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Madhya Pradesh needs forgiving roads to prevent fatal accidents like Dindori


Last week, a vehicle carrying a group of tribal overturned and fell off the road 40-50 feet deep into a deep valley in Dindori, Madhya Pradesh. Of the 14 people killed, eight were women; 21 more were injured. This happened just two months after 13 people were killed in Guna, north of Bhopal after a bus caught fire. The commonality in both accidents was that neither vehicle had a fitness certificate or other required permits.

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Dindori: Relatives of villagers, who were killed after a pickup vehicle overturned, gather at Amhai Deori village, Shahpura area of Dindori district, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (PTI Photo) (PTI02_29_2024_000251A)(PTI)

MP has mainly flat, plain terrain, with only 19% of the territory being high ranges. Yet MP accounts for the second highest number of traffic accidents and road accidents among Indian states, according to National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) reports. In 2022, MP recorded as many as 51,965 accidents with 15,432 fatalities, second only to Tamil Nadu at 64,105. These two states, accounting for 12% of the total population in 2022, saw more than a quarter of the 446,768 accidents in India that year. Indeed, MP has occupied a spot in the top three in the past three NCRB reports. In 2020,  Tamil Nadu recorded 46,443 accident cases, which increased by 22.9% in 2021 while in MP, 43,360 accidents were reported in 2020 which increased by 14% to 49,493 in 2021. In 2018 and 2019, MP was on top of the list with 49,080 accidents and 53,379 accidents, respectively.

The Union ministry of road transport also raised concerns over MP’s numbers in its November 2023 report. According to it, road fatalities increase in MP is starkest on the national highways. In the past five years, MP is among the three states with Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra where the number of fatalities has increased. In 2018, the fatalities in MP were recorded at 4.8% while in 2022 it increased to 6.6%.

The absence of forgiving roads that are being introduced to prevent and deter driving errors is a major reason behind multiple fatalities in accidents in Madhya Pradesh, say experts.

Siddharth Rokde, professor at the Maulana Azad National Institute of Technology (MANIT) in Bhopal, and a road safety expert, who has conducted several studies on MP’s road network, said, “Geographically, MP is not at all an accident-prone state like other hilly and valley states, but the major reasons behind the accidents are road user behaviour, poor engineering and absence of designing of roads like a forgiving road which have speed containing dividers or breakers and proper rallying or crash barriers.”

“Not only MP but many states lack in road engineering and design safety. In Guna, the bus caught fire after it was hit by an overspeeding truck, so speed could be controlled by speed breakers. In Dindori, it was a blind curve where the loaded vehicle overturned in the absence of anything like crash barrier and railing that could keep the vehicle from falling,” said Rokde.

Citing NCRB data 2022 that says maximum fatalities due to driving under the influence of drugs/alcohol were reported in Uttar Pradesh (31.4%) followed by Odisha (11.2%) and Madhya Pradesh (9.3%), Rokde emphasised on road safety audit of state highways and accident-prone roads of the states like national highways.

“The road should be designed by keeping possible human errors in mind because we can’t always change the behaviour of road drivers. Similarly, emergency response vehicles should be available in the golden hours, which is the crucial time period to provide treatment to injured after an accident, as we saw many injured in the Dindori accident complain of late response and unavailability of ambulances. The timely treatment can save many lives in road accidents,” he added.

Road connectivity in Madhya Pradesh is improving with 40% roads developed in MP in the past decade, per MP Road Development Corporation data. Similarly, in January this year, Union road transport minister Nitin Gadkari laid the foundation stone of 24 new National Highway projects and 724 kilometres of roads that will cost 10,405 crore. The officials at the Police Training and Research Institute (PTRI) of Madhya Pradesh in Bhopal emphasised the development of service roads and designing the roads by considering commuters as well as terrain.

“Two years ago, a bus which was travelling on a service road fell into a Bansagar canal in Sidhi district, and as many as 61 people died. The reason behind the fatal accident was the undeveloped service road, which didn’t have a crash barrier. We have done ample studies to make roads safer and decrease fatalities. We found roads lack clear signages and well-developed service roads. A system should be developed so that drivers can’t change their lane so the accidents due to overspeeding and dangerous overtaking could reduce in MP,” said Pooja Tripathi, sub-inspector, PTRI.

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