Fourteen women labourers working at a shrimp factory near Coringa of Kakinada district, on May 14, routinely got into an autorickshaw with a six-people capacity to reach their workplace. Little did they know that only half of them would return home alive.
On the fateful day, seven of them were killed as the overcrowded autorickshaw collided with a bus on NH-216. The rest of the women suffered severe injuries and were doomed to live with the loss of their dear co-workers.
Before the news of this ghastly accident could sink into people’s minds, another piece of news about a road accident that led to the death of seven people broke out 24 hours later on May 15.
Sixteen people from Tadipatri town began their journey in a multi-utility vehicle with an 11-people capacity. Seven of them died when their vehicle collided with a lorry at P. Anantapuram village in Kondapuram Mandal of YSR Kadapa District.
While overcrowding of the vehicle seems to be the main cause of the accident, the auto driver who suffered the accident in Kakinada blamed the unsafe roads and the ‘blackspots’ on NH-216.
Blackspots are those specific spots on the roads where numerous accidents have been reported.
“Between 2019-21, a total of 75 people were killed in the 196 accidents recorded at the 16 blackspots on the 31-km NH-216”Aiswarya RastogiFormer SP (Urban), Rajamahendravaram
“Between 2019-21, a total of 75 people were killed in the 196 accidents recorded at the 16 blackspots on the 31-km NH-216”, says Aiswarya Rastogi, former SP (Urban), Rajamahendravaram.
The East Godavari police, taking these numbers into consideration, has urged the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) to prevent fatalities by providing high mast lighting on NH-216.
Weighing in on the issue, Rajamahendravaram MP Margani Bharat says, “The construction of a fly-over is in progress at Morampudi junction, where 26 persons have been killed since 2019. The NHAI is also examining the proposals submitted to prevent the fatalities at the blackspots on the highway.”
In Anantapur, too, the officials have identified 39 blackspots on the National Highways passing through it. Tapovanam Junction on National Highway 44 in Anantapur city is also identified as one of the blackspots.
Positive results in Visakhapatnam
Visakhapatnam district is no exception to witnessing a significant number of accidents on the Highways’ blackspots. Reducing this number continues to be one of the major focus areas of the traffic police.
The traffic police in Visakhapatnam say that during the year 2022, as many as 333 road accident deaths were reported in Vizag. Of them, 129 deaths occurred on NH-16, while 113 deaths were reported on the colony and internal roads in the city. While BRTS roads saw 40 deaths, the State Highway saw 15 deaths.
According to official information, Visakhapatnam City has about 71 blackspots in Zone I (Tagarapuvalasa to NAD Junction) and Zone II (NAD Junction to Lankelapalem). During 2021, these accident hotspots have reported 113 fatal accidents and 237 non-fatal accidents in the city.
The stretch between Lankelapalem to Gajuwaka via Aganampudi is considered to be one of the most dangerous stretches on the NH-16, passing through the city and contributing to the most number of accidents.
The police have initiated diverting heavy vehicles on National Highways to the State Highways during the day and afternoon to minimise traffic. But the fact remains that many vehicles continue to sneak into the city claiming industrial requirements.
However, keeping in view the critical nature of the issue of blackspots, the Visakhapatnam traffic police have taken up stringent measures at these locations to reduce accidents.
By paying special attention to reducing the speed of the vehicles at these spots, in 2022, the number of accidents at the blackspots was reduced to 79 fatal and 189 non-fatal accidents.
A more important achievement by the police, however, is that about 17 hotspots did not report any accidents in 2022.
Overcrowding can’t be overlooked
Anantapur Superintendent of Police Kanchi Srinivasa Rao drew attention to the unmissable factor of overcrowding of passenger vehicles behind numerous accidental deaths on the National Highwats.
Mr. Srinivasa Rao told The Hindu that he had called for an awareness meeting for all three-seater and seven-seater autorickshaws autodrivers’ union leaders to press upon them to stop ferrying passengers beyond the permitted numbers and prevent deaths.
“I have personally come across several autorickshaws at Gooty and Guntakal on National Highway and rural roads carrying the MNREGS labourers to work spots or other construction sites, presumably to reduce the per-person fare,” Mr. Srinivasa Rao adds.
“The autorickshaw drivers are up in arms against the police for restricting them, but we will not let them violate the rules and put the passengers in danger”Kanchi Srinivasa RaoSuperintendent of Police, Anantapur
“The autorickshaw drivers are up in arms against the police for restricting them, but we will not let them violate the rules and put the passengers in danger,” he says.
Other crucial factors
An analysis of the iRAD database for Anantapur, an Integrated Road Accident Database to enrich the accident databases to improve road safety, revealed that, as against the common perception, most of the accidents took place between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m., and late-night accidents were far less in number, said Deputy Commissioner of Transport N. Sivaram Prasad.
Road accidents in numbers
|Total NH accidents||8,122||7,682||7,167||8,241|
|Total NH deaths||2,929||3,114||2,858||3,602|
The data for nine months of 2022 reveals that out of the 418 accidents, 238 were fatal, and 404 were injured. Two-wheeler riders remain the most-affected group, the official added.
In all, 642 persons were affected - either dead or injured - in the Anantapur district between March 1 and December 20, 2022. The Sri Sathya Sai District police unit, just 13 months old, recorded 608 (347 fatal and 263 non-fatal) accidents, with 380 deaths and 754 injuries.
Kurnool District also recorded 625 accidents in 2021, with 368 deaths and 702 injuries; 634 accidents in 2022, with 358 deaths and 706 injuries; and 148 accidents in 5 months of 2023, resulting in 74 fatalities and 147 injuries.
Of the major accidents that took place on NH-44 that passes through Anantapur district are the two recorded on November 5, 2021. Seven persons died, and three others were injured grievously in two different accidents 10 km apart at Pamidi and Midthur.
The death of four persons travelling from Bengaluru towards Hyderabad when the car in which they were travelling hit a lorry from behind at a speed-breaker on National Highway 44, opposite KIA Motors Limited factory near Penukonda on March 2, 2021, also sent shock waves among the public.
The police also point out that people riding on open goods lorries were also victims of many accidents in the past. They add that they have intensified the monitoring of vehicular movements and vehicle speed on National Highways as a measure to prevent accidents.
Driving without helmet
Many lives could have been saved if riders took minimum safety measures like wearing a helmet or putting on the car seat belt, say police.
Of the 238 fatal accidents reported in Anantapur in 2020, 90 involved two-wheelers and 80 did not wear a helmet at the time of the accident. In car accidents, 12 drivers did not have their seat belts fastened, says the iRAD data.