Why are we driving ourselves to death? Are Pune roads death-traps?
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Why are we driving ourselves to death? Are Pune roads death-traps?

In the first six months of the current year, Pune police commissionerate recorded 594 accidents (fatal, grievous and minor) as against 1,298 in 2016.

pune Updated: Jul 11, 2017 15:11 IST
Hindustan Times, Pune
Two wheeler riders not wearing helmets and blatantly ignoring traffic rules is a common sight in Pune.(Pratham Gokhale/HT PHOTO)

On July 2, six young software developers were killed instantly and seven others injured after a speeding water tanker jumped the median and rammed into a mini-bus and a car near Lonikand on the Pune-Ahmednagar road. This is just the recent among the numerous accidents taking place on our roads-be it the city roads, the state and national highways skirting the city or the Pune-Mumbai Expressway.

India has the dubious distinction of leading the world in the number of road accidents. Hindustan Times takes a comprehensive look at the state of our unsafe roads in this five-part series, starting today.

It was around noon on April 18, less than two months ago. The Vishvakarma and Shaikh families from Baner were returning home after shopping. Residing as neighbours in a building at Baner, this group of five persons had crossed the road halfway and were standing on a divider when a speeding car lost control and mowed them down. Tragedy struck the families as six-year-old Isha Vishvakarma died on the spot and four others were injured critically.

Speed snatches lives on Pune roads
Experts cite increasing number of vehicles and narrow roads, haphazard and indisciplined parking of vehicles, outdated traffic management and signalling system and poor traffic sense as major reasons for road fatalities
Losing personalities in mishaps
Former President of India Gyani Zail Singh: Gyani Zail Singh was 7th President of India and served between 1982-1987. He died in road accident in Punjab in the year 1994.
Former Union minister Rajesh Pilot: Pilot was minister of state for home during Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao government. Pilot died in car accident in June 2000 near Jaipur while returning from his constituency.
BJP leader Gopinath Munde: Prominent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader from Maharashtra and party’s OBC face worked as deputy chief minister, He got berth in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ministry as rural development minister. He died in road accident in Delhi in June 2014
Sahib Singh Verma: Former Union minister who also worked as Delhi chief minister died in 2007 in road accident in Rajasthan. Verma’s car collided with a truck near Shahajahanpur on the Jaipur-Delhi highway. He was BJP’s senior vice president.
Jayram Hardikar: Prominent Marathi actor Jayram Hardkar died in a bus accident when it caught fire. He tried to save veteran actress Shanta Jog but did not succeed. Accident took place few months Marathi movie Simhasan was released in 1988.
Arun Sarnaik: In 1988, another prominent actor Arun Sarnaik lost his ife in a car accident when he was travelling from Pune to Kolhapur.
Bhakti Barve: Prominent Marathi actress died on Pune-Mumbai express way in a car accident in 2001. She was travelling from Wai to Mumbai. Accident occured early in the morning.

The accident was captured by a CCTV in a nearby building and soon became viral, triggering a storm of anger and outrage on social media. The graphic video clip generated a heated debate in Pune city and on how human life has become uncertain and how and why this city has become accident prone. Several citizens came forth with suggestions and advice, day in and day out on what precautions need to be taken while driving and walking on the streets of Pune.

Is Pune showing few signs of improvement after the Baner accident? Information provided by the police does not indicate any positive signs. In the first six months of the current year, Pune police commissionerate recorded 594 accidents (fatal, grievous and minor) as against 1,298 in 2016. In the first five months in this year, 146 people died, 333 sustained major injuries while 76 had minor injuries. Statistics does not include those incidents that were not reported to the police.

Pune streets have to accommodate around 30 lakh vehicles while the length of road is around 2,200 km. RTO figures show that an average two lakh new vehicles are being registered in Pune every year in addition to the 1.25 lakh neighbouring in Pimpri-Chinchwad. Pune has reached an alarming situation where we have per head one vehicle. As said by Dr Parag Sancheti, increasing number of vehicles is the main reason behind accidents in Pune. “Number of vehicles is on the rise but the roads have remained the same,” he said.

Dr Sancheti substantiates his argument with statistics. In 2014-15, the number of patients admitted in his trauma centre was 4,335, including 987 with head injuries. In 2015-16, 1,095 patients had head injuries out of 4,824. It explains that 500 more cases of accident were reported in a single hospital.

Information provided by the traffic police reveal that Pune police commissionerate records average 400 fatal accidents every year. Number of accidents that cause grievous injuries is on rise. In 2012, Pune recorded 436 accidents in this category, causing injuries to a total of 511 individuals. It has been on an increase.In 2015, 568 accidents, causing grievous injuries were reported.It has caused grievous injuries to 698 people.

Increase in number of fatal accidents along with grievous injuries is a cause of concern, experts point out. It is observed that person having grievous injury, may have permanent physical disability, putting stress on family for a long period or even throughout the life. Cases of injured persons going into coma for an uncertain period is also on the increase.

While citizens blame road conditions and potholes, study shows that majority of the accidents take place because of drivers’ fault. (In Pune it is between 70 to 80 per cent according to Pune Police). Over speeding and reckless driving are two major reason behind the accidents in Pune.

It is a matter of concern because majority of accidents – may be fatal or causing grievous injuries – involve two wheelers. According to a study conducted by Central Institute of Road Transport (CIRT), 75 per cent fatal/grievous injuries accidents involve two wheeler vehicles. Pune cannot be the exception. Pune has around 30 lakh registered vehicles and 75 per cent of them – 22.50 lakh – are two wheelers. The number of accidents in the category of fatal and grievous injuries is bound to increase as RTO, Pune registers 1.5 lakh two wheelers every year.

Dr Sancheti corroborate that high speed driving is a major cause of accident. He points out that majority of the accidents occur on national highways or outskirts where the volume of traffic is less. “Few accidents take place in the core part of the city,” he said adding that the speed of vehicle is naturally less in internal part of the city because of external factors.

Police authorities point out to another disturbing fact. Almost 40 per cent of the accident victims fall in the age group of below 25. It includes seven per cent who are below 14 years. Does it indicate that over speeding is related with enthusiasm because of age? CIRT study has expressed concern over the trend as it involves youths and creative age group. It is more personal or family loss. It is loss of the society.

Dr Shrikrishna Joshi of Lokmanya Hospital, “It is time to look at the issue with a different perception. Accident should not be treated as an incident. It has to be treated as a disease, considering the growing number of cases”.

First Published: Jul 11, 2017 13:55 IST