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Kerala Kaumudi Online
Saturday, 20 July 2024 7.21 PM IST

Google Maps cannot prevent accidents; road safety cells should be formed

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The old habit was to 'ask' local people for directions in an unfamiliar place. With the arrival of Google Maps, it became more convenient to look at Google Maps on a mobile phone or on the display screen of a vehicle for directions instead of face-to-face inquiries. However, there are increasing incidents of people falling into ditches and rivers while relying only on Google Maps. Do not forget that the mission of Google Maps is to suggest the shortest and most convenient route to reach a place. The safety of that journey is the passenger's own responsibility. It is common to stop the traffic on the road next to a creek or river without warning and divert the vehicles to another route for the time being due to rising water, especially during the rainy season. People who travel in the night by car or other means not knowing this, by relying on Google Maps to find their way, are the ones who fall into trouble.

Would such accidents happen when there is a roadblock or danger in unexpected situations, if there is a barricade or at least a warning board? Detours without warning are common not only on national highways but also on state highways and rural roads. A sinkhole may have formed in the rain, the road may have fallen into a ravine, or a landslide may have fallen on the road.... many damages can cause travel disruption. It is the responsibility of the local bodies to set up the boards that specify the travel routes to be taken in these places and warn of the possibility of danger. Unfortunately, there is no such mechanism or vigilance for local bodies at present.

The car of a group of four from Hyderabad, who were travelling to Alappuzha by relying on Google Maps, accidentally fell into a canal last Saturday around 3 am near Kuruppanthara, Kottayam. Luckily, the local residents who came running after hearing the sound were there for rescue work. The reason for the accident was that the driver turned the vehicle, completely believing the Google message to turn left, not knowing the danger ahead. Had there been a warning sign prohibiting turning left, visible even at night, the driver would have noticed it. As many people from other states visit Kerala every day to see places and participate in wedding receptions, such warning boards should not only be in Malayalam, but also in English.

Road safety experts suggest that road safety cells should be formed under local self-government bodies to install warning boards and coordinate rescue operations at the local level in case of unexpected accidents. Ward members, engineers, overseers, other technical experts, civil servants and volunteer students should be the members of such cells, where local body secretaries are the conveners. They can work in collaboration with the District Disaster Management Authority. As the monsoon is about to start in the state, the formation of local road safety cells should be expedited in view of waterlogging, possibility of floods and rising water levels in rivers.

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