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Spate of accidents puts State administration on the dock


At least 32 people have died and many people have been injured in multiple road accidents in the past two weeks in mountainous areas of the State which has raised questions over the authorities’ preparation, planning and enforcement regarding road safety. When the State’s preparation should have been more solid considering that the government was expecting a record-breaking number of pilgrims in the Char Dham Yatra which started last month along with a large number of tourists, people continue to die in accidents. Damaged roads, overloading, overspeeding and sleep deprivation in drivers are among the major causes of accidents. However, no concrete action has been taken yet by the authorities to address this issue, especially on mountainous routes. In the past two weeks, multiple fatal accidents were reported from Uttarkashi, Nainital, Rudraprayag, Chamoli and Pithoragarh districts, among other areas. On June 15, a vehicle carrying 26 tourists fell into a gorge in the Rudraprayag district in which 15 tourists died and 11 were injured. As per the officials, the vehicle had the capacity to carry only 20 passengers. The driver was also allegedly overspeeding and sleep deprived. He was also not eligible to drive on mountainous routes. However, all this came to light only after the fatal accident. Earlier, a car fell into a gorge on June 7 near Badrinath national highway in which two men lost their lives.  On June 9, a vehicle fell into a gorge in the Betalghat block of Nainital in which two people including a minor were killed and 13 sustained severe injuries. Many locals claimed that the accident allegedly occurred due to the overloading of passengers in the vehicle on the damaged route. On June 11, a car fell into a gorge in Pithoragarh in which two people including a child died. Besides this, three persons died and several were injured after a bus carrying pilgrims fell down the mountainside in Uttarkashi late on June 11. Several other accidents have occurred across the State that could have been prevented with better preparation, planning and enforcement by the authorities. Noted orthopaedic surgeon with decades of experience in treating victims of road traffic accidents, Dr BKS Sanjay said that about 90 per cent of road accidents occur due to the driver’s negligence on mountainous routes. One of the common reasons for such accidents is fatigue or sleep deprivation in drivers. “When a sleep deprived driver is at the wheel, it can be as fatal as a drunk person driving. Sleep is a physiological phenomenon and cannot be controlled beyond a limit. A person tends to fall asleep after 48 hours. Accidents occur in a fraction of a second and even slight negligence can claim the lives of several people at once,” Sanjay said. He said that drivers who do not have any experience of driving on mountain routes also often cause accidents. “When you drive inappropriately on mountainous routes, you either hit the other vehicles or fall down the gorge. The drivers need to be extra cautious as there is usually no other option. The authorities should also ensure that only experienced drivers drive on mountainous routes especially during Char Dham and tourist season to minimise the risk of accidents. Proper and advanced road safety preparation is a must to minimise the risk,” he added.

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