The Sunday Story: The number of motor vehicles registered in the State was 60.72 lakh in 2011, but that may cross 64.11 lakh by December this year.

Mounting road accident figures apart, doubling of motor vehicle numbers entering the roads every eight years is a major concern in Kerala.

The number of motor vehicles registered in the State was 60.72 lakh in 2011, but that may cross 64.11 lakh by December this year. Aggregate motor vehicles already exceed the number of households in the State, which is about 60 lakhs. This raises several questions, says the Head of the Traffic Safety Division, National Transportation Planning and Research Centre, Mahesh Chand.

As with the rest of the country, historically, the number of vehicles in Kerala was low. It was only 0.24 lakh in 1960, 0.86 lakh in 1970, 1.75 lakh in 1980 and 5.81 lakh in 1990. There is a spike thereafter, with 19.1 lakh in 2000 and 53.98 lakh in 2010 before soaring further. By 2015, every household will have a vehicle on an average.

The major reasons for dependence on personal transport and increase in the vehicle population include inefficiency of public transport, lack of a mass rapid transport system in Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode, the so-called gulf boom creating new lifestyle goals and a passion to acquire the latest four-wheeler, often aided by cheap loans.

All this has an impact on road safety. From 1,528 accidents and 235 deaths in 1960, the burden spiralled to 35,013 and 3818 respectively in 2010. In 2011, 35,309 accidents took place injuring 40,709 and killing 3,990. About one per cent of the road length is in urban areas, which account for about 25 per cent of accidents. On an average, 1,000 driving licences are being issued a day and the total number of licences has touched 69 lakhs.

Road infrastructure has not improved. While other States have six-lane world-class roads, Kerala is still struggling to overcome public opposition to acquiring land for four-lane roads in the Cherthalai-Thiruvananthapuram and Karamana-Parasala stretches.

High land costs, public indifference, lack of political support and environmental implications are cited for the delay in road widening. The road length in the State is 1.74 lakh km and density about 1.5 km, which is higher than the national average. Bus routes of private operators in central and north Kerala overlap with state-owned KSRTC routes leading to stiff competition and speeding, accidents and road rage.

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