Wednesday, February 23, 2011

On the fast lane

Accidents continue to happen in the newly renovated four-lane section of National Highway 47, from Vytilla to Aroor

By Shevlin Sebastian

Every morning, Dr. George Jacob sets out on National Highway 47, travelling from Vennalla to Nettoor, where the Lakeshore Hospital is located. He is the doctor-in-charge of the surgical Intensive Care Unit. “Unfortunately, nearly every day, there is an accident victim who is brought in,” he says.

Recently, a young man, in his early twenties, had a collision with another two-wheeler on the highway, and sustained head and abdominal injuries. “Major surgeries had to be done,” says George. The family went through emotional and financial stress because their son had to stay for a month in the hospital.

More than 80 per cent of the accident victims are two-wheeler riders, and they are all youngsters. “I blame them for the accidents,” says George. “They ride down the middle of the highway at high speed. The cars and the tipper lorries have to work their way around them.”

M.K. Murali, Sub-Inspector (Traffic), based at Tripunithara, says that most young people do rash driving. “They have these two-stroke bikes which have a tremendous acceleration,” he says. “Many of them drink and drive. As a result, they endanger their lives.”

Another problem with young riders is that they tend to overtake from the left, which increases the chance of an accident. George suggests a separate lane for two-wheelers. “Maybe, on one side of the road,” he says.

Of course, one reason for the over-speeding is because this particular section of the highway, 10 kms long, was recently repaired and converted into a four-lane road by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) at a cost of Rs 177 crore. At some sections, there are six lanes. “To ensure a smooth ride, there are five major bridges, four underpasses, and nine bus bays,” says C.T. Abraham, project director of NHAI. So, to drive fast comes easy.

But it can be dangerous at night. There are no street lights in many sections. “When it becomes dark, many motorists cannot see the pedestrians who run across the highway in a random and haphazard manner,” says Murali. “They are hit by speeding drivers. But this is much more on the Edapally-Vytilla stretch.”

Residents, who live by the side of the highway, have complained that the service roads are badly maintained. “The entrances to the highway have been done in an unscientific manner,” says Murali.

For example, when you try to enter the service road to go to Lakeshore Hospital, a bus stop has been placed there. “Many accidents have taken place because of the unsuitable location of the stop,” says George.

Meanwhile, Murali suggests some safety steps that youngsters should undertake, before they set out on the highway.

“They should obey the traffic rules,” he says. “Many times they do not use the signal indicators, when they are turning left or right. They should wear helmets at all times. Parents should instill discipline and caution among their children, because one mistake can destroy a young person’s life forever.”

(The New Indian Express, Kochi)

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