Dicey roads in the land of Gods, Himachal Pradesh have turned ‘killer’ as over 1,000 persons reportedly lose their lives in road accidents in the hill state on an average annually, often for similar reasons.
The bus accident, which claimed 45 lives on Wednesday in remote Nerwa belt of Shimla district, is just another eye opener for the state government to address road safety with a sense of urgency.
The state is witness to over 3,000 road accidents every year.
Bad roads in the tough terrain, negligent or drunken driving, over speeding, unchecked plying of old buses and absence of highway policing, all these are identified factors repeatedly making up for accidents in Himachal Pradesh.
However, the government allegedly satisfies itself by ordering inquiries into the cause of accidents every time, only to forget them later, with no long term action coming forth.
The bus accidents are a major cause of worry in the state, as they lead to very high number of causalities in one go. (The state has seen bus accidents with even more than 50 casualties in the past). The death rate in road accidents in the state is on the higher side in the country.
Himachal generally has narrow roads negotiating with the hills, with rivers or local khads flowing at a depth. The chance of survival is very less whenever a bus plunges into the steep gorge, rolling down with speed.
The absence of crash barriers aside roads in Himachal Pradesh, even on tough stretches, makes it all the more inevitable.
Himchal Pradesh government has a fleet of 3200 state run buses under Himachal Road Transport Corporation and around 2000 private buses.
In many cases, the private buses, which are in a hurry to lift as many passengers on way, meet accidents, with over speeding and overcrowding the main factors. In interior belts of Himachal, where the private operators don’t go, even the HRTC buses are overcrowded for lesser availability of public transport. Many accidents involve tourist buses coming to the in summers as the outside drivers are unable to catch up with hill driving.
As per sources, over 350 black spots were identified across the state where accidents occur frequently, but they continue to be so for lack of coordination between state government departments.
“The key word for driving in hilly terrain of Himachal is caution. The risk factors for accident are negligent driving and to an extent maintenance of roads in HP,” said Transport minister, GS Bali. He said the department will go for road safety audit to pinpoint areas.
Bali, who is in the Group of Ministers from hilly states on road safety, said, “The state needs crash barriers not only on highways, but inner roads also, which link the tough and remote areas. The Centre must help us with this.”