Imagine driving at 100 kmph and suddenly you see a truck in front of you.
Abhishek Banerjee’s accident on the highway near Singur Tata Nano factory site highlighted the perils of highway driving in Bengal.
From trucks with no tail lights, parking on highways, driving on wrong side to police extortion, accidents are just waiting to happen on speedways, be on state highways or national highways.
Motorists who are regular on highways are optimistic that after Abhishek’s accident, things on the speed lanes could change.
“Majority of trucks have no tail lights, which makes highway driving dangerous after daylight. You are driving at a high speed and sure that there is no vehicle in front of you. Suddenly, at the eleventh hour, you find a truck in front of you and it becomes difficult to maneuver the vehicle or apply brakes,” said Pushpak Ghosh, who travels between his Durgapur residence and Kolkata house almost every weekend.
Another important aspect is the lack of coordination among motorists, highway authorities and police.
In case there is an accident, police rush to the spot. But during breakdown, policemen are seldom seen on the spot guiding other vehicles.
“Traffic police should have reached the spot when the milk van broke down and should have remained there till the breakdown van was towed away from the spot. If there was traffic official around 50 metres from the spot to warn vehicles, then the accident would not have happened,” said Uttarpara resident Saibal Bose, who works in a multinational company. He regularly travels between the city and Gurap in Hooghly.
According to motorists, traffic policemen are not present on highways to see if any car has stopped on highways and slap spot fines for violations of rules.
“During nights, they are seen on highways extorting money from trucks. On most cases, these trucks are stopped right in the middle of the road, keeping no way for vehicles from behind to pass. Imagine in the dead of the night, with no street lights a truck standing in the middle of the road with no tail lights. Accidents are inevitable,” said Somnath Chaterjee, another regular motorist, who travels on highways.
Senior traffic officials from the different districts of Bengal claimed that they lack officials to cover the entire stretch of highway under them. They claimed they carry on sudden raids on the highways at time carrying out mechanical inspections of vehicles and to check that no vehicles are parked on highway but on the parking bays or on the feeder roads.
“But the problem is it is impossible for cops of a particular traffic guard to monitor the entire highway stretch under their jurisdictions. Once must understand adjacent to a highway are the small towns and traffic is a major headache in these places. Officers from police stations carry out the night patrols. They are compelled to stop vehicles to check goods to ensure that no illegal consignments are transported in these vehicles,” a senior district police official explained.
Post accident of Abhishek Banerjee officials of traffic and police stations of the Hooghly district have increased their manpower on the stretch of National High number 19 that falls under jurisdiction.
“Well that good if they continue. But the problem is it won’t last even for a week,” said Abir Dasgupta, another regular on the highways.