Attesting to the notoriety of the 300-odd kilometres road, the Srinagar-Jammu highway — the only major road link connecting Kashmir to rest of the world — has reported over 8,000 road accidents in the last ten years that caused nearly 1,800 fatalities, official data have revealed.
As per the data compiled by the J&K Traffic Police Department and District Police Ramban accessed by Greater Kashmir, the Srinagar-Jammu highway reported a total of 8,128 accidents between 2010 to 2020 that led to 1,750 deaths and 12,131 injuries.
The treacherous stretch from Banihal to Chanderkote in particular has been the most fatal witnessing 858 deaths as per the data.
Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) J&K Traffic, T Namgyal attributed the highway accidents to the increasing volume of traffic on the highway and the rocky terrain of the road, saying it would take three to four years to “stabilize” the highway.
“Until then authorities can do very little to prevent fatal accidents especially on the treacherous stretch from Banihal to Chanderkote,” the ADGP told Greater Kashmir.
Namgyal further argued that the vulnerability of the highway often leads to vehicles being stranded for a couple or more days, “which exhausts the drivers and they often meet accidents when sleep overtakes them.”
Asked why authorities did not install crash barriers and reflectors as preventive measures, Namgyal said the installations were not possible in view of the continuous blasting of mountains and tunneling going on along the highway.
Until the highway was stabilized, he urged travelers to follow the advisories strictly for now to reduce the flow of vehicles on the highway and prevent massive traffic jams.
“People don’t follow the traffic advisory seriously, which is the main reason why there is a massive grid-lock on the highway, leading to overtaking on the stretch that is already too dangerous for one way traffic, hence leading to accidents,” he said.
He advised people to avoid travelling on the highway at night in view of the shooting stones from mountains which may not be visible during night hours.
As per Junaid Nazir, a road safety expert and a RTI activist, “a lot of bad engineering and unnecessary barricades” on the highway were “major contributors” for causing the accidents.
“There are not enough ‘super elevations’ on the curves leading to the ‘un-banking roads’, hence turns on this highway are too much vulnerable,” he said.
Junaid said that the measures should have been taken before four laning of the highway was started in order to prevent the accidents.
“Unfortunately, only a little was done that too after the damage had been done,” he alleged.