Research Project

Developing methods for evaluating safety of road infrastructure in India

Geetam Tiwari, Kavi Bhalla

Project Details

Background
India is investing substantial resources in building roads and highways. In the absence of local evidence on how road infrastructure affects safety, low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are replicating safety treatments used in high-income countries (HICs). However, some of these interventions may not be effective in LMICs, or could lead to an increase in traffic injuries. There are substantial differences between the traffic environments in India and HICs. Indian roads can have higher traffic volumes and a wider range of vehicle speeds, with slow-moving auto-rickshaws sharing the road with high-performance cars. Furthermore, pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists are the most common road users in India highways. Therefore India needs to focus on protecting people outside vehicles. Yet, road design efforts to improve safety in India have primarily focused on making roads smoother, wider, and straighter, which may be beneficial to drivers because they reduce the cognitive load of driving and vehicle-to-vehicle conflicts, but detrimental to other road users because of increased vehicular speeds.

Therefore, it is important for India and other LMICs to establish long-term research programs that use local empirical data to assess how road designs affect injuries. This project aims to conduct a pilot study to build a crash database, adapt highway design evaluation methods to the Indian context, and train researchers and practitioners methods for evaluating infrastructure.  

Project Components
1. Identify research priorities for a national program to evaluate how road design affects safety
We will start by developing a national traffic injury database that will consist of  crash-level data extracted from police case files of a representative sample of districts. We will summarize the data to identify the attributes (e.g. geographic location, type of road, type of road users killed, impacting vehicle) of the most common crash scenarios on rural roads and highways. We will conduct a literature review and expert consultations to identify road-related interventions that can potentially address these crash scenarios.

2. Test a method for evaluating road designs and develop guidelines for evaluation research
We will evaluate the effect of two commonly used interventions (vertical curbs and paved shoulders) on traffic injuries using a case-control design. This will involve identifying locations of fatal crashes from police files and matched control sites, and conducting site audits to compare how often the treatments are present at these locations vs at control sites. We will use these findings and a review of best methodological practices in the HIC literature to propose guidelines for evaluating the safety of road treatments in India.  

3. Build capacity of researchers and practitioners to improve safety of road infrastructure. 
We will develop and implement a blended (online plus face-to-face) training course on highway safety evaluation for researchers and practitioners.

Project Duration
2019-2021

Project Collaborators
The project is a collaboration between the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of Chicago and the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) - Delhi. The following key personnel are involved from each institution:
University of Chicago
Kavi Bhalla, Assistant Professor
Indian Institute of Technology - Delhi
Geetam Tiwari, Professor
Dinesh Mohan, Honorary Professor
Kalaga Ramachandra Rao, Professor
Laxman Singh Bisht, PhD student
Project Advisors at Other Institutions
Dipan Bose, World Bank
Andres Villaveces, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
*JOB OPENING*: We are looking to hire a post-doctoral researcher (or candidate with equivalent experience). Please click here for more details.


Acknowledgments
This project has received core support from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH, Fogarty, grant number R21 TW010823-01A1 ).  

More Information
For more information about this project, please contact:
In the US:
Kavi Bhalla, PhD
Assistant Professor of Epidemiology and Global Health
Department of Public Health Sciences
University of Chicago 
Phone:  +1-773-795-2203
Email: kavibhalla@gmail.com

In India:
Geetam Tiwari, PhD
MoUD Chair Professor,  Civil Engineering Department &
Transportation Research and Injury Prevention Programme
Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, 110016, India
Phone: +91-11-2659-1047
Email: geetamt@civil.iitd.ac.in

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