Sunday, December 10, 2023
 News Details
Overloading of passanger Vehicles:A threat to the Road Network and Life of Passengers

By Devraj Thakur

The spate of road accidents in recent weeks has stirred road safety questions among the public and authorities.
While members of the public are asking who should be held accountable for accidents resulting from violation of road safety rules, the authorities once again stress that what happens is beyond their control.

Among many causes attributed to road accidents, overloading is found to be the major cause.

Records show that road accident rates have gone up over the years but death cases have decreased. However, road accidents remain the number one cause of accident-related deaths.
Road accident is the most unwanted thing to happen to a road user, though they happen quite often. The most unfortunate thing is that we don't learn from our mistakes on road. Most of the road users are quite well aware of the general rules and safety measures while using roads but it is only the laxity on part of road users, which cause accidents and crashes. Main cause of accidents and crashes are due to human errors.
Transportation system in Jammu Kashmir is riddled with many ills. Overloading of buses is one of them. It is a common sight in hilly districts, that passengers can be seen sitting on the roofs of vehicles, hanging at the doors and anywhere they could lay their hands on.
This overloading causes many accidents; owing to the overloading buses get out of control and topple over causing serious accidents. Hundreds of people die and become seriously injured annually owing to overloading of buses and light motor vehicles.
15 November, 2023 will go down in the history of Doda district as a Black Wednesday. The district witnessed one of its worst accidents killing forty two persons and injuring more than 18 others. The reason for this horrifying road accident is said to be overloading of passengers, rash, and negligent driving.
However, this has become the order of the day as the authorities enforcing traffic rules are showing laxity in reining in errant drivers and vehicle owners.
Experts say an overloaded vehicle becomes less stable, difficult to steer, and will take longer to stop. Overloaded vehicles cause the tyres to overheat and wear rapidly which increases the chance of premature failure or blow-outs. The driver's control on the overloaded vehicle is diminished, enhancing the chances of an accident. And this was the reason behind the road accident that took place on Wednesday morning at Assar.
Overloading passengers and roof top riding has become a common scene in rural as well as urban parts of the Doda and Kishtwar districts. With frequency of state-run buses between villages and urban centres being less and irregular, it has come as an advantage for youths to run taxies and mini buses, ferrying people to the district headquarters with or without valid permit and driving licence.
The tragic bus accident on Wednesday in which 42 people lost their lives — billed as one of the worst road tragedies in Doda's history — accentuates the grave problem of overloading especially on hilly roads.
The frequency of buses is low on these routes as a result of which there is a tendency of people to pile on to available buses whenever they arrive. Further, mini buses and passenger taxis which ply on these routes are always overloaded leading to frequent tragedies. This is evident from the fact that hundreds of people have been killed in road accidents since the beginning of this year, many of whom were mini buses, tata sumos and car passengers.
What accentuates the problem is that most villagers put up with the overloading as a way of life in the hills. People have now become habituated to travelling on vehicles which are overloaded. They realise that there is danger in it, but what can they do.... ?. They have to reach their destination, and these are the only alternatives available for them.
Preliminary investigation has revealed that overloading was the major cause behind Wednesday’s Assar bus accident, which resulted in the death of 42 passengers and injured more than 18 people.
As per the information, the ill fated bus was overloaded with 60 passengers while the seating capacity was only for 27 passengers.Overloading in public transport has become a daily affair in hilly districts .
It's observed that Traffic Department responsible for the increase in road accidents. They have failed to check the overloading of buses, mini-buses and other vehicles which have off and on lead to fatal accidents in the district.
Unfortunately, our system is such that once a bus driver pays a fine for overloading, he’s free to carry on the rest of his journey. The overloaded vehicle, then, becomes a visual symbol of the violation of traffic rules – which consequently encourages other drivers and frees them from the fear of the law.
While the problem is apparent, the solution is not. A practical solution of a problem of such a severe nature requires a comprehensive study and understanding of the various issues surrounding the problem. The first step should be the unconditional and honest execution of powers given to the enforcement agencies by the Motor Vehicles Act – which prohibits the operation of overloaded vehicles. As it happens, in most cases there’s a lack of such enforcement measures, which gradually encourages vehicle owners to overload vehicles just to save a few bucks. The law does impose a minimum fine of Rs.20,000 and an additional amount of Rs.10,000 per overload passanger, along with the charges for offloading the extra load, but we hardly see this being implemented.
The overloading of buses, Tata Sumos, other light motor vehicles in various villages and parts of Doda and other adjoining areas have become a point of concern for commuters and daily passengers.
The unprecedented escalation in the road accidents has left the masses in shock. The people believe that overloading of public transport, over-speeding and bad roads with uneven surface have led to these accidents.
Less attention is being paid to monitor the overloading of vehicles, while matter of the fact is that the greatest damage to the pavement is caused by overloading.
we heard about the tragic accidents when careless and reckless bus drivers in their greed for extra money overload their vehicles with passengers leading to the accidents. Many lives are lost due to this greed, and so we must do something to stop these tragedies.
The local Police must find and identify such drivers who do these things and strict action should be taken against them.
But there is also an indifferent attitude of traffic police towards keeping a check on traffic defaulters which has encouraged the transport operators who are plying passenger vehicles on road to indulge in overloading causing inconvenience to the general public and becomes a cause for fatal mishaps.
Drivers are playing with the lives of passengers while the concerned authorities are in a deep slumber. One fails to understand why the concerned department is not taking any action against those who do not have Driving License , which is also creating a huge problem for the general masses.
The Government must implement stricter laws and rules to curb this overloading of buses. Strict and prompt action must be taken against the offenders. The driving licenses or transportation permits must be cancelled immediately of the offenders.
Exceeding a vehicle’s maximum permissible weight is not only a danger to the driver and other road users; it is an illegal offence which carries with it a range of risks and penalties, from fixed fines to prison sentences.
People should also not overload the buses; they must understand that by overloading they put their own lives at risk.
To mitigate overloading accidents in hilly areas, strict enforcement of weight limits, public awareness campaigns, and investment in road infrastructure are essential. It's crucial for both authorities and vehicle operators to prioritize safety and compliance with load regulations to reduce these accidents and ensure safer roads for everyone.

(The writer is a National Internal Auditor, Akhil Bhartiya Rashtriya Shaksh Mahasangh,New Delhi.Contact. [email protected])

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