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Fast and Furious: Tamil Nadu Road Saga

With nearly 1,000 lives lost and over 5,000 injured in 2021, the Tamil Nadu capital tops several undesirable lists in terms of road accidents. Among the states, TN ranked first in terms of deaths per capita.

With nearly 1,000 lives lost and over 5,000 injured in 2021, the Tamil Nadu capital tops several undesirable lists in terms of road accidents. Among the states, TN ranked first in terms of deaths per capita.

Last year nine hundred and ninety nine people lost their lives in road accidents in Chennai. Half of them died before the age of 45. More than 80% of them were male. Half of the victims were traveling on two-wheelers, of which more than 90% were speeding or reckless driving, leading to their deaths. One in five accidents happen late in the evening from 6 pm to 9 pm and they have declined due to the closure of schools and colleges in the summer month of May.

Generally, the victim of a road accident in Chennai is a middle-aged male who travels on a two-wheeler and drives recklessly or overtakes or speeds up, mostly during the late evening hours. The findings were drawn from data from the National Crime Records Bureau’s Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India (ADSI) 2021 report.

The city witnessed 5,034 road accidents in 2021, the highest among 53 metropolitan cities with a population of 1 million or more by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). The number of accidents was 500 more than Delhi and 1,800 more than Bengaluru, the other cities in the top three list. In these accidents, 5,020 people were injured – the highest among all cities – and nearly 1,200 more than Delhi and 2,200 more than Bengaluru’s injured list. However, Delhi-related 1,172 deaths were slightly higher than Chennai’s 998 – second on the list.

According to Chennai City Additional Commissioner of Police, Traffic, Kapil Kumar C. Sharatkar, while the number of road accidents in Chennai “increased slightly in 2021”, there has been a 20% decline in 2022. “Till August-end of last year, there were 388 road accident deaths; In the same period of this year, it came down to 333. Our death and serious injury rate has come down,” he said. The numbers for 2022 have not yet been published by the NCRB. , and it will appear in an upcoming version of the ADSI report.

Age-wise division of road accident victims was not provided by NCRB, but the document has such details for all accident victims. Since road accidents account for 70% of all accidents in Chennai, the pattern is not likely to change much.

In other major cities of the state such as Coimbatore (866 accidents and 234 related deaths in 2021), Madurai (618 accidents and 154 deaths) and Tiruchi (399 accidents and 130 deaths), Tamil Nadu tops the list of states with the most number of roads. Accidents last year With 55,682 road accidents in 2021, the state’s count was over 7,000 more than Madhya Pradesh and 21,000 more than Karnataka, the other states in the top three list.

In Tamil Nadu, 55,996 people were injured in road accidents, the highest among all states, and 15,384 people died, slightly less than Uttar Pradesh’s 21,792. However, Tamil Nadu tops the chart in terms of per capita road accident deaths (victims per 1 lakh population), 20.1 deaths for every 1 lakh people.

pandemic effect

Notably, the number of road accidents and related deaths and injuries was below pre-pandemic levels in both the state and the city. The number of accidents in the state ranged from 60,000 to 70,000 in the years before the COVID-19 pandemic, and the death toll was also higher in most years. Similarly, the number of deaths in Chennai consistently crossed the 1,000-mark in the years before the pandemic. However, both in the state and the city, the numbers in 2021 were much higher than the levels recorded in 2020, when there was a reduction in accidents with the imposition of restrictions to curb the pandemic.

design flaw

According to the NCRB, about 64% of the accidents in Tamil Nadu occurred on national and state highways in 2021. And according to the State Crime Records Bureau, about 20% of them happened at road junctions. There are about 2,200 junctions on national highways in the state.

read also , data | In 2021, more than one and a half lakh died in road accidents, the highest speed on two wheelers were youths driving vehicles.

An official associated with the Tamil Nadu government’s Special Task Force on Road Safety (STF-RS) said there are three key rules for the design of junctions. The first is line of sight – drivers need to be able to see each other well before braking distance. The second is the merging angle – the angle at which a vehicle from a side road joins the highway. Third, merging speed – both vehicles must meet at a safe speed, which is achievable with designs that slow down the vehicles. Unfortunately, these facilities are missing at most of the junctions and hence the police use barricades, the officer lamented.

According to SCRB, 10% of accidents occur on curved sections. The Indian Road Congress Code mandates a safe curvature angle (to ensure safe centrifugal force when turning) and proper super-elevation (to counter centrifugal force) in such curved sections. Another STF-RS official said that pucca shoulders (the concrete part of the road after the white markings on the sides) and mud shoulders (the space just after the concrete part of the road) are essential for the roads; Otherwise, vehicles may move off the roads even with minor deviations.

The recent fatal accidents at Anjali Round Junction in Dindigul and Gandhipuram flyover in Coimbatore were attributed to shortcomings in the design. At present, security features like rumble strips, transverse marking and road studs have been added at these two places, a police official said.

When the width of the state highway was increased from 5.5 meters to 7.5 metres, trees planted beyond the road boundaries also became a matter of concern. Identification of such strategically placed spots and reflectors will prevent accidents.

shortage of manpower

While the number of vehicles and the length of roads have increased over the years, the workforce of the traffic police has not increased. In particular, outside city limits, traffic policemen are few and far between, so the police in charge of law and order is burdened with additional responsibility.

A Road Safety Authority (RSA), for which the STF-RS is preparing the draft law, is trying to address the manpower shortage. The RSA will be a statutory body consisting of IAS and IPS officers and officers from the Transport, Highways and Health departments. It will strategize and monitor the implementation of road safety schemes across the state.

equipment and processes

Vineet Dev Wankhede, Additional Director General of Police, SCRB and Chairman of STF-RS, said, “We are of the view that we should devise tools and procedures that help officers supervise road safety effectively in the shortest possible time. The RSA has to assist the field officers. We need to formulate strategy and tactics scientifically with maximum focus on preventing fatalities.”

“We have recently entered into an MoU with Center for Excellence on Road Safety (CoERS), IIT Madras to develop and document such strategies. We have listed 10 key enforcement areas such as speeding, drunk driving, underage driving, rash/exciting driving, helmet violation, highway hypnosis/driver fatigue, signal jumping, wrong direction driving , parking on highways and pedestrian/animal crossings. We are hopeful that the first edition of the Blue Book on Scientific Enforcement will be ready in a few months,” Mr Wankhede said.

a scientific study

KP Subramaniam, former professor of urban engineering at Anna University, said scientific investigations by interdisciplinary teams are the way to identify the real causes of accidents. “The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019 has several positive provisions to take strict action against traffic violations and to make the quality of roads and motor vehicles accountable for accidents. However, Tamil Nadu has yet to implement those provisions. Also, there is a lack of transparency and accountability in the absence of widespread application of the Intelligence Transport Enforcement System,” said Mr. Subramaniam.

Mr. Wankhede said that a recent field survey at the police station level has described a “top-down approach” as a major impediment towards road safety. “Road safety is not a complicated science. Users and officials on the ground have a clear understanding of the causes of accidents at local hotspots and which solution will work best,” he said.

Acknowledging this fact, Mr Wankhede said, the field survey teams included a head constable, a sub-inspector who had knowledge of accident sites, a road inspector from the highways department, a village administrative officer/municipality ward officer and A team was involved. Civil engineering department of a local college.

He said that these teams have completed the task and have identified 4,334 hotspots in the state through the field survey app. There are about 1,575 on national highways, 1,511 on state highways and about 900 on major district roads. The team suggested some short-term engineering solutions.

Presently, the Assistant Engineers are assessing the suggestions and based on their inputs, short term plans will be made and implemented in the next few months.

Prior to the field survey, the STF-RS team collected the location data of the highest number of accidents in the last few years. The data was fed into a portal developed by the Tamil Nadu e-Governance Agency. These were used by survey teams to identify hotspots. “These data will soon be linked to the integrated road accident database. And also, we will soon launch a road safety mobile application, which will collect suggestions from users. They will be posted on the road safety portal,” Mr Wankhede said.

bus accidents increase

Bus accidents in the state have almost doubled from 1,289 in the financial year 2020-21 to 2,339 in 2021-22, a senior Tamil Nadu transport department official said.

The official attributed this to the increase in the distance covered by buses from 13 lakh km in 2020-21 to 22 lakh km in 2021-22. There was a significant difference in the previous year due to restrictions on movement due to the pandemic.

The number of fatal accidents involving eight state transport corporations has risen to 705, accounting for 762 deaths out of 343 accidents in 2021-22, leading to 381 deaths in 2020-21. However, both the figures were significantly lower than in 2019-20 (the period before the pandemic), when 969 people died in 867 accidents.

The official said sensitization programs were conducted for the bus crew after the pandemic restrictions were lifted. Programs are conducted through safety offices disseminating prepared Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for road safety through a series of exercises and demonstrations to prevent road accidents.

The Chennai Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (CUMTA), which was mooted a decade ago, is taking shape with the state government appointing I. Jayakumar as a special officer. Mr Jayakumar said that once the Assembly passes the law, the authority will start functioning and coordinate with government departments to take road safety measures. He said Transport and Road Safety Commissioner L. A sub-committee has been constituted under the chairmanship of Nirmal Raj, and a meeting was convened in the last week of August to work out the modalities for creating a road safety cell for the purpose. audit.

, R. With inputs from Srikanth; Data compiled by Rebecca Rose Vergara,

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