Bengaluru road accidents: license to kill

Bangalore City

Data from 2020 states that Bengaluru has the second highest number of cases among the metropolitan cities.

Nidhi Shah recalls a painful experience of a car accident—a few years ago on a cold January afternoon, her grandfather was on his way back home after attending a wedding. Suddenly, the car crashed into a bridge railing, and her grandfather and driver died.

“It happened around 1 p.m. The car was completely damaged and was dangling half in the air,” Nidhi said. She added that exhaustion and less visibility may have led to the accident.

Road accident data from 2020 states that the accident cases are highest in December, January and February in metropolitan cities. While Chennai tops the list with 1,400 cases, Bengaluru follows with 1,128 and Mumbai at 632 cases. Data from Road Accidents in India, 2019 states that from 2015 – 2019, the highest number of accidents happen in May, June, December, January and March.

“Also because of the new year’s celebration there are many cases of drink and drive which often ends up in accidents,” MN Sreehari, founder and chairman, Indian Smart City Development Organization, Bengaluru said. 

Cases: The tip of the iceberg

But accidents are only one part of the story. Officials say that most citizens do not follow rules and regulations.

A young boy rides his motorcycle on Vasant Nagar Road gets caught by the police for not wearing a helmet. The police officer and the boy start to argue—instead of paying his challan, the boy hands his phone to the officer, telling him to talk to someone.

“Disciplining Indians is very difficult. We always try to find the easy way out, such as dialing the number of an Member of Legislative Assemblies (MLA) or other politicians,” Gopinath, Vasant Nagar traffic personnel said.

Gopinath has been in the traffic department for 22 years, but said that he has not seen any change. “People follow rules and regulation only because it is imposed on them. In fact, the number of cases that we book are in a day is actually the tip of the ice-berg,” he said.

The state wise data from the same report reveals that major states such as Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala recorded higher number of road accidents in the month of May, June, July and January. (infographic)

Sreehari said that Bengaluru may be an urban city, but road accidents are a perennial problem due to poor construction and narrow roads. “The Bangalore Development Authority which is supposed to widen the road is unable to widen the road. Secondly, the numbers of vehicles are increasing. We have  86 lakh vehicles for 1.3 crore population. This problem gets worse due to lack of mass transportation,” he said. He added that road accidents are a perennial problem that cannot be solved until the driver’s license is cancelled right after an accident.

Anurag Kulshrestha is the president of Trax, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) that focuses on achieving road safety.  He said that most of the awareness drives   conducted in schools and colleges are fruitless due to the inadequate and inefficient infrastructure in India.

“Students ask us where the stop lines are, what’s the Zebra crossing, etc. So, these drives don’t add up to anything.”

He added that the governing authority also violate rules and regulations. “Have you seen the rallies taken out by various political parties on a variety of occasions? They are violating traffic rules all the time,” he said.  

He added that most government announcements about road accidents are not action-oriented.  “It is all bluff by the ministers and higher authorities that are representing India on top- or high-level commissions meetings on the global front,” Kulshrestha said.  

Cancel to kill

Sreehari said that one solution to reduce the accidents and violations may be to make the license issuing process stricter. “One straight solution to reduce all of the violations and accidents is one the spot cancellation of the driver’s license at the time of any violation,” he added.

Some people also get their licenses without taking the test. Shradha Sharma said she applied for a driver’s license through her agent—all she had to do was fill a few forms—she got her learner’s license within a week and got her driver’s license in three months.

“This is the biggest issue because there is no training at all and directly, we come to the road with a vehicle with a license to kill,” he said.

Citizens who want to improve road safety say that there needs to be stronger enforcement. Kulshrestha said, “Awareness should be backed by the enforcement. Otherwise, there’s no impact.”

Sreehari said that reducing the time limit of license renewal from 20 years to three or four years may improve the situation. “This means that the number of years that the license is applicable for would come down, and more vigilance can be exercised on the driver’s ability to drive,” he said.