As many as 4,863 lives were lost in 6,500 road accidents in Punjab during 2013-14, as per the last National Crime Records Bureau report.
An analysis of road accidents by Punjab Governance Reforms Commission, which has finalized the Punjab state road safety policy, reveals that six major cities of Punjab — Patiala, SAS Nagar, Ludhiana, Amritsar, Jalandhar and Bathinda — account for roughly 50% of the total accidents in the state.
Death of former Indian women hockey team captain and coach Shashi Bala and three others on the killer highway Ropar-Nawanshahr-Phagwara on Sunday has again highlighted the need for addressing the problem.
Dr Kamaljit Soi, road safety expert and former vice-chairman of Punjab State Road Safety Council, said there is no justification for not treating the black spots in all these years. "In most cases, the excuse of lack of budgetary allocation does not hold water and all that is required is small changes in the alignment of roads to make an unsuspecting driver aware of a dangerous patch ahead. One tends to be less doubtful while driving on a highway," he said.
The present road fatality death rate per lakh population in Punjab is 12 compared to 12.8 of India and 24 of Haryana. Punjab has total of 62,298 kms of road network and state highways claim a high share of 46% of fatal accidents.
Harman Singh Sidhu, member of Punjab Road Safety Council, says, "It starts with lack of transport planning in the first place. New colonies are constructed, mostly by private builders and they conveniently connect the main gate to the existing highway".
"Roads like NH1 is under construction for years, there are short stretches of good road and suddenly (without any warning) a hazardous under-construction zone. The dangerous trend of constructing bypasses and then developing residential complexes along these roads is being witnessed in Zirakpur, Mohali, Kharar and Panchkula," he said.
Figures procured by road safety activists in the state reveal that the state government has not just failed in treating even the black spots identified five years ago, it has failed on the count of enforcement as well. Challaning for offences like overspeeding is limited to the two districts of Jalandhar and Ludhiana, most of the alcometers are non-functional and there are not enough cops to check traffic offences across Punjab.
"There is need to look at risky corridors instead of merely killer black spots in the state as most stretches of national and state highways need to be made safer in the state," said Navdeep Asija, who has been traffic advisor to Punjab