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Posted at: Apr 15, 2018, 1:23 AM; last updated: Apr 15, 2018, 2:04 AM (IST)

Killer stretch in Himachal ‘not accident-prone’

Bhanu P Lohumi in Shimla
The April 9 accident resulting in the death of 23 children near Nurpur is a dreadful reminder of countless such ‘black spots’ across the state. What is lacking is traffic regulation and adherence to SC guidelines
Killer stretch in Himachal ‘not accident-prone’
The remains of the school bus near Nurpur in Kangra District. AFP
Bhanu P Lohumi in Shimla

It was a pleasant Monday afternoon for school kids of Ram Singh Pathania Memorial School who were returning home. Then, hell broke loose as the school bus carrying them plunged into a deep gorge at Nurpur-Chamba road, killing 23 children on April 9. There were 38 people aboard bus. Eleven children survived with serious injuries. It was the first day for seven kids to the school. 

Initial reports — a magisterial probe is yet to come — said the accident took place as the 67-year-old driver, Madan Lal, tried to save a speeding motorcyclist coming from the opposite side. The bus skidded off at a stretch where a truck had rolled down into Chakki Khud a few days ago. There are no barricades or parapets along the poorly maintained road. The accident spot is not identified among 682 ‘black spots’ across the state by 108 National Ambulance Service (NAS) last year. 

The NAS data also lists 239 accidents in highly accident-prone spots in the state, where on an average, 27 accidents take place every day, mostly on Sundays. Plus 11,503 km of tarred and un-tarred rural stretches have been identified as being in a poor or very poor condition.

The state police department data says 1,096 people lost their lives in 3,015 accidents in 2015. The figures for the next year: 1,271 dead in 3,168 accidents. Last year 1,203 people died in 3,114 accidents. The number of the injured was 5239, 5,764 and 5452 respectively in the past three years. In the last two months of the current year, 168 persons have died as 750 injured in 456 accidents.

Maximum accidents took place in Kangra district followed by Shimla and Mandi. Most accidents occurred in the evening and night.

Some of the highly accident-prone stretches in the state include Bajroli Pul near Theog, Kainchi Mod near Narkanda in Shimla district, Aut Tunnel in Mandi, Urni Dhank in Kinnaur, Pakka Tilla, Ranchi Mod and Raja Ka Bagh near Mau Fort in Kangra and Dhaulan Kaun in Sirmaur. The Himachal police had given a list of 90 black spots on National Highway to Public Work department and 56 of the stretches have been taken up for repairs. 

The Supreme Court has issued guidelines for children’s safety. One is that a school bus should be painted yellow and ‘school bus’ written in front and back of taxis ferrying kids. Another is that a bus should be fitted with speed governors and horizontal grills, the vehicle should carry a first-aid box, fire extinguisher, sufficient space for keeping school bags. A school bus should also paint the name of the school and its telephone number. The driver should have at least five years’ experience of driving heavy vehicles. Any driver fined for overspeeding, drunk and dangerous driving even once cannot be appointed. 

But these directives are not strictly enforced, though post Nurpur accident, the Chief Minister has issued fresh directions to follow the guidelines.

Human error, bad condition of roads and traffic violations are responsible for such accidents. “Roadside construction works and absence of reflectors are also responsible for accidents,” says Dr Rohit Baluja, president, Institute of Road Traffic Education, and also director of College of Traffic Management, Faridabad. 

He says traffic engineering should be a part of college education. “Training policemen and reorientation plans for urban transport planners were essential to control the chaotic traffic situation,” said Dr Baluja.

“Deterrent punishment for violators and deployment of police personnel at vulnerable locations can help in reducing accidents,” said SP (law and order) Khushal Sharma.

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