The rise in Delhi’s traffic congestion seems to have made its roads safer.
A total of 543 people died in road accidents across the city until July 20 this year, as opposed to 824 fatalities during the same period in 2015. This figure happens to be the lowest in 26 years.
Studies conducted by the CSIR-Central Road Research Institute found that the average peak traffic speed has come down from 30 km/hr to 15 km/hr – the speed of a bicycle – in the last five years. “One of the reasons for the slump in road fatalities is the decreased average speed of vehicles due to traffic jams. When a vehicle has a lower possibility of speeding, the chances of meeting with an accident also comes down,” said Dr S Velmurugan, senior principal scientist at the institute.
As many as 1,670 accident deaths were recorded in 1990, as opposed to 1,622 last year (a significant drop, going by the vehicle-to-accident ratio). The number of vehicles in the city currently stands at 8.9 million, over five times the 1.7 million registered back then.
“Speeding is a major reason for road accidents, and slowing of the traffic speed has helped bring down fatalities. Better enforcement of traffic rules and increased awareness among drivers have also played a major role in ensuring this downward trend,” said special commissioner of police (traffic) Sandeep Goel.
The traffic police helpline recorded over 5.4 lakh complaints of traffic jams from places across the city last year, about 20,200 more than 2014. Experts say that with around 1,500 new vehicles descending on the city roads every day, the average speed of the city traffic is expected to come down to 5 km/hr by 2020. That’s the pace at which a man or woman walks.
Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director of the Centre for Science and Environment, said the 48-km six-lane Ring Road was originally designed to bear around 75,000 vehicles a day. However, it now carries over 4 lakh vehicles on a daily basis. “While we can rejoice about the number of road casualties coming down, we are ignoring the seriousness of the reason behind it. If we actually look into the trend, accidents are still high at night –when the traffic is thin. So, we may actually be doing something wrong here, not right,” she said.
According to traffic data, 60% of all fatal accidents occur between 2 am and 6 am every day.