UDHAGAMANDALAM Road expansion work along the Udhagamandalam-Coonoor Road seems to have added to woes faced by motorists, rather than help ease traffic congestion in the district, argue road users.
The road expansion works, which have been heavily criticised for cutting off elephant pathways along the Coonoor slopes, and for potentially increasing the chance of landslips in the region, have also been blamed by motorists for the increase in the number of road accidents and fatalities that have occurred over the last month.
According to S. Babu, a taxi driver from the Nilgiris, the wider roads have led to motorists driving at higher speeds and more recklessly. “Before the roads were widened, there would be only enough space for one lane of traffic in either direction. However, due to the wider roads, motorists, particularly those from outside the Nilgiris, are overtaking other vehicles with more risk,” he said.
Over the last month, two major accidents occurred along the stretch, both involving motorcyclists who were killed in collisions with a mini bus and a truck. G. Janardhanan, president of the Ooty Public Awareness Association, alleged that works along the road have been slipshod, and have in-fact increased the number of hazards for motorists.
“The roads in many places are uneven, with one side of the road higher than the other. This leads to motorcyclists becoming more prone to losing their balance while navigating the road,” said R. Razzak, another resident of Udhagamandalam.
Mr. Janardhanan, said the road expansion works have done little to actually fix the problems related to traffic congestion. “In fact, in many places, the expanded sections of the road are being used by car owners and lorry drivers to park their vehicles, which defeats the entire purpose of having wider roads,” he said.
When contacted, Nilgiris District Superintendent of Police, K. Prabhakar, told The Hindu that outstation vehicles being driven by people who were not familiar with driving in the hills were the cause of the accidents. “We are placing caution boards at accident prone stretches of the road, while imposing fines and advising drivers who we found to be speeding or driving recklessly,” said the SP.