No lessons learned, safety remains a concern in Himachal

April 15th, 2009 - 2:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Shimla, April 15 (IANS) The accident in Himachal Pradesh’s Chamba district that killed 19 bus passengers Tuesday has once again exposed the apathy of the government on the issue of road safety, a legislator said here Wednesday.
A similar accident in November last year left 46 people dead.

Kuldeep S. Pathania, legislator from Chamba of the opposition Congress, said Tuesday’s accident had once again exposed the government’s lack of preparedness to check accidents.

“The series of major road accidents has exposed utter lack of coordination between the state transport authority and the traffic police when it comes to checking overloading, reckless and drunken driving,” he added.

“The driver was reckless at the wheel. The bus was descending a steep gradient when the driver probably failed to negotiate a hairpin bend and the vehicle rolled down the gorge,” eyewitness Bhima Devi said.

“The bus also seemed mechanically unfit for carrying passengers,” she added.

According to police records, rash driving, overloading, untrained drivers, mechanically unfit buses and poor roads have been among the factors that killed cause for the death of 7,912 people in road accidents in the past 10 years.

The number of accidental deaths was at an all-time high in 2007 when 979 people lost their lives in 2,955 accidents. Last year, 581 people were killed.

Police officers blamed buses belonging to private operators and their reckless, untrained drivers for most of the fatal accidents.

In Tuesday’s accident in Chamba district also, the bus of a private operator was involved.

State Transport Minister Kishan Kapoor also said private buses were involved in most fatal accidents.

“The topography of the hill state is mainly responsible for raising accident rate in the state, but efforts are being made to bring down their number. We know private buses are more involved in accidents,” he said.

There are about 2,800 private buses plying in the state while the number of Himachal Road Transport Corporation (HRTC) buses is just 1,800.

“The drivers engaged by private transporters often lack proper driving skills. Competition among bus drivers to pick up more and more passengers leads to overspeeding and negligent driving, but we are monitoring them regularly,” Kapoor said.

“Checking of private buses plying on various routes would be intensified. The transport department has decided to impart training to the drivers of the private operators,” he said.

Director General of Police G.S. Gill said: “The department has identified 556 accident-prone spots, including 210 on national highways, in the state. We are taking measures along with the public works department to minimise the accidents as lack of proper parapet and fortifications along the treacherous tracks lead to the fatal accidents.”

HRTC managing director T.C. Janartha said: “We have received funds for strengthening and opening driving schools in order to train drivers of private buses.”

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