Unabated road accidents

Road accidents, especially on National Highway in our State, are assuming alarming proportions. The Governor of the State has expressed his anguish on frequent road accidents happening day in and day out. This newspaper has been regularly highlighting the happening that consumes precious lives. The hilly State of Jammu and Kashmir is not the lone example where the National Highway and other link roads pass over hills and gorges. There are standard rules and instructions for vehicle drivers about how to drive safe in mountainous regions. Most of these instructions are also taken as standing instructions of the Road Transport Department of our State. Yet there seems no relent in the occurrence of road accidents almost every week. The gravity of this situation will be understood from the figures that are available with us. In 2012, there were 2214 accidents in which 498 persons were killed. In 2013 there were 161 accidents in which 432 persons got killed and many injured.
The Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has expressed its concern on frequent road accidents on the NH and link road in the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Among other general instructions about how the number of road accidents could be brought down, the Ministry advised that Road Safety Council and District Road Safety Committees be constituted to monitor mandatory safety measures for the vehicles plying on the roads in the State. The State Government has constituted the Road Safety Council but nobody knows what the Council has been doing. Surprisingly the Transport Department echelons are almost unaware of the Road Safety Council of the State. As far as the District Safety Committees are concerned, not a single committee has been constituted so far.
This state of affairs in the Transport Department shows how unconcerned and careless the authorities are in regard to implementation of road safety instructions. There is no doubt that if the rules and instructions covering road safety are observed in letter and in spirit, the number of road accidents will come down considerably and many precious lives would be saved from wanton destruction. The graph of road accidents shows that most of the road accidents happen owing to the fault of the drivers and only few owing to the fault of pedestrians. It means that the transport authorities have to focus on why the drivers are the main cause of accidents and how that situation can be brought under control. It is a well known fact that in many cases of accidents, the transport authorities or the inquiry committees have come to the conclusion that either the driving licenses of the drivers were fake or that they were not fully trained before plying vehicles on the National Highway. In many cases, it has been found that the conductors and not the drivers are driving the vehicles. The statistics on the roadworthy conditions of the vehicles are not readily available. But in all probability, reports do come in that in some accidents the cause has been the failure of the machine. Now all these reasons leading to accidents are controllable provided the traffic authorities are disposed to show sense of responsibility and discipline?  There is no dearth of laws and regulations and instructions, rather there are too many laws and instructions. That does not matter at the end of the day. What actually matters is the implementation of the laws without discrimination, fear or favour. In many cases of accidents, the inquiry ultimately says that the driver was keeping a fake driving license. Hence a case is registered under fraud which takes its own time to be disposed off. We never hear that anybody driving with a fake license has been punished. At the best he is debarred from obtaining a license for three years and with that he is left to go scot free. This is no deterrent in any case and we should never expect it to have any impact on the racket of issuing fake licenses.
The Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has conducted research on the question of road accidents and has summed up its finding in what is known as 4-Es, meaning education, enforcement, engineering and emergency. These are the areas on which the transport authorities should focus if we want that road accidents should be minimised. Every year the Transport Department observes traffic week. Does it really help in bringing down road accidents? Does it really create a sense of enforcement among the transport authorities? Not at all, to say the least. Therefore in the light of the axiom that charity begins at home, we would suggest to the transport authorities that this year’s traffic week should be observed in sensitising transport authorities to enforce the rules seriously and without fear and favour and prove that they are accountable to the state.


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