The increase in fatalities due to parked vehicles in the middle of a busy road have once again highlighted the dire need for a robust highway patrol or police system. A deadly accident on the national highway connecting Prayagraj and Lucknow in UP last Thursday night claimed 14 lives, including six children, after an SUV rammed a truck parked on the side of the high-speed corridor immobilised by a punctured tyre.
According to the road transport ministry’s Road Accidents in India’ report, UP reported maximum number of such deaths since collection of data under this head started. Last year, 1,223 people were killed in such crashes in UP.
In 2018, the number of people killed in crashes with parked vehicles stood at 1,299. The data compiled on the basis of reports from state police shows that in 2018, Gujarat reported the second highest such fatalities (478) followed by Haryana (353). During 2019, Punjab reported the second highest number of such deaths (647) followed by Haryana (330).
Pratapgarh SP Anurag Arya told TOI that the parked truck did not have retro-reflective tapes to alert approaching vehicles. The driver had also not given any cautionary sign to alert other drivers about the parked vehicle. This even as use of retro-reflective tapes on all commercial and transport vehicles is mandatory as per the Motor Vehicle Rules to obtain fitness certificate.
Road safety experts said such safe practices are mostly missing on highways. “We have all good provisions on paper. But until we have visible enforcement and there is a fear of getting caught for every violation, there won’t be any change in the attitude of violators. The issue of a dedicated highway patrol or police has never got any attention despite this having been a matter of discussions,” said a former secretary of road transport ministry.
Patrolling the highways is hardly a priority of state traffic as they are preoccupied with other tasks. “Presence and patrolling police on highways is important, not just in case of a crash but some commuters may need some urgent help,” said Kerala transport commissioner Rishi Raj Singh.