Reported by Arjun Biswal
Bhubaneswar, June 16:
With the deadline of June 30 set by the Road Safety Committee (RSC) constituted by the Supreme Court to check lax enforcement of road laws and enforcement of 13 directives by the states nearing, Regional Transport Officers (RTOs) of the state government have identified 214 ‘black spots’ (where accidents are frequent) in Odisha.
A majority of the ‘black spots’ identified are on the national highways passing through the state.
Currently, about 4,000 precious lives are lost to road accidents every year in the state. Out of them, a staggering 2,800 are lost in accidents at these ‘black spots’.
Three months back, a newly wed couple and five of their relatives were killed at a ‘black spot’ at Churiberna near Lathikata on NH 143 in a head on collision with a dumper. Earlier, 25 precious lives were lost at the same ‘black spot’.
There are several such ‘black spots’ in Odisha. The stretches between Meramundali-Redhakhol, Khallikote –Girisola, Jharsuguda-Sambalpur, Baramunda-Khurda, Pipili-Samantrapur, Bhasma-Baragan, Koraput-Jeypore and Vedvyas-Sundargarh have been identified as the most accident-prone. Black spots have been identified in these sections of the roads. More than 100 accidents take place on these roads in a year.
Similarly, some stretches of the Cuttack-Paradip road have been identified as black spots. In the last four years, more than 900 accidents have taken place on this road claiming at least 230 human lives during the period.
While Angul RTO has identified 28 black spots, Bhubaneswar has identified 7, Cuttack 5, Ganjam 6, Kalahandi 5 and Mayurbhanj 8. At least ten lives are lost at these black spots each year.
In Dhenkanal district, a 23-km stretch on National Highway 53 and 55 is the most accident prone. This includes Jhargadia –Kauripal road where more than 20 accidental deaths occur every year.
Besides, more than 100 have died in road accidents on the National Highway passing through Brahmapur city. At least 100 accidental deaths are reported every year on the roads between Kalpana Sqaure-Uttara and Rasulgarh-Khurda in Bhubaneswar has been identified as ‘black spots’.
As per the guidelines and advisory issued by the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways for identification of black spots, any place where more than ten accidents take place within a year are classified as ‘black spots’.
In order to curb occurrence of mishaps in these spots, the state government has planned a slew of measures which include speed control of vehicles, putting up cautionary signage, renovation of roads, speed breakers and renovation of crossings.
National Highways are considered as fundamental to development, but they have turned out to be a curse in Odisha with most of the ‘black spots’ located on them.
While National Highways constitute only 2% of the total road length in the state, it accounts for 45% of the tragic road mishaps in the state.
The districts of Sundargarh, Khurda, Keonjhar, Mayurbhanj, Sambalpur, Jharsuguda and Angul account for most of the road mishaps in the state. The state government, in its awareness drive against road accidents, has limited its role to mere observance of road safety week.
According government reports, 70% of the mishaps occur due to mistakes by the drivers. While more than 50,000 road mishaps took place between 2009 and 2014, licenses of 213 drivers have been cancelled.
A move to constitute a coordination committee with departments of Education, Health, Transport and Works in it has remained at the proposal level. Drivers driving under intoxication, use of mobile phones during driving, speed driving, transportation of passengers and freight in excess of the allowed capacity and bad roads are the other reasons for mishaps. The Transport department is lacking in staff to monitor these.
Taking into consideration the number of vehicles, the rate of deaths due to road accidents in Odisha is two and a half times higher in comparison to Kerala and Punjab and 12 times more in comparison to Delhi.
“Out of accidents occurring on black spots, 70% are fatal,” said Sanjay Behera, RTO Bhubaneswar.
The RSC was formed by the Supreme Court on April 22, 2014, on a public interest litigation petition to monitor implementation of road safety laws. Former Supreme Court judge K S Radhakrishnan heads the RSC.
The RSC has submitted three reports to the court from last October to March. The panel had pointed out serious lapses by the states in the implementation of safety laws, leading to a rise in number of road fatalities — 1,37,572 people were killed in accidents in 2013, going by Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways statistics.
The RSC had directed that every state government has to formulate a road safety policy and set up a road safety council by June 30.
The states have to draw up a protocol to identify “black spots” (where accidents are frequent) on roads and remove them.
The RSC’s 13 directives include removal of roadside advertisements and posters that obstruct the view of drivers or distract them and a ban on sale of liquor on National and State highways.
With just one per cent of the vehicles in the world, India accounts for a “staggering” 10 per cent of deaths related to road accidents.