Accidents in 3 hill states claim 1,170 lives in 5 months
As many as 1,170 people died in road accidents in the three hill states of Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Uttarakhand in the first five months of 2019, government data shows.
Experts blame over-speeding, overcrowding of public transport vehicles, drink driving and absence of adequate road signs as the major factors for the high number of accidents in the hill states.
Himachal and Jammu and Kashmir have recorded the highest accidents per 10,000 vehicles, union ministry of road transport and highways said. The average death per year in Himachal in the last decade was 1,100 and 900 in J&K, according to the ministry’s data.
From January to May 31, 2019, as many as 340 people died in road accidents in Jammu and Kashmir, where 35 persons died when an overcrowded bus skidded off a hilly road and fell into a deep gorge in Kishtwar district on Monday morning. Just last week, 11 schoolchildren had died when the bus in which they were travelling fell into a gorge on Mughal Road in Shopian district of south Kashmir. In 2018, 984 people were killed in road mishaps in J&K.
“In both the accidents (Kishtwar and Shopian) over-speeding was the cause,” an official of the Jammu and Kashmir transport department said on the condition of anonymity.
“In most road accident cases, we have found that the poorly maintained buses run on hill routes and are overcrowded as there is not enough public transport available,” the official added.
Amit Sharma, head of J&K Road Safety Council, blamed bad roads and old vehicles for frequent road accidents. “The government is planning to introduce more buses in the hilly and remote areas but poor road condition and old vehicles are still a concern for road safety,” he said, adding that the government will soon come out with a scheme to phase out vehicles which are 25 years, 20 years and 15 years old.
In the neighbouring Himachal Pradesh, where three persons including two schoolchildren died in a road accident in Shimla on Monday morning, 430 were killed in 1,168 road accidents between January and May 31 this year. On June 20, 45 people died when a private bus fell into a deep gorge in Banjar in Kull district.
Last year, 1,168 people died in 3,119 road accidents, the highest death toll since 2012. The data showed that Himachal reports more deaths in road accidents than J&K even though it has lesser population. According to 2011 census, J&K population stands at 12.5 million, Uttarakhand 11.5 million and Himachal 6.8 million.
A 2017 survey by Social Welfare Council of India, a Himachal Pradesh-based non-government organisation, found that 80% of the accidents involving heavy vehicles were caused by over-speeding and negligence of drivers; 5% because of technical fault and remaining 15% because of ill-maintained roads.
In Uttarakhand, 364 persons died in road accidents in 528 road accidents till May this year. In July 2018, 50 people had died when a bus fell into a 100-metre deep gorge in Pauri Garhwal in one of the worst accidents in recent past.
Kewal Khuarana, deputy inspector general, Uttarakhand traffic police, said the major reasons for accidents in the state were rash driving and overtaking a vehicle at a high speed.
“Drink driving is also a major cause for accidents,” he said, adding that interceptor vehicles with police personnel having breathalyzers have been deployed in both Garhwal and Kumaon divisions to check drink driving.
Aloke B Lal, retired director general of police of Uttarakhand, said that the police should conduct regular checks to prevent drink driving and the transport department needs to ensure that drivers are properly trained and vehicles are well maintained.