The tragic death of four persons after their car went off the road and took a plunge over Zuari bridge late Wednesday night leaves many questions unanswered. It emerges that the car was speeding over the bridge, and a sudden swirl of the steering wheel changed the trajectory that elevated the vehicle before crashing against the railing on the opposite side only to be flung into the river.
While many theories have been circulating on the speed at which the car mounted a half-foot high footpath before crashing against the bridge railing, the accident brings to light a few stark realities that expose the hollowness of safety claims.
Firstly, the railing on both sides of the bridge has been weak for years. This has been pointed out in the media with photographs showing rusted iron rods protruding, and in some places, even the concrete is worn off. The railing which is the last form of defence had outlived its life and needed urgent reinforcement. While all the focus was on the poor road surface of the iconic Atal Setu, the degrading Zuari bridge has been ignored. Leave alone the railings, the road surface has developed crater-like potholes, some extending six to eight inches deep. The drainage, which was close to the accident site, has major depression and can easily throw a moving vehicle off balance if not spotted. The entry and exit approaches of the bridge too are in pathetic condition leaving the motorists in peril. While the spotlight is on the upcoming Zuari bridge which is projected to be a state-of-the-art structure with a viewing gallery and towers compared to those of the Eiffel Towers, little or no attention is paid to older bridges.
A big dome-shaped high-resolution CCTV camera installed at the bridge in October 2019 to keep a tab on motorists flouting rules by overspending and overtaking on the bridge has been non-functional. Why are such cameras installed in the first place if there is no maintenance in place, what purpose does it serve?
Over-speeding and mindless overtaking have been happening along the route and more especially over the bridge that has a speed restriction of 30 kmph. There are no checks in place. Can the government inform what has been the outcome of the State Road Safety Policy that was formulated on the Supreme Court recommendations with an avowed objective to reduce accidents by 50 per cent by 2020? Lest we forget, the policy had mooted a road engineering cell comprising of PWD, transport department and police department to inspect accident-prone sites and suggest corrective action. What happened to the interceptors, speed radars, breath analysers and other equipment that was procured to discipline traffic?
Do authorities need such horrific accidents to open their eyes to road safety? Or does road safety means only road safety weeks that the traffic police take pride in, and the challans that are issued for violations like helmetless riding? It's time authorities dive deeper into the larger issue of citizens' safety before another tragedy strikes.