The capital’s roads claimed their 668th victim — Union Rural Development Minister Gopinath Munde — this year after he died following a car accident in Central Delhi on Tuesday. With the vehicle population bursting at the seams and a short-staffed Traffic Police force struggling to cope, Munde’s death only underscores what figures have always shown; that Delhi’s roads are the most dangerous in the country.
Consider this. According to figures compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), road fatalities in Delhi in 2012 are higher than those in Bangalore and Mumbai combined. Records show that in 2012 Delhi recorded 1,527 deaths as compared to 725 in Bangalore and 694 in Mumbai.
And for two years before this, the numbers were even higher — 1,757 in 2010 and 1,679 in 2011. On Tuesday morning, Munde’s car was allegedly hit from the side by a car driven by Gurvinder Singh, who ostensibly jumped a red light.
Singh too, is now part of Delhi’s frightening traffic statistic. Until May 15 this year, the Delhi Traffic Police had booked 3,29,000 vehicles for jumping red lights alone and in all, police have booked 15,85,000 traffic violators. In 2013, this figure was 40,50,000.
Traffic experts and the Delhi Police pin the blame on the inordinate number of vehicles in Delhi, which is estimated at over 85 lakh.
“This, coupled with an under-staffed traffic force and poor ‘traffic sense’ among drivers make Delhi roads very dangerous,” Nishi Mittal, former head of department, Traffic Engineering and Safety, CSIR-Central Road Research Institute, said.
Mittal believes Delhi’s wide roads, with long stretches between signals, were one of the reasons for the high fatality rate. “There is nothing to regulate speed like speed-breakers or rumble strips on Delhi’s long flyovers and arterial roads. Pedestrians are forced to walk on the road as no footpaths are available,” Mittal said.
“Police do their best in a city known for VIP movement, dharnas and rallies. But their strength has to be increased ,” she said. Special Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Taj Hassan, echoed Mittal’s sentiment. “The force is short-staffed, but most officers pull extra duty to make up for it. In fact, if you look at the figures, fatalities in Delhi have been reducing steadily over the last five years. Police are now very strict with traffic offenders and heavy fines are imposed,” he said.