Reckless driving a perennial threat to human lives

Arshad Farooq

Heedless driving and speedy vehicles continue to be a growing concern to all the people who drive on the roads, on a daily basis, across Kashmir Valley, especially on the National highway that connects all the major towns and villages of the valley with the summer capital, Srinagar and rest of the state. In the last 6 years, the number of vehicles on the roads of Kashmir valley has increased manifold and traffic-related incidents such as crashes and fatalities have unfortunately become an all too common sight and many times innocent people have to bear the brunt of someone else’s carelessness and precious lives continue to be lost every other day across the valley.
The most frequent accidents tend to be caused more often by driver’s behavior, such as inattention, recklessness and negligence driving, rather than the bad road conditions. However, driving on the dilapidated and impaired roads in full speed with unseen potholes and speed breakers can instantly make us vulnerable to accidents but the risk doubles up if you crunch your vehicle through a pothole, while overtaking other vehicles.
Accidents don’t happen out of the blue, there are various causes, but most of the fatal accidents are caused by fast moving tippers, cars, sumos and two wheelers etc. Driving on the narrow and congested roads require concentration, knowledge and good acumen, much more than just being able to manoeuvre the vehicle, but with virtually everyone owning a cell phone, distracted driving has become a threat on the Kashmir’s roads and scourge of people plying their vehicles.
Tippers and sumos are often involved in many accidents and sometimes the driver’s negligence can cause an inescapable accident. They often ignore speed limits to a dreadful effect, especially on the National Highway, Posing a significant risk for other motorists on the roads that often results in injuries or fatalities. Many people who drive on the highway consider tippers and sumos a threat to their safety, a fact that simply can’t be denied; although they are not allowed to enter the Srinagar city during the day time but the they can be often seen racing through the towns during peak rush hours; jettisoning the established traffic norms and speed limits and jeopardizing the lives of hundreds of people walking along the roadsides.
On the other hand, traffic situation in the towns across the valley including the Srinagar city is no better. Mini-buses are the main source of transportation in the city and towns, ferrying people from one place to another, but with no proper sheds or signboards to their aid, passengers just wave buses to stop anywhere and everywhere, spurring frequent violation of traffic laws and chocking of thoroughfares.
They speed up in search of passengers and when they see one, they stop without even bothering who is driving behind them, that almost doubles the risk of accidents and then sometimes they stop all of sudden, so that they can drop their passengers.
Road fatalities involving two-wheeler riders have also become quite common on the valley’s roads with riders paying scant respect to the traffic rules. Inexperienced youngsters ride in a rash manner at fast speeds and are unable to control their bikes when a situation demands. Many young teenage riders either lose their lives or sustain serious injuries due to their reckless riding and this scenario is being witnessed since the past few years.
The unavailability of adequate parking spaces in the city and towns across the valley add further to traffic woes; people often park their vehicles randomly on the roadsides wherever they want without knowing if the place is suitable for parking or not, causing traffic snarls and inconvenience and vexation to the general public while driving through the roads. The shoppers also face a lot of incommode while shopping in the markets on account of inadequate parking spaces and it’s often seen that the traffic police are almost solely held responsible for their inability to control the huge influx of vehicles into these areas, but who is to blame? Is this the traffic police or we the commoners who create problems of traffic jams by parking our vehicles wherever we find a free place?
The other sad reality is that people are forced to jaywalk on the roads amidst the heavy rush of traffic, because most of the pavements are often utilized by shopkeepers nearby to display their merchandise, as the infringement is rampant, the people have really a tough time finding room to walk. To add insult to injury, street vendors selling their goods by the roadsides also chock off most of the sidewalks and clog traffic and leave no way for pedestrians, thus endangering the lives of scores of innocent people.
Today, most of the people in our valley have their own vehicles. A trend that was not seen previously, very few people could afford a car of their own but with the development of automobile industry, people can afford to buy all sorts of vehicles of their choice; though, buying a car is one of the most expensive purchases given the current economic conditions but with financial institutions offering wide range of loans for almost any purpose, this in return emboldens people to have a car of their own regardless of whether they can actually afford it or not.
The traffic demand on the valley’s roads is almost thrice the existing capacity and the Government seems to be in no mood to upgrade the highways and other major road links across the valley, which in turn could provide adequate capacity and considerably decrease the accident rate. With every passing day, the situation on the Kashmir’s roads has gradually deteriorated to the point where traffic laws are being violated very often and we often hear about people being crippled or killed from accidents as the result. Therefore, it would be advisable for us, as a responsible citizens, to abide by traffic rules, understand traffic lights, road signs etc and also It’s time; traffic laws need to be enforced very strictly to address the current traffic problem and a stringent action needs to be initiated against the law breakers in order to save the precious lives of hundreds of people.