HT spotlight | Blood on the road: Tricity roads far from safe   | punjab$chandigarh | Hindustan Times
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HT spotlight | Blood on the road: Tricity roads far from safe  

At least one hit­ and ­run case is reported every day in Chandigarh, Panchkula or Mohali. HT examines the data from the past few years and finds that there has been no let up in the number of accidents. This points towards not just policing failure but impunity of drivers too

punjab Updated: Jul 15, 2017 09:21 IST
The Chandigarh police has registered 60 cases of hit and run since January 2017.
The Chandigarh police has registered 60 cases of hit and run since January 2017.(HT Photo)

It was just another muggy day in May. Naveen, 24, and Neeraj, 22, two bothers working with municipal corporation (MC) Chandigarh, were on their way back home to Mauli Jagran on their motorcycle, when an unidentified vehicle hit them at the Kalagram light point, hurtling them into the iron grills on the roadside. Neeraj, who was riding pillion, died on the way to Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), while Naveen was seriously injured.

The culprit went scot-free. The Manimajra police did register two cases, one under Section 279 (rash and negligent driving) and the other under Section 304 (death due to negligence) but both against an “unidentified person” driving “an unidentified vehicle”.

Hit-and-run cases caused by rash driving are the bane of the tricity. Every year, hundreds of families lose their near and dear ones due to reckless drivers whose number only seems to be rising due to the inability of the police to nab and punish them. Even the ones who are identified and arrested get bail in a matter of minutes.

The Chandigarh police has registered 60 cases of hit and run since January 2017. These led to a loss of 25 precious lives. The accused were arrested in only four of these cases.

ACCIDENT-PRONE SPOTS IN AREA
  • Kalagram light point
  • Sector 46/47/48/49 light point
  • Airport light point
  • Hallomajra light point
  • Housing Board light point
  • Sector 46/47/48/49 light point
CHANDIGARH TOLL
  • 2015: 419 accidents in which 124 deaths were reported 295 were injured
  • 2016: 432 accidents of which 145 deaths were reported while 281 were injured
  • 2017: 160 accidents in which 60 died and 130 sustained injuries (*2017 figures are till June 30)

REMAINING ‘UNTRACED’

As per a recent RTI report, around 353 accused in hit-and-run accidents remain “untraced” from September 2012 to September 2016.

Road accidents are the biggest killers in the tricity. In 2016, 432 accidents took place in Chandigarh. Of them, 145 were fatal and 281 non-fatal. The police were unable to trace several of the accused vehicle drivers. In 2015, a total 419 accidents took place in the city and the police booked 128 unknown people, who continue to remain untraced.

SSP Eish Singhal says the police investigate every case but many cases go untraced for want of evidence, resulting in low rate of conviction. He said the police department now plans to install 600 cameras in the city. “Once the cameras are installed, such cases will not go untraced,” he declared.

NO DETERRENT

The low conviction rate in the hit-andrun cases is a major reason why the city has been unable to tame rash drivers. As per an RTI reply, the conviction rate in such cases is a measly 12%. Only 137 accused in hit-and-run cases were convicted between January 2012 and September 30, 2016.

Gagan Aggarwal, a lawyer at the district courts, says lack of evidence is a major challenge while the other is that of hostile witnesses owing to out-of-court settlements.

Advocate Inderjeet Bassi adds, “Many hit-and-run cases are reported during night and CCTV cameras installed do not have the night vision cameras; their resolution too is not very high as a result of which they can’t capture the numbers plate of erring vehicles.”

HIGHWAYS TO HELL IN PANCHKULA

Panchkula: Chet Ram, 40, died while taking a stroll on National Highway-73 (Panchkula-Yamunanagar) near Nada village on July 7. An “unknown” car hit him and fled. Ram’s head was crushed. His wife Munni Devi witnessed the accident but couldn’t note down the number. The case remains unsolved.

Hit-and-run cases in Panchkula contribute more towards fatal accidents than towards non-fatal ones for the 2014 -16 period.

The fatal accidents are registered under section 304A (causing death by negligence) of the IPC and involve higher punishment (maximum of 2 years) than non-fatal sections where one usually escapes with a lighter punishment.

“Usually, a person who is drunk also flees the accident spot as then it becomes a case of culpable homicide not amounting to murder. This carries a much more stringent punishment (life imprisonment or up to 10 years with fine),” said Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Ashok Kumar.

In 2014, over 18% of the total fatal accidents were hit and run, while only 8% among the non-fatal ones fell in this category.

In 2015, the percentage of hit-and-run cases was higher. Over 37% of the fatal accidents were hit and run, while this percentage was just over 17% among the non-fatal ones.

In 2016, 25% of the fatal accidents were hit and run, and 14% were non-fatal ones.

However, till June 30, 2017, the percentage of hit and run among non-fatal cases (9.1%) was higher than fatal accidents (8.7%).

ACCIDENT-PRONE SPOTS IN AREA
  • Chandimandir T-Point
  • Majri Chowk on Chandigarh-Shimla road
  • Barwala Chowk on NH-73
  • Ramgarh Chowk on NH-73
  • Surajpur in Pinjore
PANCHKULA TOLL
  • 2015: 238 accidents in which 96 deaths were reported and 194 were injured
  • 2016: 224 accidents in which 101 died and 184 were injured
  • 2017: 123 accidents in which 49 deaths were reported and 85 were injured (*2017 figures are till June 30)

THE TROUBLESPOTS

Most accident-prone points of Panchkula fall on the two national highways of Panchkula-Yamunanagar and Zirakpur-Shimla. These also witness the maximum number of hit-and-run cases. It is easy to escape from highways when registration numbers are not noted. The Pinjore-Nalagarh road, known for the traffic of trucks going to Baddi, also suffers a large number of hit-and-run cases. “Under our jurisdiction (the area along Panchkula-Yamunanagar highway), there is no specific stretch which sees hit-and-run accidents. They can happen randomly anywhere on the highway. It is easy to escape on highways than within the city,” said Station House Officer of Chandimandir police station, Inspector Lalit Kumar.

“It is easy to track hit-and-run accused if the number is noted. We circulate it in various WhatsApp groups and sometimes the cases are cracked. If there is a collision between two vehicles, and one flees we can trace it with the help of paint residue under the guidance of forensic experts,” said deputy commissioner of police Ashok Kumar.

More number of CCTVs in populous areas along national highways could also help in nabbing hit-and-run accused, he added.

RISING GRAPH OF FATALITIES IN MOHALI

Mohali: The Sunday accident in Kharar in which three children were crushed to death after being hit by a speeding car, spotlights the rising number of hit-andrun cases in Mohali.

The menace has been on the rise with the police struggling to crack hundreds of cases. In 2014, a total of 447 accidents were reported with 211 persons losing their lives and another 368 sustaining injuries. Of these, 123 were hit-and-run cases where the accused are still at large. Since the police do not keep a separate record of hit-and-run cases in which the accused were later identified, the actual number could be much higher.

MOHALI TOLL
  • 2015: 508 accidents in which 244 deaths were reported and 364 were injured
  • 2016: 571 accidents in which 290 died and 424 were injured
  • 2017: 250 accidents in which 138 deaths were reported and 194 were injured (*2017 figures are till June 30)

In 2015, the number of cases shot up to 508 and 244 persons were killed with 364 sustaining injuries. As per police records, 218 cases are recorded as hit and run.

Last year, 565 cases were registered, leading to the death of 284 people. 185 are still recorded as hit-and-run cases. So far this year, police have registered 250 cases of which 138 have resulted in deaths. Eighty-seven are hit-and-run cases.

(MENACE OF RASH DRIVING IN TRICITY: FIRST OF 2-PART SERIES)