DNA, February 09, 2015

By Pradeep S Mehta

Jaipur city continues to remain on top in terms of road accidents and deaths in the state and mishaps are also reported from other cities like Kota and Jodhpur
Worrying Stats

The Road Safety Week is observed from 11-17 January all over the country. However, Rajasthan decided to shift it to February due to panchayat elections. The Week has been observed as an awareness generation campaign in India for several years to deal with the bad scenario of road safety in the country. The cost of the accidents is about three per cent of our GDP, and our record is the worst in the world. There has been some improvement last year but much more has to be done. Data shows that over 80 per cent of all accidents are due to drivers’ fault, but it would be unfair to put all of it on drivers. The enabling environment also matters.

Let’s take a close look at Jaipur district. According to the 2011 census, Jaipur district has a population of 6,663,971, which gives it a ranking of 10thmost populous district in India whereas it stands sixth in India in term of total road deaths. Earlier only Jaipur was high on road accidents, now it has spread to other cities of the state too. Jaipur, Kota and Jodhpur alone contribute 12.8 per cent deaths of the country due to road accidents.

Jaipur city continues to remain on top in terms of road accidents and deaths in Rajasthan. During 2007-2009 CUTS carried out a detailed research study of high accident spots in partnership with Sweden’s Lund University and IIT, Delhi with the aim of making it safer for pedestrians to use the roads by adopting traffic calming measures. These recommendations are yet to be implemented by the city, in spite of several efforts.

From recent data obtained from the city’s Traffic Police, it shows that Jaipur’s rapid urbanisation has ended up in increased road accidents in the city. For instance, in 2014, 98 accidents were registered on Tonk Road (from Tonk Phatak to India Gate, Sitapura). These 98 accidents resulted in 35 deaths and 85 injuries. At Goshala and Haldi Ghati Marg/Kumbha Marg, alone, out of 13 deaths reported, nearly half or 6 were pedestrians. These spots were identified for implementation of the traffic calming strategies, proposed by the CUTS study. At Purana By Pass (Old bypass), six people were killed, which has emerged as a new accident spot.

More than half of the accidents occur in evening or during early morning hours. The overall accident figures show the horrible condition of Jaipur’s roads. Apart from speeding drivers or malfunctioning vehicles, an in-depth study is required to know the other cause(s) of these accidents.

In Jaipur city pedestrians/cyclists are extremely vulnerable, and the vehicular speeds are too high to allow safe and proper passage. One main problem is that such road users are not offered any comfortable and safe crossing options. Even the overall scenario of road safety measures religiously followed by road developers, are flawed. In any event, vehicle drivers do not respect the right of pedestrians on zebra crossings. Added to this, buses do not stop on marked bus stops. Occasionally vehicles are checked for over speeding but enforcement is weak.

Drivers are blamed for the accidents, whereas the road development authorities remain hidden in the entire process of accident investigation. In India as well as in Jaipur road planners are unaware of the “psychology” of the lay road user. Based on the data, most accidents spots are “replaced/shifted” to other places through temporary measures, instead of proper “treatment”. Treatment is a process of investigating the accident site’s geography and nature, to come out with proper recommendations, without diverting or stopping the traffic movement.

Practically and financially deputing traffic personnel at every point is not possible and one cannot expect road users to follow the traffic signals and rules every time. In any event, our drivers often flout red lights. Aggressive behaviour of vehicles is visible during nights and non-peak hours, resulting in severe accidents. Effective compliance with speed and other traffic rules is not possible only by the Traffic Police. Though CCTV should be installed at such junctions and violators pulled up. On the other hand, treatment of accident sites is required to be done through Traffic Calming Strategies to break the speed.

To prevent road accidents in Jaipur, the above referred study conducted by CUTS also suggested building speed breakers (recommended by the Indian Road Congress) followed by raised zebra crossings at six crossings in the Pink City to begin with. Such initiatives are inexpensive and easy to build, but our city engineers are uninterested in carrying out such low cost tasks as there are no ‘incentives’.

No one can claim to have accident-proof roads. But at least we can think and create the enabling environment to arrest the increase in fatalities and accidents.

The writer is Secretary General, CUTS International. With inputs from AK Jha, CUTS.

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