Kovalam-Kollam road safety plan opened two years ago

Sunday's accident involving two KSRTC buses, which killed four and injured 26, throws a road-safety programme launched two years ago for the Kovalam-Kollam corridor into sharp relief. The programme was kicked off with much fanfare and envisaged a ‘safe zone' on the NH 47 stretch, but it still remains on paper.

Initial inquiry into the accident at Kadamabattukonam has revealed that the KSRTC superfast bus bound for Thrissur tried to overtake an autorickshaw. The law enforcers are of the view that speeding and rash and negligent driving of the Superfast bus driver and the dampness on the road owing to a drizzle resulted in the head-on collision with the a limited stop fast passenger bus coming from the opposite direction. The investigators are also verifying if the pedestrian who was killed in the accident had crossed the road as claimed by eyewitnesses.

The KSRTC Executive Director (Technical) and Executive Director (Maintenance and Works) have been asked to carry out a detailed inquiry in addition to the one carried out by the Mechanical Engineer. The team has been asked to look into all aspects, including whether the buses had the mandatory speed governors and whether they were tampered with. The preliminary report is expected to be ready by Tuesday evening, a top official of the KSRTC told The Hindu.

Road safety experts say the implementation of the safe-zone concept and widening the stretch to four lanes with medians to prevent vehicles from coming face to face could have saved lives of many road users and ensured road discipline. The mounting road accidents on the Kovalam-Kollam corridor are turning out to be a matter of concern for the law enforcers and road users alike.

It was on February 11, 2010, that the then Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan inaugurated the Kovalam-Kollam Road Safety Programme, chalked out by the Kerala Police. Apart from putting up some warning boards along the road and formation of ‘road safety councils,' not much effort had been made to make the corridor a safe zone. The announcement that the Kovalam-Kollam road would be brought under video surveillance is still to be implemented.

The first 67-km demonstration corridor, mooted as part of the World Bank-aided Kerala State Transport Project (KSTP) from Chakka in Thiruvananthapuram to Mevaram in Kollam, had also failed to take off. Worked out by World Road Safety Partnership, the concept centred around four Es — enforcement, engineering, education, and emergency medical care — that can drastically bring down accident rate. Two-wheeler patrols for each police station and patrol team trained in mild extrication work and first-aid for every 10 km was part of the scheme.

Kadambattukonam, Chathanpara, Poovanpara, Mamom, Korani, 16th Mile, Pallipuram CRPF Junction, Mangalapuram, Thonnakkal, Vettu Road, Kazhakuttam, Akkulam, Venpalavattom, Kumarichentha, Thiruvallom, and Vellar are the accident-prone spots on the stretch. Speeding, lack of medians on the road, failure of motorists to maintain lane discipline, misuse of high-beam lights during the night, drunk driving, and the use of mobile phones while driving are identified as the reasons for increasing accident rate.