National and state highways have become deadly dangerous. According to NHAI data, Karnataka has 408 'black spots' -- locations where accidents regularly take place are referred to as 'black spots' -- and ranks third after Tamil Nadu (496) and West Bengal (450).
While NHAI is said to have rectified 61 per cent of the black spots on national highways across India, the onus lies on motorists to ensure that accidents do not occur. Unfortunately, the blame for accidents on highways is squarely and wholly placed on government agencies.
It is common to see motorists violate speed limits, which are generally 80km/hour, but some highways allow even 100km/hour. However, it is not merely exceeding speed limits which is dangerous, it is the manner in which vehicles change lanes, swerving in and out, which pose a threat to other motorists trying to keep within the prescribed speed limits.
Careless and rash driving on the part of motorists, lured by smooth, broad roads to reach their destinations faster, is only compounded by a lack of effective enforcement, and penalising motorists resorting to violations on highways.
Not surprisingly, in December 2021, Parliament was informed that India’s national highways have witnessed a total of 1,16,496 accidents with 47,984 fatalities in 2020 alone.
In the same year, Karnataka saw 3,330 deaths on its national highways, 2,899 fatalities on state highways and 3,531 deaths on other roads. Up to April 2022, national highways in the state reported 1,356 deaths, while state highways reported 1,067 deaths.
As per Ministry of Road Transport & Highways data, the total length of National Highways in Karnataka - including in-principle NHs - is 13,565km. The state has a good road network with 14 national highways and 115 state highways, totalling a length of 28,311 km.
Highways are an extremely active component of transportation across the country. National highways constitute just about 2 per cent of the total road network in the country, but carry 40 per cent of goods and passengers.
Of the total NH length, 32 per cent is single lane/intermediate lane, 56 per cent is 2-lane standard and the balance of 12 per cent is 4-lane standard or more.
GOOD ROAD BUT TWO LANES
The 32-km stretch of Hubballi-Dharwad Bypass Link on NH-48 may be a classic example to study why accidents on highways occur despite improving the quality of roads. It is considered one of the deadliest roads in the country, not because of treacherous terrain, but because it is well-asphalted and smooth.
Drivers armed with powerful vehicles are today breaking speed limits and resorting to rash and negligent driving. To make it worse, it is a two-lane way - the only stretch on the 2,807-km long NH-48 (from Delhi to Tamil Nadu, passing through Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Karnataka) to have turned into a two-lane segment.
The Chennai-Mangaluru NH-75 running through Bengaluru turns into a death trap in Hassan district as over 8 per cent of accidents occur at black spots along different parts of the stretch.
Hiresave, Shettihalli, Udayapura, Kenchattahalli and Marnahalli junctions on the stretch, Kalkere cross on Hassan-Belur road, Honnavalli between Arasikere and Tiptur road, have been identified as dangerous spots. NH-75 passes through village limits, where local people crossing the highway by foot or on a two-wheeler often cause accidents.
Likewise, major black spots in Shivamogga district include Shankar Mutt Circle to Holehonnur Cross Circle, Vidyanagara Matturu Cross in Shivamogga city and Prajwal Show Room to Agrahara Circle in Sagar town.
At least nine persons have died in road accidents at Uchila Junction on NH-66 in Udupi district, since 2019. This junction on the highway appears to have turned fatal for motorists due to a diversion that was opened towards Paniyoor. It is also believed that slow progress of the service road near Uchila Junction is contributing to a rise in road mishaps.
Padubidri police station sub-inspector Ashok Kumar says that implementation of traffic signals is not possible as it is a National Highway stretch.
"As a temporary measure, we have placed barricades to reduce the speed of vehicles passing through the junction. Police staff will be deputed to make sure traffic flow is regulated here," he adds.
Local people believe that once the service road is completed, the issue may get resolved. Vehicles are seen moving in the opposite direction on the NH to save on some fuel, however, it is costing human lives.
What is playing out on these highways is common on stretches (national and state) across Karnataka. Shivamogga SP BM Laxmi Prasad says there is a need to follow traffic rules strictly to avoid or minimise accidents.
He says a series of accidents at the same spots are monitored by a road safety committee. The local inspector, RTO officials and authorities from highways conduct site surveys based on accident reports at the same spots, and rectify the issues.
Along with these, barricades are placed at black spots as a preventive measure to avoid accidents due to overspeeding. "Motorists and commuters too have to be aware of such signs and follow rules accordingly," he says.
BLACK SPOTS ON OUR HIGHWAYS
Wagdhari-Ribbanpally highway passing through several villages of Aland taluk, Ram Mandir Circle and Kharge Petrol Bunk Circle in Kalaburagi district. The stretch has reported many deaths as the highway is narrow and lacks sufficient road humps and signboards
Solapur-Bengaluru NH and Humnabad-Srirangapatna highway pass through Ram Mandir Circle which is close to Kalaburagi. With two highways passing through, accidents take place almost every day
Roads to reach Kodagu are curvy and accidents are often reported on NH-275, connecting Bengaluru to Mangaluru via Mysuru and Madikeri
Boikeri curve (near Madikeri) on NH-275 is an age-old accident spot. Truck accidents here are common and there is no available scientific solution to control accidents on this deep curving road
Thamballi Gate on NH-75 Bengaluru-Chennai Highway is an accident spot as there is no service road here
Inputs from: Chetan MG/Bengaluru; Udaya Kumar BR/Hassan; Arpitha I/Shivamogga; Ramkrishna Badseshi/Kalaburagi; Prajna GR/Madikeri; Tushar Majukar/Belagavi; Divya Cutinho/Mangaluru; Prakash Samaga/Udupi and V Velayudham/Kolar