ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN ON THE NOIDA-GREATER NOIDA EXPRESSWAY

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ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN ON THE NOIDA-GREATER NOIDA EXPRESSWAY

ASHOK NATH FORMER IAS

First of all, I have to admit that the NGN Expressway is the most beautiful drive in the whole NCR. It is lush green on either side and along the entire verge, with shrubs and trees flowering in turn throughout the year.

Having said that I must say it is one of the most accidents prone. There are many causes for this. A part of the blame can be put on the authorities and a part on the drivers using the road.

To start with, there are some serious flaws in the design engineering of the Expressway. Firstly, the engineers did not provide for lay-bys along either side of the carriageway. This is very essential for moving vehicles off the road in case of a breakdown. Also convenient for drivers and passengers to stop the car for a drink of water or rest, without obstructing the fast flow of traffic on the road. What is happening now is that vehicles breaking down, flat tyres etc sit on the middle of road, causing not mere inconvenience but making it a positive hazard.

Secondly, there are a number of places where the road takes sharp turns, which is not normally the standard for genuine expressways. Similarly, the gradient also changes sharply at some places. Lastly, this does not pertain to accidents but is a serious flaw, nevertheless. The road over the bridge near Expo should have been raised gradually from a few kilometers on either side so that the road under the bridge could have been level all through. At present. The road below dips very sharply under the bridge with the result that during heavy showers it is under three or four feet of water. Cars and even heavier vehicles often get stuck. The water, of course has to be pumped out at considerable expenditure.

The two carriageways have four lanes each most of the way but at some places they narrow down to three. In any case there is enough space for a comfortable and pleasurably drive. But, unfortunately, it is not so because of the road hogs who drive their fancy cars and SUVS recklessly at very high speed thinking they’re on the Formula 1 racetrack. They merrily zip in and out through the traffic, changing lanes every second without bothering to use their turn indicators. Many of them are nouveau rich, rural, illiterate who have suddenly become proud owners of Audis, BMWs, Endeavors, Pajeros etc because of the hefty ‘ muavza’ (compensation) they got when their land was acquired. You can’t expect these country bumpkins as well as other ‘sophisticated’ gentlemen in their fancy cars to give signals and follow the rules of the road. Forget about road Tehseeb( etiquette ). They probably think it is not macho to do so. What these poor ignorant people don’t know or care is that they are putting their lives in danger not to speak about causing inconvenience and endangering the lives of fellow road users.

Other dangers I’ve observed on this so called expressway is the many unauthorised entry points which local people have made to ease their access to the road. Invariably they take shortcuts and drive in the wrong direction on the highway and the fast traffic has to swerve to avoid them leading to nerves getting on edge apart from danger to all. Then there are the numerous pedestrians and cyclists who cross the road with impunity at various points. The reflexes of drivers travelling at 80 to 100 kph have to be top notch to save these miserable souls from a tragedy.

I am a frequent user of this expressway but I have hardly noticed traffic patrol vehicles along the route. The ones you do see are usually parked by the side of the road. You can see the cops either smoking leisurely, reading a newspaper or chatting away. They don’t notice either the reckless driving or vehicles coming the wrong way. One day I actually saw a tractor coming in the wrong direction and go past the parked police vehicle. There was no reaction amongst the cops who were busy chatting. One would have expected them to get out of their van, tick off the tractor driver, challan him and force him to turn around and go back the way he had come. But no such thing.

All these instances bring us to the point to ask what exactly is the job of the traffic patrols. Have they been properly briefed ? Is their job merely to reach an accident site as early as possible? That is, being reactive, instead of being proactive, stopping violation of road rules and reckless driving ? It appears to me that they are meant only to look into accidents only. That is most unfortunate for they can be more effective by aggressively hauling up drivers driving recklessly or violating road rules. By bringing in discipline to the driving public I’m sure a lot of accidents can be prevented.

Another thing these patrols can undertake is educating the drivers on the expressway itself. Not many people know the system of lane driving on a highway/expressway. The extreme right lane next to the verge is meant for fast moving traffic. In western countries the right lane is ONLY meant for overtaking. In India and especially on our very own expressway we see cars owners driving leisurely at 50-60 kph in the right lane. Sometimes buses as well as heavy vehicles hog this lane although they are supposed to keep to the extreme left lane. The result is that faster vehicles have, perforce, to overtake from the left jeopardizing oncoming vehicles in that lane. Thus accidents are a few seconds away at any moment. It is here that the traffic police can bring about discipline and force drivers to stick to proper lane driving.

If daytime driving has its problems, driving at night is a veritable nightmare. In foggy conditions it is much worse. More than 90% of trucks, dumpers, cement mixers have neither proper tail or break lights. They are either broken or bulbs fused. But in India nobody bothers. ‘ Chalti ka nam gari ‘ attitude. In the west you are stopped and questioned and mostly challaned. These very vehicles are parked carelessly when they break down even in the middle of the road. Under the MV Act and Rules every heavy vehicle has to carry a battery operated red warning light or a triangular board with red luminous paint which has to be placed about 10 meters before the parked vehicle. This is to give adequate warning to oncoming vehicles to slow down and avoid colliding with the parked vehicle. With no such practice in India, especially on our expressway, accidents are bound to happen. People driving at high speed, some are drunk , others may be due to lack of sleep nod off momentarily are going to ram headlong into the parked vehicle without the warning, leading to tragedy. Most accidents on our highway are of this nature. Had the traffic patrol been more alert and proactive, especially at night, such senseless tragedies could most probably have been averted. All this shows that at levels which affect Aam public there is no sign of governance or administration. They are missing in India.

In order to save lives and injuries and making driving along such a beautiful stretch of macadam a pleasure the GR, NOIDA AUTHORITY as well as the police administration have to pull up their socks and do something and FAST!

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