Potholes caused the deaths of almost 10 Indians every day last year, MPs have been told, as parliament debated the country’s shockingly bad road safety record.
The roads minister, Mansuk Mandaviya, said that 3,597 people had been killed and 25,000 injured in 2017 owing to accidents caused by potholes alone.
In one recent example on 9 July, a 40-year-old woman in Mumbai died after the scooter she was riding plunged into a huge pothole. The woman lost her balance and was thrown off into the path of an oncoming bus.
Potholes are so common it has become second nature for drivers to learn how to spot them from a long way off and swerve violently to avoid them, causing further accidents.
The are also hard to spot at night, MPs were told, and during the monsoon become filled with water, making them more dangerous.
Last week the supreme court said the deaths from potholes were “frightening”. Judges said that more people have died due to potholes than by terrorist attack.
Last year Ravi Teja, a 12-year-old boy in Hyderabad, saw a couple and their child die after they were thrown off their scooter. Teja was covered by the local media for collecting broken bricks and stones to fill the potholes near his home to prevent other such deaths.
The only way to get road officials to do their job, says Rohit Baluja of the Institute of Road Traffic Education in New Delhi, was to charge them with culpable homicide. Under the present law, no official is charged for deaths caused by potholes.
“Either the driver who died is deemed to have been negligent or, if the victim is killed by an oncoming car or bus, it is the car and bus driver who are booked. We must change the law to hold road officials responsible,” said Baluja.
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