VISAKHAPATNAM: While the chaotic traffic snarls caused by shared auto-rickshaws in the city during peak hours needs no introduction, the perils faced by passengers boarding these autos, especially at night, remain unimaginable.
Even as the city police are cracking down on drunk drivers, there has been no proper vigil on the NH-5 against errant auto drivers due to which the latter are ruling the roads. Now, even as young auto drivers with no valid vehicle licences are also offering night-time service, giving rise to innumerable complaints about rash driving and fleecing of auto passengers, the complaints are seemingly going unheard.
For instance, the maximum speed limit for an auto-rickshaw within the city limits is 40 kmph. But, autos vroom at not less than 60-70 kmph in the nights where there is less traffic, blasting music from speakers at the back of the auto. The situation has turned dangerous especially for night workers and late night film goers, who are mostly falling victims of berserk autos.
“Our family recently took an auto to reach our residence in MVP Colony after watching a movie at Jadagamba. The driver was riding at full speed and in no mood to apply brakes even while crossing a speed-breaker. He was so immersed in the loud music blaring from his music system that he hardly concentrated on the road and was not listening to our pleas to slow down. Those truly were the most anxious moments we had ever experienced in our life,” recalls K Aditya, an engineering student from MVGR College.
Since the cops conduct checks only at Maddilapalem Junction, most of the autos plying on the NH-5 between NAD Junction and Venkojipalem gallop at full speed. Though vehicle checks are conducted at Hanumanthuwaka, PM Palem, Tycoon Hotel Junction and Beach Road, auto drivers mostly take alternate routes to avoid paying penalty or attracting the ire of the police.
An employee working with Patra BPO Services, Tanveer Mohammed, averred that auto drivers never follow safety norms in the nights. “If we question them, they would reply very rudely and ask us to get off. We are actually risking our lives when we take an auto at night. But we have no choice, due to lack of night-time bus services,” he added.
Meanwhile, this correspondent once took an auto-rickshaw at Maddilapalem Junction, which was being driven by 21-year-old Naresh. He had no driving licence and, surprisingly, was actually not an auto driver. When questioned as to why he was driving the vehicle, he said that he came to watch a second show movie and was filling in for his elder brother.
“The route from NAD Junction to Venkojipalem will be a smooth ride, as there will be no inspections. Though cops do conduct vehicle checks at Maddilapalem, Hanumanthuwaka and PM Palem sometimes, I take other routes. And then, there is no need to fear about police till Tagarapuvalasa,” he added.
When not speeding or playing music way too loud, some auto drivers slowly nod off at times, going zig-zag until the passengers shout out.
When contacted, ADCP (Traffic) K Mahendra Patrudu said that they received several complaints against auto drivers collecting high fares and over-speeding.
“We keep vigil in different locations across the city every day to nab drunk drivers. The auto drivers are taking advantage of this and avoiding those particular routes. But then, public participation is required to curb auto menace. I request the public to submit details like auto registration number to the nearest police or traffic officials, if they face any problem. They can also visit our Facebook page (Visakhapatnam Traffic police) to lodge a complaint,” he informed.