A speeding truck driver ran over and killed at least 12 Hindu pilgrims who were sleeping on the side of a busy road in northeastern India overnight, police said this morning.

18 others were injured in the pre-dawn accident on a national highway in the Aurangabad district of Bihar state.

A police spokesman said more than 50 pilgrims were resting up for the night after visiting a temple in neighbouring Jharkhand state when the lorry driver lost control.

"The pilgrims had parked their bus and were sleeping in the open nearby when the speeding vehicle crushed them to death," he said.

India has one of the worst road safety records in the world, with figures showing around 140,000 people are killed each year; which works out at 16 an hour.