Our roadways to hell
A senior traffic police officer in Bengaluru said, “Reckless driving is one of the major reasons for accidents in the city.
BENGALURU: Barely halfway through the year, Karnataka has witnessed some gruesome road accidents that have caused deaths and injuries to a number of people.
Several deep-seated problems are leading to such accidents. They include the failure of regional transport offices (RTOs) to ensure a proper vetting process before issuing licences and black spots dotting our major highways and smaller roads across the state.
Major factors causing accidents
Several factors have been attributed to road accidents in the state. Belagavi Superintendent of Police Dr Sanjeev Patil said unscientific roads, speeding, violation of rules, failure to understand signages, fatigue and alcohol are the main reasons.
A senior traffic police officer in Bengaluru said, “Reckless driving is one of the major reasons for accidents in the city. The city police have registered 1,312 reckless driving/riding cases in the first five months of the year alone. Unscientific speed-breakers also contribute to accidents here, and the traffic police have identified 427 such speed-breakers. Most of them have been removed and replaced with rumble strips.”
In Kolar district, several major stretches that see a heavy flow of traffic do not have medians, causing accidents.
In Hassan, too, unscientific speed-breakers, and rash and negligent driving are major contributors to accidents. The district, however, has registered a lesser number of accidents as compared to last year, as per statistics.
In Udupi, Ambalapady and Katapady junctions have turned accident-prone because of the delay in the construction of flyovers and grade separators. Several fatal accidents have taken place in both places in the past year.
At Katapady Junction, the police have erected barricades, installed a public address system and also deputed additional staff for free flow of traffic. These steps seem to have helped as only one major accident has been reported from here.
Another stretch in Udupi that is calling for attention is in Thekkatte of Kundapur taluk. Lack of proper illumination has been causing accidents.
Udupi DC Kurma Rao M had instructed National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) officials last year to resolve all road infrastructure problems that were hindering smooth vehicular movement on National Highways 66, 169 and 169A.
The absence of a service road from Balaipade to Guddeyangadi near Udyavara on NH 66 has been pointed out by motorists, but NHAI has not paid any attention.
“In Kolar, victims are more often youth as they are more prone to flout traffic rules and ride at high speeds leading to accidents,” said senior physician Dr Rajendra Kumar. Lakshminarayana, a retired circle inspector, too said many two-wheelers are seen with more than three riders, causing accidents.
In Shivamogga, SP Mithun Kumar said rash and negligent driving, riding without wearing helmet and seatbelt, parking on roads without any signage, and drunk driving are the major factors for accidents.
SS Pasha, a retired assistant regional transport officer, said most people lack traffic awareness and have no knowledge of road safety measures. “Over 80 percent of accidents occur due to rash and negligent driving,” he said.
Issuance of driver’s license
“RTOs not following norms while issuing driving licences is one of the most important aspects leading to road accidents. Provisions under the Motor Vehicles Act are inadequate, while the enforcement of norms and rules is poor. The traffic board is deeply corrupt which invariably affects the process of issuing licences. Driving tests are a mockery. While only the manoeuvring of vehicles is noted, the driving skills of drivers are not analysed,” said Ashish Verma, professor, Transportation Systems Engineering, Convener, Department of Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Science, IISc Sustainable Transportation (IST) Lab.
A retired first division clerk of the state Transport Department said RTO officials and vehicle inspectors issue driving licenses through middlemen and owners of driving schools. “Officials never accept bribes directly from the public, but it will reach them official through proper channels by evening,” he said.
Basavaraj, a retired driver of the Revenue Department, said that most accidents occur due to lack of driving skills and road safety measures.
“Many drivers who posses good driving skills and follow traffic rules lose their lives because of rash and negligent driving of others. Vehicle inspectors should issue driving licences directly to drivers. They should not violate rules and regulations,” he added.
Many motorists said RTO officials are not serious while issuing driving licences, and a majorityo of licence-seekers depend on middlemen.
In Bengaluru, the traffic police have identified 63 black spots, of which 38 are in the Traffic East division. Some of the major roads across the city are peppered with these black spots. The stretches include Old Madras Road, Sarjapura Main Road, NICE Road, Hosur Road near Electronic City and Veerasandra Junction, Magadi Main Road and Mysuru Ring Road Junction.
“In all the black spots, the required road engineering work, curvature, traffic signal problems and enforcement issues have been addressed. Signages have been put in place and road markings made. Road engineering problems take a long time to resolve, but 63 black spots have already been rectified.
Apart from the traffic police, these traffic and road-related issues are also addressed by the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike, Bengaluru Development Authority and Public Works Departments,” said a senior traffic police officer.
The Hassan police have identified 64 black spots in the district, including in the Hirisave and Channarayapatna police limits on Bengaluru-Mangluru NH 75. Of these black spots, 18 have been fixed, 23 partially repaired, 11 under the process of being rectified and 12 not rectified.
The Kalaburagi district administration has identified nine black spots on the National Highways, 13 on state highways and two on other roads.
The highest number of 13 accidents took place on the National Highway near Avarad Cross of Jewargi taluk in 2023 in which six accidents were fatal. Also, 16 accidents took place near Mudhol Cross on the State Highway, of which five were fatal.
In Shivamogga district, as per data obtained from the police department, 31 black spots were identified.
The Yadgiri district administration too has identified seven places as black spots.
Bengaluru witnessed 1,928 accidents in the first five months of 2023. Of these, 334 proved to be fatal, in which 344 people died. In all , 1,594 non-fatal accidents were reported, and 1,678 people were injured.
The Bengaluru-Mangaluru National Highway 75, connecting Chennai and Bengaluru, and Bilekere-Biruru National Highway 373, are two major accident prone stretches in Hassan district.
In a recent accident, four people died and ten others were injured after a passenger van hit a truck near Hirisave, making it one of the deadliest accidents in 2023. Since the beginning of this year, 72 people have died, while 357 have been injured. Last year, 447 people died, while 2,087 were injured in the district.
In Koppal, close to 40 people have died in major road accidents this year. Recently, six people were killed on the spot when their speeding was involved in an accident on the Kanakageri taluk state highway.
The single-lane road between Kushtagi and Koppal has been witnessing many accidents as the stretch is narrow and drivers attempt to overtake, causing accidents.
Fatal accidents in Kalaburagi and Yadgir districts have come down between January and May-end this year, as compared to the corresponding period last year.
Kalaburagi SP Isha Pant said 137 fatal and 252 non-fatal accidents took place between January and May-end this year, in which 146 people were killed and 484 injured. The highest number of fatal accidents took place in January (30), followed by March (28), 27 each in April and May and 25 in February.
In Shivamogga district from January to May this year, 634 accidents took place in the district, of which 151 accidents were fatal and 483 non-fatal. In the corresponding period last year, 613 accidents took place, of which 150 were fatal and 463 non-fatal.
In Belagavi district, 323 people lost their lives and 1,344 persons were injured in 890 road accidents from January 1 to May 31. In 2022, 1,934 fatal and non-fatal accidents were reported in the district in which 747 persons were killed.
In Yadgiri district, 70 fatal and 116 non-fatal accidents have been reported from January till May-end this year, while 75 fatal and 128 non-fatal accidents were reported in the corresponding period last year, said Yadgir SP Vedamurthy.
What can be done
“The credibility and reliability of traffic rules is necessary. Human intervention must be decreased to the least. The use of technology and artificial intelligence should increase. No violation should be undetectable and non-penalised. The level of penalisation also should be checked,” said Prof Ashish Verma.
He said that other countries levy hefty fines and cancel licences if violations are recurring and a point system is also followed.
“The psychophysical and behavioural aspect of drivers is also an important point. Importance to the driver’s abilities must be given. The quality of vehicles and their motorisation should also be looked at,” he said.
Compulsory wearing of helmet while riding two-wheelers and seat belts while driving four-wheelers are few simple measures for safe driving, said Dr Sanjeev Patil, Superintendent of Police, Belagavi. But several people neglect such measures, which are brought to protect them in the first place, he commented.
Improper road designs
Praveenchandra Shetty, an author on road safety, listed several reasons as possible causes for road accidents in Dakshina Kannada. In his book - Mission Advanced Road Safety 2019–2024 (An Insight into Road Traffic Accidents on Indian Motorways) - he points out how improperly designed road infrastructure causes road traffic accidents and deaths. He is a member of the National Road Safety Council under the central government.
In Dakshina Kannada, traffic police put up barricades to control the speed of vehicles on state and national highways. This defeats the very purpose of the construction of highways. The highways are constructed for faster movement of goods and passenger traffic, which has a positive impact on the economy of the country, he added.
Heavy goods vehicles, especially, find it difficult to pass through these barricades which are kept on both sides of the road. These act as bottlenecks, increasing the travel time. Many roads are not up to any acceptable standard and a majority of highways don’t have service roads on both sides. This leads to motorists, especially two-wheeler riders, going in the wrong direction, causing accidents. If service roads are laid scientifically on both sides of highways, such accidents can be averted.
Almost all service roads do not have footpaths, forcing pedestrians to walk on roads. This slows down traffic and also proves dangerous for pedestrians. Roads are not marked properly that affect drivers. Instead of constructing small circles at intersections, where the diameter should be equivalent to the width of road median, the NHAI gives wide openings on dividers which are normally lesser in length than the width of approach roads.
This causes haphazard movement of vehicles that are entering highways from side roads at intersections, resulting in accidents, bodily injuries, permanent and partial disabilities or deaths. He said the district council is supposed to meet every quarter and list out black spots and study the cause of deaths there. But this has not been done, he said.
(With inputs from Praveen Kumar, Ramakrishna Badseshi, V Velayudham, Marx Tejaswi, Tushar Majukar, BR Udaya Kumar, Kiran Balannanavar, Prakash Samaga and Divya Cutinho)