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Tamil Nadu’s Killer Highway Set For a Safety Makeover

The conviction of former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa appears to have slowed down the implementation of a road safety enhancement pilot project in Tamil Nadu.

Written by on Jan 9, 2015 | Road Safety Week

 tamil nadu highway

The East Coast Road handles four times the traffic it was originally designed for.

The conviction of former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa appears to have slowed down the implementation of a road safety enhancement pilot project in Tamil Nadu.

With Tamil Nadu holding the dubious distinction of topping in road accidents, the state government was working on a road safety enhancement project on the East Coast Road [ECR] that connects Chennai with Mamallapuram and Puducherry, incorporating state of the art Australian safety features as a pilot project.

A senior officer who doesn’t want to be quoted blames it on the slow decision making, ever since O Panneerselvam replaced Jayalalithaa as Chief Minister. He added, “the government has now appointed a consultant to take this forward”.

The scenic highway, dotted with entertainment hot spots, handles four times the traffic it was designed for. Called Chennai’s Entertainment Corridor, it has now turned into a death trap. 7,000 road accidents took place on this stretch in 2013.

Sharp curves, poor signage, absence of a median, flaws in road design have made it a killer highway. The project envisages dotting the stretch with cameras to spot drunken driving. There would be life-saving safety rollers at vulnerable points to absorb shock and save lives, a booze bus to check alcohol levels in the blood on the spot, clear signage, crucial trauma care and rectified roads.

Officials claim that the Victorian model safety features reduced accidents by 83 percent. Mr. Arnab Bandyopadhyay, Senior Transport Engineer and Road Safety Coordinator, World Bank told NDTV, “We’ve however sent our report for approval”.

“A 25 member road safety delegation is in Delhi now to hold talks with the Union Surface Transport Minister and representatives from a few other northern states on enhancing road safety in India” says P S Krishnan from the Australian Trade Commission. However, it is not clear yet if they would meet authorities in Tamil Nadu.

Families of victims of road accidents urge the government to give top priority to road safety. Ramanan Ram, whose wife became wheel chair bound after a road accident in Salem says, “the state government must give top priority to road safety. People lose life or often turn disabled for life after accidents”.

He also emphasizes on the need to re-look at time allotted for public transport buses to cover two points. He says “Buses go in break neck speed to meet age old time deadlines which don’t take in account the present (day) dense road traffic and traffic signals”.

16,000 people lost their lives in road accidents across Tamil Nadu in 2013. If the pilot project shows good results, then the Victorian road safety model will be replicated across the state, the state government officials said. Road Safety experts welcome the move. However, they say the features have to be customised for Indian road conditions.

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3 Comments

  1. Dr.A.Jagadeesh

    Alarming.
    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP)

    Reply
  2. Adishankar

    Comprehensive and well written article on the road safety issues facing Tamil Nadu. Inspite of holding the dubious record of being consistently among the top states with road accident deaths, TN (government) has not shown any commitment towards the cause. Road safety is not rocket science. All we need is good infrastructure, effective and sustained education and stringent enforcement to deter people. While it is nice to have road safety collaborations with other countries, many of the measures that would be proposed by outsiders would be difficult to implement in India. And with government having no will to take up this issue seriously in spite of politicians also ending up being victims, there is no way forward. NGOs and volunteers show greater commitment in espousing and working for this cause. Tamil Nadu was the first and even till now is the only state to have a comprehensive RADMS. This was supposed to help in reducing road accident deaths by 20% by 2012. We are past 3 years after that. Very surprised that a toll road like ECR does not have median. A powerful and independent state road safety authority with specified targets and powers to deliver should be constituted. If intercity private buses are reined in for speeds; rural autos for overloading; and SUVs/taxi cabs on highways pulled up for carrying excessive people and overspeeding, a lot of the accidents would get averted. Of course there are lots of infrastructure issues on our roads which also need to be constantly addressed.

    Reply
  3. Mala

    From a general news reader view point, I have observed that most often the road accidents of Tamil Nadu involve one or more government buses. This needs to be further probed and driver quality has to be first ensured. Quality checking and training of drivers should be continuous and held at periodic intervals.

    Reply

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