Every year, nearly a 1,000 drivers lose their lives on the city roads.
Heavy vehicles flouting traffic norms, blinking or dysfunctional traffic signals and zero police presence on the Capital’s streets at night have steadily made driving at “odd hours” a fatal proposition in Delhi.
According to police estimates, close to 5,000 commuters who travel during the “ungodly hours” of 9pm to 8am, when the Traffic Police’s presence on the streets is the thinnest, have died in fatal road accidents in the past five years.
“Commercial vehicles, falling in both the heavy and light vehicles categories, have been found to be behind more than 90% of the fatal accidents reported between 9pm and 8am. In most of cases, the errant drivers were found to be speeding,” said Satyendra Garg, joint commissioner of police (traffic).
The police’s callousness in this regard can be ascertained from the fact that just a fifth of the Traffic Police’s actual strength of 5,000-odd officers is on duty between 9pm and 8am. This, despite 80% of the 730-odd red light signals installed across the Capital going on ‘discretion mode’.
In 2006, the total number of fatal road accidents stood at a staggering 2,135; as many as 820 of these were found to have occurred between 9pm and 8am. The next year saw 855 of the 2,081 fatal accidents being reported during the same timeslot which rose to 981 in 2008, 1,042 in 2009 and 1,028 at the end of the following year.
“A look at the figures reveals that accidents reported during the ungodly hours have been on an upward swing each year since 2006. The only exception was 2010, thanks to the Commonwealth Games. The law and order requirement of the Games ensured adequate police presence on the ground, conscientious driving and hence a less road fatalities,” said a senior police officer.
In fact, as per the National Crime Record Bureau’s annual report for 2009, Delhi accounts for 8,566 of the 11,098 road accidents reported from the seven union territories of India during 2009. This year, as many as 122 road accidents have been reported during the ungodly hours in the mere 59-day period between January 1 and February 28. That Delhi’s streets metamorphose into a monster “truck racing track” during the said timeslot however, isn’t reason enough for the police to resolve the issue.
“The nature of the volume of traffic in the city is such that there’s virtually no traffic on Delhi streets after 11pm. We know that heavy goods carriers, speeding commercial vehicles and drunken drivers cruising along the streets are a problem. So, checking to crack down on all three have been instituted,” Garg said.
He said as many as 50 teams, comprising eight officers each, will gradually go the longest yard in making Delhi’s streets safer at odd hours. “We would have been be in a position to deploy more officers at night if we had 1,000 more men. But monitoring them will be a major issue. Their propensity to fleece commuters, which is already shameful, will just get free rein,” the senior officer added.
Only one-fifth of Delhi Traffic Police’s sanctioned strength is on duty between 9pm and 8am
80% of the 730-odd traffic signals installed across the Capital turn blinkers as there is not enough traffic police to operate them
If it were to decide to deploy its personnel on Delhi streets between 9pm and 8am, the traffic police will face a manpower crunch of 1,000
There are no measures in place to check the speed of heavy goods vehicles except when they enter ‘posh’ neighbourhoods
Even if officers are deployed at night, it would be tough to ensure that ground staff will do its duty, instead of fleecing commuters given lack of supervision during odd hours