Maharashtra, which is the No 2 Indian state when it comes to number of road accidents, saw its tally rise further, following a horrific accident on the 95km Mumbai-Pune Expressway on June 5.
A bus, carrying 60 passengers and plying from Satara to Mumbai, ploughed into a Swift and a Toyota Innova parked in the service lane. Seventeen people died and 47 others were injured. The accident occurred at 4.30am when the bus was crossing Shivpur village, near Panvel city. After hitting the and the Innova, the bus veered off the road and fell into a steep 20-foot ditch along the highway.
According to figures cited by the Hindustan Times and obtained from Maharashtra’s Highway Safety Patrol, the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, which is one of the busiest roads in the country, has seen an average of 125 fatalities a year between 2009 and 2015. The Mumbai-Pune Expressway aims to be India’s first ‘Zero Fatality’ road corridor – an MoU was signed in February this year between the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) with Mahindra & Mahindra and road safety NGO, SaveLIFE Foundation. The collaboration also includes the Maharashtra Highway Police, IRB Infrastructure, DY Patil University, Ogilvy, JP Research and several hospitals including those in the vicinity of the expressway.
Maharashtra has some of the deadliest highways
Maharashtra saw the second-highest increase in road accidents in India in 2015. As per the official data of the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MoRTH), the state reported 63,805 cases of road accidents in 2015, up 3.5% compared to the previous year. It also saw a 3.2% increase in road fatalities in 2015 i.e. from 12,803 to 13,202. Meanwhile, a total of 39,606 people were injured in road accidents in 2015.
Sunday’s accident once again highlights the poor safety measures implemented by the government. Maharashtra has 15 national highways, of which NH6, NH3 and NH4 have reported the highest number of road accidents and fatalities over the years. NH6 (Gujarat to Chattisgarh via Dhule-Akola-Bhandara) reported 1,174 fatalities in the past two years. Meanwhile, NH3 (Mumbai to Madhya Pradesh border via Dhule-Nashik-Thane) saw 920 fatalities in 2014-15. Also NH4, which is one of the most used roads to travel from Mumbai to Pune apart from the Expressway and goes up to Bangalore via Satara-Kolhapur, saw around 900 people killed in the past couple of years.
Click here to view the full state-wise list of accidents
Accidents on the rise despite government initiatives
The rising number of road accidents does not mean that the government is unaware of the road safety issue. In fact, the MSRDC, MoRTH and NHAI have announced a number of initiatives for road safety. It started on December 22, 2015, when over 50 Members of Parliament from across party lines had written to the Prime Minister expressing their support for the urgent introduction of a comprehensive road safety legislation. In March, the government announced plans to install electronic weighing machines at all toll plazas on national highways to prevent and detect overloading of commercial goods transport vehicles. The installation of Brifen ropes along the median of Mumbai-Pune Expressway are also considered as a failed safety move as vehicles can still fall off the sides of the highway, like in the case of the above-mentioned accident. The state government is now planning the installation of CCTV cameras on the Expressway and plans to book drivers found to be speeding and cutting lanes.
Despite the huge amount spent by officials on road safety and the country having 116 safety regulations in place, India leads the list of road accident deaths because of the lack of proper implementation and monitoring. Also, a fractured driver licensing system, weak penalty system and minimal use of technology, flawed design of road engineering, and the abject lack of trauma care facilities are some of the other issues that the officials need to tackle in order to curb accidents.
Photographs: Subhash Simhudu