On July 8, 29 people died in a tragic accident after their bus veered off the Yamuna Expressway and plunged into a deep drain. The double-decker bus had 50 passengers on board and was on its way to Delhi from Lucknow when it suddenly hit a divider. This sent the vehicle down a 40-feet-deep gap between two flyovers on the Yamuna Expressway at 4:15 am.
"The bus was speeding and the driver may have dozed off," said Ravi Kumar, District Magistrate, Agra. The 17 injured have been taken to a hospital, and the Uttar Pradesh Roadways has announced Rs.5 lakh compensation for the families of those who died in the accident. According to the police, the scene outside the mortuary was woeful--weeping relatives crowded the area frantically waving around pictures of their loved ones, waiting for them to be identified.
This wasn’t the first accident on the Delhi-Yamuna Expressway. The six-lane 165-km expressway, linking Delhi to Agra, is frequently on the news owing to recurring accidents, most of them due to over speeding or drivers dozing off behind the wheel. According to the Press Trust of India, road safety experts have often warned travellers about the dangers of over speeding on the expressway, especially during the wee hours of the morning.
As per data accessed by NGO SaveLIFE Foundation through an RTI, the killer expressway has already claimed 77 lives this year alone. The date further revealed that since its opening in August 2012, a total of 703 people died in 4,880 accidents until January this year. Unfortunately, the Delhi-Yamuna Expressway isn’t the only killer road corridor in India.
As a signatory to the World Health Organisation’s Brasilia Declaration on Road Safety, India has pledged to reduce road accidents and traffic fatalities by 50% by 2022. According to a report by the International Road Federation (IRF), a Geneva-based global body working worldwide for safer roads, about 1.47 lakh people get killed in road accidents in India every year. The report further stated that India accounts for over 11% of global road accident fatalities.
In 2018, around 1.49 lakh people lost their lives to road accidents. While the state of Uttar Pradesh registered the maximum spike in fatalities, Tamil Nadu recorded the maximum decline in road deaths. The most common reasons behind such accidents can be narrowed down to: poor maintenance of roads, overspeeding, overloading of vehicles (passengers or goods), driving under the influence of alcohol or other substances and passengers failing to wear helmets (in the case of two-wheelers).
(Pictured above: Authorities try to rescue the injured and recover bodies from the bus after it fell off the Yamuna Expressway)
The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has identified what it calls ‘black spots’ on India’s highways-- a stretch of about 500 metres in which either five road accidents or ten fatalities took place over the last three years. An NHAI report stated that 800 such ‘black spots’ have been identified across the country.
While India might have a well-connected highway system, driving on them is nothing short of a nightmare. A report by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways Research Wing stated that in the year 2015, there were 1,20,518 accidents on state highways while 1,42,268 on national highways. Another 2015 report by the PRS revealed that while state and national highways in India comprise only 5% of the total road networks in the country, they witness 52% of the total road accidents. Here’s a list of the deadliest highways in India:
This highway is considered the deadliest of all highways owing to the alarming number of black spots that fall on it (59). Stretched across 1,465 km, it is also the busiest National Highway and runs through Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, and West Bengal.
A total of 45 black spots fall on this highway running over 1,428 km, making it the second most dangerous in the country. However, the Delhi-Jaipur highway, which falls under NH8, is also considered an extremely dangerous corridor, with an average of 191 deaths annually between 2010 and 2015 on this 230 km stretch.
With 38 black spots, this 723 km-long highway that connects the northern part of the country to the south, is the third deadliest. Because of its high fatality rate, one village along this road in southern India is notoriously called “Peddakunta” which translates to ‘village of widows.’ As of 2015, 37 men died trying to get to the other side of the road in a village of 35 families.
Running over 1,235 km, a total of 27 black spots fall on this corridor, and speeding has been found to be the leading cause of crashes on this highway.
Twenty-four black spots fall on National Highway 45, earning it the title of the fifth most dangerous highway in the country. Around 68 villages are located along this 280 km highway, and owing to the lack of a foot-over bridge, many have lost their lives while trying to cross it.
With 1.49 lakh deaths reported last year, India is nowhere close to the IRF target of reducing road accident fatalities by 50% by 2020. On July 11, Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari announced in Lok Sabha a Rs 14,000 crore project to work on identifying black spots and plug gaps in highways to reduce casualties.
"It is a highly sensitive subject for our government. Despite our efforts, the success rate to reduce road accidents is not good. We have prepared a Rs 14,000 crore project to identify accident black spots so that loopholes can be plugged. The Ministry of Finance has given its in-principle approval to it," he said during Question Hour.
The Ministry of Road Transport & Highways holds the ‘National Road Safety Week’ every January to sensitise and educate citizens on the issue of road safety. During this week, most state governments roll out extensive campaigns that include activities like increased checks for speeding and drink-driving by the traffic police, training sessions for professionals who drive for a living, and awareness seminars at schools and colleges.
So the next time you decide to take a road trip, here are some pointers you should keep in mind: make sure your vehicle is serviced and in top condition, stick to the speed limit at all costs, never drive under the influence, make sure all passengers are buckled in and carry a first aid kit for emergencies.
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