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Speeding, a demon that plagues Delhi | Latest News Delhi

The Choubey family lived a happy life. Bashishth Mani Choubey, 34, had found work in Delhi, as a security manager at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and become the first person in his family to leave their small home in Buxar district of Bihar. He moved to the Capital with his wife and two children — he could now afford to enrol them in a private school.

At least nine planned high-speed corridors crisscross busy stretches in Delhi – NH-48, NE-3, GT Road, GT Karnal Road, Outer Ring Road, Rohtak Road, Najafgarh Road, Mehrauli Badarpur Road and Wazirabad Road. (Raj K Raj/HT Photo)

But their lives changed tragically in March 2022. Bashishth was on his way back home around midnight when he was killed by a speeding vehicle in Saket. His death plunged his wife and children into financial hardship, forcing them to move back to Buxar.

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Two years on, his family has no closure. The police are no closer to finding his killers now than they were on that March night.

Bashisth’s family shares their fate with several hundreds. According to 2022 data released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) last year, Delhi clocked the most road accidents in the country (1,564), up 18% from 2021. Of these, the cause was unknown in 1,145 cases. And of the remaining 419 cases, speeding was to blame for nearly 30%, showed the data.

The latest Delhi government data from 2022 backs this up, stressing that the deaths of most motorcyclists and pedestrians who were killed at night “might be due to speeding”.

The national capital, as indeed the rest of the country, has struggled to clamp down on speeding despite a string of government and police interventions. Experts, meanwhile, have called for more holistic solutions, including fundamental changes in the way streets and traffic infrastructure are planned, arguing that plans are more oriented towards minimising congestion and not keeping commuters safe.

In 2023, Delhi traffic police reported 3,003,969 speed violations, the highest among traffic offences. Further, speeding was among the most common offences for which fines were issued, data showed, with this number surging nearly 30 times from 2019 to 2021.

There were 141,052 challans issued for speeding in 2018, 104,450 in 2019, 8,043 in 2020 (a dip due to the Covid-19 lockdown), 3,529,090 in 2021, and 2,860,073 in 2022. Since 2018, speeding has been among the top five traffic offences in the city.

At least nine planned high-speed corridors crisscross busy stretches in Delhi – NH-48, NE-3, GT Road, GT Karnal Road, Outer Ring Road, Rohtak Road, Najafgarh Road, Mehrauli Badarpur Road and Wazirabad Road.

Beyond the police files, accidents caused by speeding have ruptured countless homes.

“We have some earnings from our field and my pension, but we struggle every month. We are a large family now and my son managed all our expenses. My granddaughters now go to a government school,” said Bal Mukund Chaubey, Bashishth’s father.

The Delhi Traffic Police has identified a clutch of traffic hot spots that leave commuters most vulnerable to accidents — near Metro pillar 202 on the stretch from Punjabi Bagh to Paschim Vihar; Bhajanpura to Signature Bridge; Ber Sarai to Vasant Kunj; Vande Mataram Marg; Majnu Ka Tila to Kashmere Gate and Nangloi to Tikri Kalan.

Planners and engineers have traditionally prioritised fast mobility over better accessibility and last-mile connectivity. So, high-speed corridors often traverse densely populated areas.

Government agencies plan roads to ensure the quickest possible travel time.

However, experts point out that increased average speeds are directly related both to the likelihood of a crash occurring and to the severity of the crash.

For example, according to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Road Traffic Injuries Report 2022, every 1% increase in mean speed produces a 4% increase in the fatal crash risk and a 3% increase in the serious crash risk. It adds that the death risk for pedestrians hit by car fronts rises rapidly, about 4.5 times from 50 km per hour to 65 km per hour. In car-to-car side impacts, the fatality risk for car occupants is 85% at 65 km per hour.

Delhi’s special commissioner of police (traffic) HGS Dhaliwal said the force faces several challenges.

“Delhi has a lot of vehicles on the road, making it one of the highest vehicle density cities. With so many vehicles on the road, it is a challenge to monitor and enforce speed restrictions. While technology such as speed cameras are used, there may be limitations in coverage and effectiveness,” he said.

Some drivers choose to disobey speed limits despite enforcement attempts, either out of ignorance, carelessness, or a tendency to break speed limits, he added.

“To discourage speeding, we collaborate with other agencies like transport departments, municipal corporations, and road-building authorities to develop roads with better infrastructure, speed calming measures, and better signage. We also provide regular training to traffic officers on the latest enforcement techniques and technologies,” he said.

Experts said that the impact of speeding on accidents is largely determined by the driver’s reaction time, vehicle handling, and road safety measures. Speeding diminishes the driver’s ability to respond swiftly to hazardous situations.

“Moreover, heightened speeds escalate both the probability and severity of accidents. The vulnerability of pedestrians and car occupants amplifies significantly with escalating speeds. To reduce road traffic fatalities and injuries, Delhi requires a concerted emphasis on implementing slower street initiatives, enhancing speed control measures along high-speed corridors and accident-prone areas, and improving enforcement efforts,” said Sarika Panda Bhatt, founder and trustee of Raahgiri Foundation.

According to Dhawal Ashar, head, integrated transport, WRI India, speed is often not accounted as a concern as grave as traffic congestion when it comes to cities. Speed management in our cities largely involves camera-based surveillance on high-speed roads and conducting awareness campaigns, he said, adding that cities also tend to apply a common yardstick to addressing urban, peri-urban and intracity speeding.

Experts and government agencies agree that traffic issues, including speeding, need scientific solutions based on empirical evidence. So, several agencies such as the transport department, traffic police and Public Works Department (PWD) now have dedicated road safety wings that did not exist earlier. Many departments have also started employing studies to look at urban planning and road engineering, which was also a neglected area till a few years ago.

Experts suggest that speed monitoring is a first step by checking areas that are prone to speeding, possible reasons and then moving to solutions.

“We need a more nuanced approach to speed management starting with speed assessment. We need to find out where speeding occurs and when. These trends have to be reported to senior officials as daily, weekly and monthly reports, much like other traffic violations. This will spur better and more focused action on speeding. More data will also create more transparency and accountability,” said Ashar.

He added that it is also critical to focus on effective street design to ensure safer speeds.

“This involves modifying the street environment to streamline traffic flow and vehicle speeds by incorporating traffic calming measures like speed humps, raised crossings and rumble strips along with ensuring clear traffic signage and road markings,” Ashar added.

The Delhi government’s Data to Action Report 2022 also mentions that high-risk sites in Delhi are commonly found on high-speed national highways, expressways, or arterial roads. They are often road sections that cut through places with high pedestrian volume such as schools, metro stations, and commercial areas.

“These can also be poorly constructed intersections with no clear lane markings and delineation, traffic calming, and pedestrian infrastructure. The design of the road network forces vulnerable road users to mix with heavier and faster vehicles. There is a need to rethink the classification of the roads and to classify them based on function rather than ownership. This way, interventions are more applicable and more appropriate speed limits and designs are implemented,” states the report.

Delhi Police’s Road Crash Report 2022 mentions that 15 road crashes and four consequent deaths occur in Delhi every day.

The report adds that key strategies include “identifying accident-prone areas and upgrading road infrastructure to enhance safety and implementing traffic calming measures to reduce vehicle speed in residential and high-risk areas”.

The numbers are stark. Experts suggest solutions and police tighten enforcement, but the lives impacted by speeding change irreversibly.

For months, Bal Mukund Choubey scoured through the streets of south Delhi’s Fatehpur Beri area, looking for clues to get to his son’s killer. Choubey found nothing, nor did investigators.

Choubey believed that the reason why people are not scared to drive rashly on roads is because there is no seriousness among the forces to find and prosecute them.

“So many people die in hit-and-run cases and often, police are not able to catch the accused which enables the general mindset to take such crimes lightly,” he said. “My son’s case is not an isolated one.”

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