Bhubaneswar, March 11: Highway horror has gripped city commuters and motorists.
The growing number of accidents reported on National Highway 5 — which passes through the city — at night, particularly at the overbridge construction sites in the past few months, has made commuters afraid to cross the road at these places.
In the past three months, over 100 small and big accidents have occurred at the overbridge construction sites on the highway and at least 10 people have been killed. Around 50 have suffered minor or critical injuries. The construction of flyovers is on at five places in the city — Fire Station Square, CRP Square, Acharya Vihar Square, Vani Vihar Square and Rasulgarh Square.
On Tuesday night last week, an SUV overturned at Acharya Vihar Square after a speeding truck hit it. The five occupants of the SUV had a close shave as they only suffered minor injuries. On the night of March 4, Mihir Das, 25, was killed in an accident at Rasulgarh Square. On March 2, a schoolteacher was killed in a road mishap at Satsang Vihar Square. Her husband suffered injuries in the accident. Construction activities and poor traffic management plague both these squares.
Police officials said most of these accidents occur at night when heavy vehicles ply through the highway that passes through the city. No traffic police are deployed at these posts at night from 10.30pm to 6am the next day. Though officials said traffic marshals of the construction company were deployed to manage the vehicular flow in the night, commuters alleged that these squares remained vulnerable as fast moving heavy vehicles kept plying on the national highway with no one to man the traffic posts.
“Our men guard these squares from 6am to 10.30pm. Besides, the traffic marshals — volunteers engaged by the construction company — help our men manage the vehicular movement on this road during this period. But at night we cannot afford to post our men there, so the company volunteers manage the vehicular flow at these squares,” said assistant commissioner of police (ACP), traffic, Bhubaneswar, Binod Das.
But commuters alleged that at night no men are posted at these squares to stop the heavy vehicles and allow light ones to cross the road. “The heavy vehicles do not pay heed when we honk or show indicators to allow us to cross the road. We have to wait for quite sometime to cross the road. We look around for assistance from traffic men, but there’s no one around,” said Jitendra Munda, a resident of Gajapati Nagar.
Uneven and badly managed service roads create more problems for motorists as a small mistake on their part may cause collisions with loaded trucks crossing the road at high speed. To make matters worse, there isn’t a single functioning streetlight on the entire stretch of the national highway from Palasuni to Khandagiri in city limits.
As if that were not enough, temporary underpasses created under these upcoming flyovers confuse commuters, particularly at night. In the daytime, traffic police guide motorists towards the correct underpass. But at night, motorists negotiate the road with no cops around. “It’s so confusing at night. We don’t know which underpass to take to cross the road, and vehicles zoom past in high speed,” said Rajat Dehury, a private company employee who stays in Rental Colony, IRC Village.
Even during the day, commuters alleged, traffic cops abandoned their posts at these squares and it was then left to the traffic marshals to manage vehicular flow. They have no knowledge of traffic rules, said commuters. Most of these marshals are daily wage labourers who have been provided with primary training in traffic management.
Traffic ACP Das said these volunteers had been posted to assist traffic cops in managing traffic movement. “They ensure that no one parks their vehicles on the road creating traffic jam. They also give directions to commuters when they get confused at the squares. At night, they are supposed to keep a watch on these squares,” said Das.
He said that following complaints about the marshals not manning the posts, they had informed the supervisors and instructed them to guard the spots at night to avoid accidents. “We will tell them again to deploy their people at night to help those trying to cross the road,” said Das.