stakeholders can better understand the safety measures which go a long way in reducing fatalities and injuries.

JP Research India Pvt Ltd
The report has been shared by JP Research India Pvt Ltd (JPRI) – a research firm dedicated to the business of automotive crash data collection and analysis. The company is a forerunner in road safety research and has undertaken pioneering on-scene accident investigation and in-depth data collection projects aimed at scientifically understanding and mitigating road accident fatalities in India.

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