Monday, July 28, 2008

Too fast, too furious: Road to airport claims 19 lives

Too fast, too furious: Road to airport claims 19 lives
Rakesh Prakash / Chennai/ Bangalore July 28, 2008, 4:14 IST

Over 2 months 5,500 speedsters penalised, traffic signals added.

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From the frying pan, into the fire! Well, that is the case of people residing alongside the highway leading to the Bangalore International Airport (BIA) face these days.

For, getting on to the highway has turned out to be a daily death-defying adventure for the residents of dozen-plus localities along the six-lane highway as vehicles heading towards BIA have top speeds between 120 - 150 kmph.

Ever since the BIA commenced operations on May 23 last, the nearly 20-km stretch from Hebbal flyover to the airport has seen around 110 accidents.

While 19 persons have been killed on the highway, the number of people injured in these accidents is all set to touch the half-century mark. The victims, mostly, were two-wheeler riders and pedestrians who were desperate to cross the road either to reach their workplace or return home.

The problem of the residents was quite different before BIA started. “The road was too narrow and the traffic was high. Manoeuvring was difficult as vehicles jostled for space,” recounted Nagesh Babu, a grocery shop owner at Chikkajala.

“But our woes have now only increased after the road was widened and spruced up. With no subways, crossing the road is a great challenge for us,” he added while explaining how the drivers of four-wheelers and heavy vehicles have converted the road into a racetrack.

Tired of the average speed of 13.5 kmph within the city, the drivers do not take their foot off the gas pedal once they hit the BIA road. Over-speeding has made the road the new major accident zone — compelling the Bangalore traffic police pay more attention to it.

Apart from issuing advertisements in the media and putting up hoardings directing vehicle-users not to drive beyond 80 kmph on the BIA road, the traffic police have intensified their crackdown against speedsters.

“We have deployed two interceptors and about 60 police personnel on the road to monitor speed and penalise offenders,” said deputy commissioner of police (traffic-west division) Panduranga H Rane.

In the last two months, the police have booked over 5,500 cases and have collected Rs 5.5 lakh penalty from traffic offenders.

The prime cause of accidents, according to the police, is the hasty and faulty designing of the road. In a tearing hurry to make it a signal-free corridor, the civic authorities overlooked the needs of the residents.

Neither have the service roads been readied nor subways built for pedestrians. The Karnataka High Court recently pulled up the government for not barricading the road.

With accidents on the rise, the police have begun to pressure the government to drop the idea of making the BIA road signal-free. Instead, the police have proposed to increase the number of traffic signal junctions. Earlier, there was only one traffic signal junction at Kogilu village.

Recently, five were added at Kodigehalli, Byatarayanapura, Bettadahalasur, Bagalur cross and Yelahanka bypass. Two more are being installed at Chikkajala and Vidyanagar.

“If we have to save lives, we have no other option than to go in for traffic signal lights,” the police officials maintained.


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