The commuters travelling in autorickshaws late in the evening on the National Highway-16 better think of alternate mode of transport as the most convenient three-wheelers will not be allowed to play on the NH passing through the city between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m. from Wednesday.
The Road Transport Authority (RTA), Visakhapatnam, says the decision was taken after the substantial spurt in the number of accidents involving autorickshaws on the national highways across the State in the late evenings and nights, claiming precious lives.
City roads spared
As per the order issued by the RTA, the new rule is applicable for the stretch on the NH-16 between Madhurawada and Rajapulova, and between Anakapalle and Addu Road. However, the city roads and those in rural limits are spared.
According to RTA officials, the autorickshaw drivers hardly abide by the road safety norms.
Overcrowding, overspeeding, unauthorised parking on the road and drunk driving have become the synonyms for the autorickshaws plying on the highway which not only hinder the smooth flow of traffic, but also result in frequent accidents. “Auto drivers do not give two hoots to the road safety norms. For example, many of the autos do not have the mandatory danger lights on the rear, making it difficult for the drivers of other vehicle notice the three-wheelers. And it often leads to accidents” says Deputy Transport Commissioner S. Venkateswara Rao.
‘Awareness drives yielded little’
Taking about the recent orders, Venkateswara Rao says it’s not a new norm.
“In fact, a circular issued by the State government about a decade ago warranted that autos should not be allowed on the highways. We have been taking a lenient view as the ban would affect the livelihood of the auto drivers. The shortage of public transport too was a issue to be considered. But, it appears the leniency has made the auto drivers complacent as they hardly care about the rules now,” he explains.
Further, the Deputy Transport Commissioner says the ban decision was not taken in haste.
“We have been educating auto drivers on road safety norms for the past four months. But, they are hardly willing to mend their ways. We have left with no options other than cracking a whip. We are now booking cases for violations including carrying more than permissible six passengers and plying in the wrong direction,” Mr. Venkateswara Rao says.
However, it appears the decision has not gone down well with the auto drivers.
“The authorities are depriving us of our livelihood without giving an alternative such as providing a service road all along the national highway. Autos are already banned on Beach Road between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. in the weekends and now they are extending it to holidays also,” says G. Vamana Murthy, State general secretary of AP Auto Drivers and Workers Federation (AITUC).
In the absence of reliable public transport, he says, the middle class largely relay on autos.
“The spiralling cost of diesel, hike in various taxes and steep increase in the cost of spareparts are forcing us to allow passengers more than the permissible limit. We have to run our families too. The authorities should allow us to carry 10 passengers in rural areas and nine (including driver) in the city limits,” he adds.
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