The steep rise in road traffic in J&K State without compatible increase/improvement of road network has been one of the factors of traffic accidents. Lack of monitoring the space occupancy by vehicles proportionate to available road surface area results in frequent traffic congestion, causing heavy loss in terms of working hours of people besides wastage of POL. The other factor is the poor geometrics of our roads, which were mostly designed for animal driven carts from Maharaja’s time. The other important reasons are deficiencies in vehicular design, inept maintenance and usage, poor driving and unusual road user behaviour, lack of education and enforcement of traffic rules. To add to this, it is the lack of will to comply with the basic tenets of traffic safety which is the main culprit on the road accident scene.
Every hour 40 people under the age of 25 die in road accidents around the globe. According to the WHO, this is the second most important cause of death for 5 to 29 year olds. In India alone the death toll rose to 14 per hour in 2009 as compared to 13 the previous year. The total number of deaths every year due to road accidents has now passed 1,35,000 mark, according to the latest report of National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). While trucks and 2-wheelers were responsible for over 40 % of deaths, peak traffic during the afternoon and evening rush hours is the most dangerous time to be on the roads.
It is often said that accidents are caused, they just do not happen. If factors responsible are identified properly and appropriate remedial measures are taken on an inter-disciplinary basis, there is no reason why the number of accidents should not reduce. Apart from road and traffic factors, human factors are often responsible for accidents, which are caused by lack of judgement, sometimes by over confidence and sometimes by callousness, whether on the part of drivers or any other road user including the pedestrians.
Besides dire punishment to drivers for their negligence under Motor Vehicles Act, it is also necessary that the drivers are well trained in the art of driving and made conscious of their duties towards the other road users. There is a need to establish a model Motor-driving Teaching Institution especially for drivers of heavy vehicles. In UAE, I have found that the licence is issued only after attending the driving institute and after passing the tedious test. Similarly the pedestrian aught to know the rules of the road. Besides the parking rules are ignored by the road users, while in the former case, education and publicity could help to a great deal in bringing home to the public- how to cross the road, deterrent punishment should be imposed on those who violate parking rules for their selfish interests and cause reduction in the road space leading to a number of accidents. The authorities need to provide multi-storeyed parking lots in the congested parts of the city centre even if it needs to acquire some space and dismantle some structures.
Accident prevention measures comprise the three E’s, viz. Engineering, Education, Enforcement. Accident statistics in India highlight the driver’s fault as the predominant cause and therefore enforcement and education are much more important than engineering. Better traffic engineering, improved traffic management operations, proper enforcement and intensive road user education programmes can definitely bring down the number of accidents and provide safer roads for the community.
Strict enforcement of traffic laws as viewed by me in UAE keeps accidents much under check even when the vehicles travel at a maximum speed of 120 kmph. We witness frequent fatal accidents occurring on Jammu-Srinagar National Highway and other hilly roads. Inspection of vehicles before putting them on roads is a must, for which mechanical workshop facilities need to be provided at vital spots at the foot and also at the top of steep ghat sections, where especially the loaded vehicles can be inspected and only the certified ones can be allowed to enter the ghat sections. A self-discipline needs to be inculcated in all vehicle owners to get their vehicles periodically inspected and apply for registration or renewal of registration of only such vehicles that are certified to be road worthy by approved workshops.
Highway engineers need to provide a safe road system. The present road system is not fully geared to meet the demands of the modern heavy and fast moving traffic. The presence of a variety of slow and fast moving vehicles, overcrowding of arterial routes and thoroughfares, encroachments and ribbon development, poor lighting conditions and improper intersection designs create conditions for accidents to occur. Therefore it is important to pin-point specific reasons for the cause of accident at a particular spot. Once the correct accident information is made available and properly analysed, it would be possible to find out the causes of accidents and undertake timely remedial measures.
Maintaining and developing the present road system to as high standard as possible within the available funds is the responsibility of Highway Engineer. While for the new roads, it would be necessary to provide for inbuilt traffic safety at the design stage itself; for the existing roads, the solution will vary from situation to situation. There may be cases for improving geometric deficiencies or providing improved facilities like widening and constructing fly-overs. It should be ensured that measures, which can reduce the number of accidents to maximum extent at minimum cost, are given free priority. A road inventory of stretches which are prone to accidents even without waiting for accidents to occur can be made beforehand. Every year funds can be got earmarked for the purpose out of plan or non-plan allocation from the authorities.
Er. Mohammad Ashraf Fazili
(Retd. Chief Engineer)