Capital always caught in a jam

Last year saw the lowest number of road accidents and fatalities in the capital in 10 years – and Delhi Traffic Police gave themselves a pat on the back, citing stricter implementation of rules, their increased presence of the roads and a crackdown on drunken driving.

But some roads continue to remain dangerous for motorists. A report submitted to Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung by the traffic police identifies 128 such ‘hot spots’ prone to fatal accidents and 448 crossings which have become risky for both motorists and pedestrians due to lack of proper signals. 

The report talks about hurdles and shortcomings in the existing system and recommends an overhaul in the way traffic is managed. Most recommendations, however, take years for execution, often due to the involvement of multiple road maintenance agencies in the capital. 

The identified accident-prone areas include Azadpur Chowk, flyover near Sarai Kale Khan ISBT, Mehrauli-Badarpur Road, Grand Trunk Road, Burari Chowk, Sabzi Mandi, Shivaji Marg (Najafgarh Road), Ring Road, Shakarpur Chungi, Ashram, Punjabi Bagh, Dwarka Sector 1, Outer Ring Road, National Highway 8, Rohtak Road and Aurobindo Marg. 

In 2013, Burari Chowk and Sabzi Mandi in north Delhi accounted for nine deaths each in road accidents. Azadpur Chowk in northwest Delhi accounted for a number of accidents which claimed eight lives. The stretch between Dhaula Kuan and Rajokari in south Delhi also saw a large number of accidents due to sharp turns and overspeeding on National Highway 8. 

According to experts, absence of traffic signals, non-functioning traffic lights, lack of signs about speed limits, are some of the causes of these accidents.

Anil Shukla, Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic) confirms that unscientific curvature of roads, narrowing of carriageways, sudden merger of traffic, overgrown trees and insufficient lights are also cause for concern for the department. He also counted overspeeding, drunken driving, and tendency to use shortcuts as factors which lead to accudents.

While the number of road accidents in 2013 was 1,693, the total number of deaths was 1,725, the lowest in the last 10 years. In 2012, the number of accidents was 1,757 which led to 1,801 deaths, while 2,110 people were killed in 2011. Over 50 per cent of the victims were pedestrians.  

Dr Raj Kumar of Saket City Hospital reckons 50 per cent of deaths occur on the road itself and lack of immediate medical service in the capital fails to improve the situation. In rural areas, victims are not able to receive first aid in time due to lack of ambulance services.

“The capital is dependent on Police Control Room vans to take victims to hospitals.
Critical injuries are sustained in these accidents due to which there is a need for an efficient ambulance service. Medical care in the initial 30 minutes is crucial for accident victims and the chances of survival depend upon the initial care given at roadside,” he says. 

About 35 per cent of the victims die within two hours due to head injuries, abdominal injuries or significant blood loss, while 15 per succumb within 30 days due to causes like brain death, organ failure and overwhelming sepsis. 

Traffic police claim regular campaigns against drunk driving have contributed in bringing down the deaths. In 2013, 24,564 vehicle drivers were prosecuted for drunk driving, up from 23,829 prosecutions in 2012. If alcohol level exceeds 30 mg per 100 ml of blood in the breath analyser test the motorist may face six months jail or Rs 2,000 as fine. If the motorist is caught again within three years, the jail term may go up to two years or fine to Rs 3,000.    

 After studying the data available, the traffic police recommend modernisation of the traffic control system, which includes implementation of the Intelligent Traffic Management System. 

The project has been designed by Dr Brenner Ingenieurgesellschaft Mbh, a Germany-based consulting, planning and engineering company. It proposes to establish an Information Technology Services system that covers 220 kms of roads with 240 signalled intersections. 

“The main components of the system will be a traffic control and management centre, disaster recovery centre, incident detection system, CCTV camera system and traffic information system with variable message signs,” a traffic police officer says. 

The traffic police also recommend construction of more speed breakers, improved lighting, installation of reflective tapes and deployment of more personnel. The residents’ welfare associations can also contribute in the process.

If a stretch of the road becomes accident prone, local residents can approach the Deputy Commissioner of Police (Traffic-Headquarters) to get a speed breaker constructed. They need to file an application, which will be analysed from the traffic point of view. The recommendations are then sent to the Speed Breaker Committee, which decides on the construction or removal of this traffic calming devices.

The committee consists of representatives of the municipal corporations, PWD, Central Road Research Institute, traffic police and the concerned residents' welfare association. 

Too many agencies

The report of the traffic department also highlights the multiplicity of  road maintenance agencies as a cause of concern, and has called for better coordination. Municipal corporations, New Delhi Municipal Council, Public Works Department, Delhi Development Authority, Delhi Cantonment Board and the National Highway Authority of India are involved in building and maintaining roads in the city.

“The traffic department doesn’t have the freedom to implement the findings of our analysis as we don’t have the authority to work on roads. We can only inform the agencies involved and wait for work on the request. It ends up to be a lengthy process,” Shukla says.  

Agencies intending to carry out construction, maintenance and repair work on roads are also required to obtain permission from the Deputy Commissioner of Police (Traffic) and are told to undertake the job during specified timings and period.  

According to the founder of NGO Safe Road Foundation, Imran Mohammad, accident prone areas in the capital can be attributed to complicated road structures as well as increasing human and vehicular population. He says increase in the number of privately owned vehicles, especially two-wheelers, have made travelling on roads dangerous.

“Though the number of vehicles increased, the length and breadth of roads remained static. The only way left with the authorities to cope up with the problem was to make improvisations on the already existing structures. Though this has eased congestion, chances of accidents have increased,” he says. 

Imran adds that in maximum cases, accidents occur due to human error.Free flow of traffic has resulted in increase in speed of vehicles, but the inexperienced drivers are often not able to handle it, he says.

A Road Safety Cell was established by the traffic police in 1972 to generate awareness among road users. Its target groups include drivers of commercial vehicles, schoolchildren, pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, autorickshaw drivers and government vehicle drivers. 

It uses lectures, film shows, exhibitions through mobile vans, distribution of road safety manuals, awareness programmes in association with NGOs, RWAs, transport unions and trade unions to get the message across.

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