40,000 people are killed in road accidents every year in Kerala, says NATPAC

An efficient transport regime should be evolved for the State at the earliest to meet the increasing demands of faster mobility, safety, access to social and economic services, at the same time minimising the negative impact of transport development.

It is time to envisage a long-term action plan for improving road network to ensure 100 per cent road safety in the State since it is estimated that about 4,000 persons are getting killed in road accidents every year in the State, according to the National Transportation Planning and Research Centre (NATPAC).

Studies carried out on road accidents have revealed that many of them occurred owing to bad road conditions. One of the major road-related problems that had been detected is inadequate road geometrics, which includes poor sight distance, absence of super elevation, and substandard vertical and horizontal alignment. Uncontrolled intersections, poor street-lighting, absence of pedestrian facilities, inadequate road marking or signs, and poor road surface add to the woes.

65 lakh vehicles

The quality of transport system is far from satisfactory and needs much improvement. A majority of people depend on roads for their mobility needs. There are about 65 lakh registered motor vehicles in the State and 63 per cent of them are two-wheelers. Around five lakh vehicles hit the roads every year, creating further traffic congestion on the urban roads and highways. As many as 25,000 buses, including the 5,500 run by the KSRTC, are engaged in intra-city and inter-city operations.

The cities and towns in the State are constrained by narrow roads and bridges, poor pavement conditions and lack of covered drainage systems. Adequate footpaths, cycle tracks, pedestrian and vehicle crossing facilities, divided carriageway, and service roads essential for roads could not be provided due to lack of availability of adequate space.

Traffic congestion, long queues at junctions, dust and smoke, accidents, fuel wastage etc. are the common problems of urban roads in the State. The available carriage, especially on roads that had been developed, are further limited by on-street parking and also due to encroachment for informal activities by hawkers, vendors, petty shops, and workshops.

Vulnerable groups

It has been pointed that highways and city roads are becoming a “death trap” for hapless pedestrians and cyclists. Kerala stands third in road-accident- risk index and on an average around 12 people are killed everyday and over 100 are injured and disabled. Around 40 per cent of the road accident victims are from the vulnerable groups consisting pedestrians and cyclists.

The settlement pattern is such that the State looks like a greater urban continuum and dense settlements seen on both sides limit the scope for road widening. Though the road density is higher compared to other States, the width of the roads is not matching the need of growing traffic volume.

The State also did not figure in the National Highway development projects such as the Golden Quadrilateral project, port connectivity, and the East-West, North-South corridors.

It has been pointed out that the ribbon development (construction along the roads) makes it difficult to widen the roads to the required width. Stiff resistance is encountered at the time of acquisition of land even for marginal widening or improvement of junctions.

Transport master plans prepared by NATPAC for select cities and medium- sized towns way back in 1980s still remain to be fully implemented, mainly due to lack of funds and availability of adequate land.