According to the official figures, around 6,000 road accidents have been reported annually for the last two years in the state. The actual number according to officials would be much higher as lots of such incidents go unreported.
Sources said that in 2015, 917 people lost their lives in 5,800 road accidents. In 2016, 910 lives were claimed and over 8,000 suffered injuries by road accidents. That means three people die on an average daily in the state.
Between 2011 and 2014, 3960 people lost their lives by road accidents and more than 30,000 people were injured in over 20,000 road accidents.
“The number of road accidents in Jammu and Kashmir which claim around one thousand lives per year is double than the national average based on population of the state,” one of the top Traffic police officials told Kashmir News Service (KNS).
“Over 60 percent of the total natural deaths had been caused by road accidents in Jammu and Kashmir while the national average is around 30 percent,” he added.
According to the reports, preliminary analysis suggested that the accidents were concentrated around highways which are far removed from many city areas. Experts suggest a host of reasons behind rising accidents. From corruption, to rash-driving to poor road planning and inadequate law enforcement, there are many factors responsible for the rise in accidents.
Sources told KNS that House Committee was constituted to study the kinds of accidents and give recommendations to control it. “The panel had come up with a slew of recommendations to the Transport department, Traffic department, R&B department and other agencies concerned for curbing rising road accidents especaily. Ironically, many years have passed but no recommendation has been implemented by the government to prevent traffic accidents,” sources maintained.
In most of the road accident cases, reportedly only few erring drivers have been brought to justice. And majority of these cases, particularly involving accidents on the highways, are closed as ‘not traced’.
Sources said that instead of taking concrete steps to minimize road accidents, the transport department typically compiles figures for the calendar year and then boasts about the less number of deaths every year.. “We’ve been led to believe that things in the last several years were getting much better. But the irony is that even if only ten people are killed annually in the road accidents, it should also be a concern for the government,” says Mohmmad Yousf of Dadsun Kishtwar, who lost his relative in a deadly accident at Kishtwar in last week .
According to the insiders in the transport department, providing the licenses after spending some money was one of the biggest factors behind the reckless driving as licenses were issued even to minors and untrained drivers who get it without the mandatory driving tests.
Sources further told KNS that government of India had initiated a plan to set up a high-tech driving institute in Kashmir region to provide sophisticated training to the drivers, but the plan was shunned as the GoI required 70 kanals of land for the project which couldn’t materialize as most of the state land has been sold through Roshni Scheme.
Sources said that other than the highways (made by the central government), the state government has not done any major improvement on constructing two-lane roads, the result of which is that in the rural areas most of the accidents occur due to the vehicles plying on wrongs sides, or due to overtaking.
Sources said that Jammu and Kashmir also topped the list of “high accidental death-prone areas” in a National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) survey conducted in 2013, which found that an accident in Jammu And Kashmir State has a 64 percent chance of causing death as opposed to 36.4 percent for all of India.
This is a public health emergency that requires immediate action. As a state, we are slowly waking up to the fact that we lead in road crash deaths and injuries. Unfortunately, we are at a primitive stage of resolving this issue. We are still trying to understand that every road death is preventable, and that there are solutions which have been tried, tested and found to be successful in outside countries. To defeat this growing menace of road traffic accidents, there is an immediate need to take some determined action today, suggest one of the social activists. (KNS)