Come winter and Kolkata's blanket of smog arrives - with its share of road accidents by the dozen.
According to Emri, a Hyderabad-based agency, the city will see a four-fold spike in accidents within the next eight years . Along with this the death toll will double too , says the agency which carried out a nationwide survey.
Meanwhile as Kolkata observes World Remembrance Day for the victims of road accidents , the stats are out that the city holds the dubious distinction of being among the worst, in terms of traffic management. The year past , there were 472 fatal accidents.
The study by Emri singles out traffic rule violation as the main cause of this. They include talking on the mobile phones whilst driving, driving under the influence of alcohol, rash driving, not using helmets, faulty headlights and jaywalking .
"At this rate, Kolkata will be among the most dangerous cities to drive in by 2016," the study which proves that city residents have scant regard for traffic rules, warns.
In response to the damning facts by the agency, traffic authorities have little ground to disagree. They concede that the traffic situation has become extremely messed up over the last five years.
"Till date, the number of accidents in Kolkata is still less than in other mega cities. But it can't be denied that people violate rules at will and this leads to most of the accidents. Drivers overspeed and overtake throwing caution to the winds. This is particularly dangerous because vehicles zip around the cities through the narrow roads here. Pedestrians are to be blamed as well for they hardly use over-bridges or subways to avoid busy crossings. They even slip through the railings along the roads and try to cross over when traffic is in full flow," rues BK Sadhu, chief traffic and transport engineer.
However the transport department argues : "It is impossible to curb accidents in the city since Kolkata is a fast-expanding and developing city."
Says AK Das, executive traffic engineer : "There has been a phenomenal growth in the number of vehicles and the city has expanded. It is now better connected with the adjoining districts and the traffic flow in and out of Kolkata has gone up manifold. But road space remains only 6% of the cityscape. This means that thousands of extra vehicles are vying for space. In this scenario, accidents are bound to take place. But, we have taken measures to promote awareness and ramp up on the safety front."
Yet all is not lost. Kolkata and its adjoining areas now boast 250 traffic signals .Almost all major thoroughfares have guard railings along them to prevent jaywalking.
In addition, marking tapes are used on road dividers and railings to make them visible in the dark. Fines are being handed out regularly for traffic rule violation. "The measures have yielded result. But a lot more obviously needs to be done. The problem of encroachment remains unresolved. We must pull up our socks now to improve our traffic management," says Sadhu.