Even as the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown has led to fewer road accidents in West Bengal in 2020, the number of road accidents could just see a further drop in numbers due to a number of other reasons as well. One factor could be fewer vehicles on the road during the lockdown and subsequent unlock phases, while another could be stricter norms by the traffic police under various jurisdictions which have been instrumental in seeing a drop in the number of fatalities due to road accidents in the state in recent years.
Breath-analysing tests to curb drinking and driving, cameras at various traffic signals and prohibition of two-wheeler vehicles on flyovers during the night time within Kolkata and its fringes, can be some of the reasons attributed to fewer traffic accidents. These measures are also part of the ‘Safe Drive Save Life’ campaign initiated by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in 2016 to curb road accidents which were one of the leading causes of deaths in Kolkata and surrounding areas.
According to Statista the German online portal for statistics, the number of road accidents in West Bengal dropped from 13.58 per thousand to 12.71 per thousand in 2018. The main cause of deaths in 2018 was reportedly due to over speeding. In 2017, the figure was slightly lower at 11.63 per thousand, though overall the state shows a decline in road accidents. Looking at the national perspective, Statista Figures Of Road Accidents In India dropped from 480.65 per thousand in 2016 to 467.04 per thousand in 2018.
Closer home, India’s statistical agency on crime and accidents in the country, National Crime Records Bureau(NCRB), shows recent statistics for the previous year of 2019 on deaths associated with road accidents, where West Bengal reported 5723 fatalities. Most of these accidents too were due to over speeding and reckless driving similar to the trend in 2018.
The good news however is, that the state did not feature in the top 10 for highest number of deaths in road accidents in 2019 according to NCRB. The highest number of deaths due to road accidents was reported in Uttar Pradesh followed by Madhya Pradesh in the same year. West Bengal is 11th in the list of the number of deaths due to road accidents in the country in 2019 going by the report.
While the ‘Safe Drive Save Life’ campaign might have helped curb road accidents in the metro city of Kolkata and fringes considerably, what still remains a challenge are the road accidents due to heavy good vehicles on expressways with West Bengal 5th in the NCRB’s 2019 statistics, accounting for 5.7% of the nation-wide fatalities.
Despite the challenges, the state administration hopes to further reduce the number of road accidents in the days to come with strict rules for commuters to abide by, as things slowly get back to normal eventually with lockdown relaxations unfolding in various stages.