J&K among top two states in road accidents

Jammu and Kashmir ranks second across India in the tally of road accidents per 10,000 vehicles with an average of over 900 deaths every year in the last five years, according to the union ministry of road transport and highways.
Representational Pic
Representational Pic

Jammu and Kashmir ranks second across India in the tally of road accidents per 10,000 vehicles with an average of over 900 deaths every year in the last five years, according to the union ministry of road transport and highways. 

Sikkim and Madhya Pradesh are the two other states with the highest number of road accidents.

The average number of deaths in a year has been over 900 in the state during last 5 years. Last year 926 persons have died in over 5,000 road mishaps across the state. 

Year 2016 witnessed 958 deaths in road accidents, while 917 people have died in 2015. During 2014 and 2013 the number stood at 992 and 990 respectively. 

Experts blame the growing road accidents on the sharp increase in number of vehicles plying in the state. 

"In terms of the total number of road accidents per 10,000 vehicles 63.3 per cent accidents were witnessed in 2013. There were marked improvements in this number in the year 2014 with accidents coming down to 51.7 per cent but the state continued to rank 2nd in the country," a ministry report states. 

In 2016 the ratio declined further to 46.9 per cent, putting the state at the 3rd rank the highest accident rate. 

"Yet even with the reduction in the number of accidents, Jammu and Kashmir maintained its spot in the top 3 states with most accidents per 10,000 vehicles. It has once again climbed up to rank 2 last year (2017)," the report says.

According to official figures 1,63,849 vehicles came on to the roads of J&K last year. In 2016 only 1,12,776 were registered which includes 35,822 motorbikes and 67,117 cars. 

The alarmingly high ratio of accidents in J&K corresponds to a rapid increase in registration of cars in the state. 

According to automotive industry estimates, two-wheelers including bikes and scooty sales grew by a whopping 70 percent during 2017 and 2018. 

Figures available with the regional transport office (RTO) Kashmir, more than 45,000 computerised driving licenses were issued in 2017-18 while in 2016-17 , despite the civil unrest in Kashmir valley 28,500 new driving licenses were issued. 

"The number of road accidents with respect to total stretches of roads in the state has also been steadily rising. Total number of road accidents per 10,000 kilometers of roads is on the rise in Jammu and Kashmir which is climbing up the ladder each year," says the report of the union ministry.

Transport authorities in the state also blame hilly terrain for the high ratio of accidents and fatalities.

"The terrain is one of the factors for a higher number of accidents. We witness accidents in hilly areas where rate of fatalities is quite high, but the main problem is lack of enforcement staff. Motor Vehicle department faces a huge manpower crunch especially enforcement officers" State Transport Commissioner, Saugat Biswas said. 

"We try doing workshops in schools and making people aware about road safety but still rash driving on highways, not wearing helmets and seatbelts increase the risk factor."

However, the union surface transport ministry report contradicts this argument. 

Nation-wide statistics indicate that other hilly states do not register such a high rate of accidents.Neighboring Himachal Pradesh does not make it even in the top ten list while Sikkim does. 

Among the top ten ranking are Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka which are not hilly states.

Jammu and Kashmir ranked 13th in 2013, then 10th in 2014 and finally, 9th in 2015. 

The actual figures show 1447.9 accidents per 10,000 km of road in the year 2013. The number increased to 1498.7 in 2014, pushing the state's ranking down. 

But in the year 2015, while the number of accidents reduced to 1492.7, Jammu and Kashmir still ranked among the top ten states with the highest number of accidents per 10,000 kms of road, the report says.

The state also maintained its position in the top ten states with the number of accidents per lakh population throughout the years 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. 

It stood 9th on the list with 53.8 per cent accidents in 2013. 

The rank remained the same in the year 2014 even when the number of accidents dropped to 48.2 per cent. 

In the year 2015 as well, Jammu and Kashmir remained on the 9th spot with 47.5 per cent accidents. In the year 2016, the number of road accidents per lakh population reduced to 44.3 but the consistent ranking of number 9 didn't change. 

Basant Rath, inspector general of police for traffic says lack of law enforcement needs to be addressed. 

"There are no more than 550 traffic police officers in Kashmir and only 600 in Jammu. The fines are also low and despite so many road accidents, there is no accountability," Rath said.

Commenting on the Road Safety Bill that was presented in the Legislative Assembly to provide for the constitution of State Road Safety Council and the establishment of Road Safety Fund in February 2018, Rath said, "That will only make a difference provided there is implementation and an improvement in the enforcement of the legislation."

Transporters blamed the overall lack and quality of road of infrastructure for the rising accidents ration in the state. 

Haji Muhammad Yusuf, general secretary of All Kashmir Transport Welfare Association said some roads exist only on paper or are marred by low quality of road engineering. 

"The number of overall buses plying in rural areas is quite low and the percentage of such buses which are more than 20 years old is also quite high. The dilapidated state of buses also account for high number of accidents while their shortage in number leads to overcrowding, thus risking the lives of more people," Yusuf said.

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