Tears rolled down their cheeks when those two road crash victims were described as examples of ‘living death’.
Stung by the unkind introduction, both of them broke down in the middle of their talk at a commemoration meet for road accident victims in Kozhikode recently. “We were not responsible for our plight,” was the only message they wanted to pass on to the audience. The two victims, who somehow bounced back to life after a traumatic experience, were invited to share their thoughts as special guests.
The number of such innocent victims may go up if the execution of a slew of low-cost road safety projects in the city that can mitigate accidents go on at a slow pace. Even as stringent enforcement activities take place now as a quick-fix step to address the issue, the fate of small projects is in limbo with no prompt follow-up action.
Closed punching stations
The Kozhikode-Kannur National Highway, one of the riskiest routes with many dangerous stretches, is yet to have a proper speed controlling mechanism for private buses. Two punching stations on the route remain closed now following opposition from private bus operators. Similarly, delay in maintenance has almost hit the functioning of speed detection cameras on the route.
“The Kerala Road Safety Authority [KRSA] has a lot of funds for development, but they are yet to be used for productive purposes and proper accident mitigation projects. Traffic enforcement activities become meaningful only when the responsible bodies do their part first and win public trust,” says K.M. Abdu, State president of Road Accident Action Forum. He points out that the condition of many pothole-filled roads can be changed using a small fund, and the number of freak accidents can be brought down.
Last year, the total number of road accident deaths in Kozhikode city alone was 154. In Kozhikode rural police district, it was 187. The district accounted for around 8% of the total road accident deaths in the State in 2018. This year, it has already crossed 150 within the city limits. The figures released by the police say 1,147 persons sustained injuries in various road accidents till October. According to the traffic police, an overall improvement of roads is the first step to address the rising road accident deaths.
The KRSA’s proposal to have the first safe zone in Kozhikode city covering the Pavangad-Elathur stretch of the National Highway, touted as a quick response project to avert road accidents, is nowhere near execution. Had it been completed in time, it would have been a model city road with improved safety features for pedestrians and motorists. Same is the case with the pending evacuation of wayside encroachments, illegal establishments, and unlawful parking.
Priority lists ignored
A priority list with 25 specific suggestions earlier submitted by the city traffic wing to the district administration for de-congesting city roads also remains unattended.
The immediate widening of danger zones on State and national highways and redesigning of some existing traffic junctions for better vehicle movement too had been proposed. The Medical College Junction was then projected as the riskiest zone, where the situation still remains the same.
However, police interventions too often fail to find lasting solutions. The 168 black spots marked within the city limits as part of an awareness project are hardly visible now. In effect, there is no practical option at hand to distinguish such spots and alert motorists.
“At least the undergrowth along the national highway will have to be cleared for public safety. Many a time, it is the local volunteers who take up the thankless job,” says Thodiyil Manikandan, a resident of Paloramala. According to him, the Public Works Department takes up such work only after some serious accidents occur on the route.