MEDIAN MISHAPS
THE WEEK|August 01, 2021
Road dividers, meant to streamline turbulent traffic, do more harm than good for commuters on several occasions
VINOD V.K.

Malayalam cinephiles almost lost their favorite on-screen wit when actor Jagathy Sreekumar was laid low by a harrowing road accident on March 10, 2012. Jagathy—as he is popularly known— was on his way to a film location in Coorg on the Kerala-Karnataka border when his vehicle rammed into a median strip on a bend in the road near Kozhikode.

The accident at the crack of dawn left the actor with multiple injuries to his head, chest, and abdomen. The 70-year-old thespian, who had ruled the realm of comedy in Mollywood through versatile roles in over 1,100 films, has been mostly away from tinsel town for the last nine years as he is still recuperating from the cruel twist of fate.

Anil Kumar, who drove Jagathy’s car on a fateful day, distinctly recollects the brutal crash that occurred on one of the most perilous stretches of the National Highway 66 (erstwhile NH 17). “It all happened in a split second. I heard a sound and the moment I turned to one side, the car hit the median,” he says.

Kumar, who has recovered from his injuries and still works as a chauffeur in the cinema industry, however, puts partial blame on the median strip which, he claims, had no reflectors. “It was still dark. There were no reflectors on the divider. Also, there were no street lights in the vicinity,” he says, pointing to one of the oft-neglected pitfalls in road infrastructure.

The median strips, meant to streamline turbulent traffic and avert chances of a head-on collision, turn into death traps for commuters when installed without following safety guidelines. The speeding vehicle either rams into a divider that appears from nowhere or hits the lip of the median strip, flips, and rolls into oncoming traffic. Though the finger of blame in most such cases is pointed at the man behind the wheel, there are reasons beyond his control, too.

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