The stretch of Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway in Maharashtra where former Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Mistry died in a car accident recently has witnessed 262 accidents and claimed 62 lives this year, according to police.
In those accidents in the 100-km stretch of the highway between Ghodbunder in Thane and Dapchari in Palghar district, 192 persons were injured.
The cause for so many accidents on the highway is due to overspeeding and error of judgement on a driver’s part. However, officials feel that poor maintenance of the road, lack of proper signage and absence of speed curbing measures too are among the factors responsible for the high number of accidents.
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The stretch near Charoti, where the Mercedes car in which Mistry was travelling met with an accident on September 4, has seen 26 deaths in 25 serious accidents since the start of this year, said a Maharashtra highway police official, according to a PTI report on Sunday (September 18).
He added that the stretch near Chinchoti has reported 25 deaths in 34 serious accidents during the same period, while 11 persons have died in 10 accidents near Manor.
“Charoti is a black spot when it comes to accidents, and so is the stretch of some 500 metres beyond it towards Mumbai,” he said.
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The road curves before the Surya river bridge as one travels towards Mumbai and the three-lane carriageway narrows into a two-lane one, he said.
“But there is no effective road signage or speed-curbing rumblers warning vehicle drivers before they reach the bridge,” the official pointed out.
It was here that the car driven by gynaecologist Anahita Pandole at high speed ran into the road divider. Mistry and his friend Jehangir Pandole who were riding in the backseat died while Anahita and her husband Darius who was in the front-row passenger seat suffered serious injuries.
The safety-related guidelines of the Indian Road Congress seemed to have been overlooked by those who are responsible for the maintenance of the road, said another official.
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While the road comes under the purview of the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), the private agency which collects toll has the responsibility of maintenance, he added.
According to the guidelines, an ambulance must be kept on stand-by every 30 kilometres, and there should also be a crane and patrolling vehicles, the official said.
In the wake of the September 4 tragedy, Maharashtra Police have written to the Central Road Research Institute for expert opinion on safety measures that can be introduced and also asked the Central Institute of Road Transport to conduct a road-safety audit of the part of the highway which lies inside Maharashtra.
According to the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH), a road accident black spot is a stretch of National Highway of about 500 metres in length in which either five road accidents (in all three years put together involving fatalities/grievous injuries) took place during the last three calendar years or 10 fatalities (in all three years put together) took place during the last three calendar years.
Based on road accident data collected by police departments of state governments and compiled by the Transport Research Wing (TRW) of MoRTH, blackspots are identified for “undertaking immediate short term measures for mitigation and long term measures for permanent rectification”.
As per the ministry data released in July this year, more than 1.3 lakh lives were lost in road accidents across the country in 2020, the year when the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
(With Agency inputs)