End of the road for safe driving

The road to perdition couldn't have been any nearer. Simply put, death, danger and discomfort lurk in the Narela-Bawana area. Even though the total number of fatal road accidents reported across the Capital saw a sharp decline in 2010, the Narela-Bawana area, which has the misfortune of being connected to the most criminally ill-designed roads in Delhi, remains perched atop the list of fatal accidents.

So much so, that as many as 8% of the 2,104 people who lost their lives in road mishaps reported in the city in 2010, were either headed to or returning from Narela and the adjacent township of Bawana.

"This is shameful considering the fact that Narela happens to be one of the earliest sub-cities to have been developed. It may have an indispensable highway running through it, but the level of engineering capabilities used while planning and developing the same are abysmally low," said professor PK Sarkar, a senior road safety and traffic infrastructure expert. Professor Sarkar is currently with the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA).

An 8-km-long stretch that provides passage to majority of the 15,000, mostly heavy, commercial vehicles that ferry essential commodities to the city every day, the National Highway 1 (NH-1) bears testimony to glaring design faults, lack of enforcement and zero facilities for pedestrians. "NH-1 is a perfect example of how pedestrians don't figure in the scheme of things in this city - neither for those who design the roads nor for those who drive on them. While the agency that constructed the highway abandoned it the day it was thrown open to the public, those who drive on it show 'criminal abandon' for pedestrians for whom crossing the road means gambling with their lives," said a senior traffic police officer who didn't wish to be named.

Despite the spiraling number of road fatalities, the police maintain that stricter enforcement has led to a sharp decline in the number of lives lost on the stretch. "According to our records, while 203 people lost their lives on NH-1 till December 31 in 2009, that number saw a steep decline with only 167 fatal accidents occurred there in 2010. This was possible only because of stricter enforcement of traffic norms," said Satyendra Garg, joint commissioner of police (traffic).

A drive along the highway is enough to ascertain the negligence of civic agencies. Goods vehicles can be seen busy loading and unloading on the main roads across Narela, Bawana and Kanjhawala. "The main road itself is uneven and broken at various places and slanting on either side of each carriageway. At some places, the angle of slant is as dangerously high as 45 degrees. Coupled with improper street lighting, this becomes very dangerous," said professor Sarkar.

In fact, a sizeable chunk of vehicles has reportedly toppled over after ramming into the divider or losing balance. Slow-moving vehicles are another menace. "Tractors carrying construction material have been behind many mishaps on NH-1. Sometimes they are parked on roadsides, causing accidents after speeding vehicles ram into the dangerously exposed iron pillars or iron rods jutting out of these tractors," the officer said.

However, the police, as always, chose to shift the blame to the transport department. "We can only enforce traffic norms and crack down on drivers without vehicle papers or invalid licence. It is the transport department's job to ensure that overloaded goods vehicles don't ply on the stretch," he added.


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