The accident on Monday, involving a car and a truck on the stretch of Mumbai-Bangalore highway passing through city’s limits, which claimed four lives once again highlights how dangerous the road has become for travellers. The data of accidents reveals why motorists need to exercise extreme caution if they want to save their lives: the stretch has witnessed close to 500 deaths in a span of five years between October 2012 and October 2017.
Monday’s accident took place around 4 am as did most of the accidents in the last five years on the highway, which is also known as Katraj bypass. Deputy Commissioner of Police (traffic) Ashok Morale said that during early morning hours, this stretch — from Dehu Road to Shindewadi area — has witnessed most accidents. “The volume of traffic is less in the wee hours compared to the daytime. And, therefore, drivers have a tendency to overspeed, which results in accidents,” he said. Even during late evening hours, Morale said, accidents rate is higher, which again is due to the tendency to overspeeding at a time when visibility is poor compared to the daytime.
So, where are the Pune traffic police during early morning hour or during night time ? DCP Morale said in the night time or early morning hours, highway patrol team takes care of the stretch. “Our traffic police work from 7 am to 10 am. The stretch comes under three divisions of the traffic police. We have around 50 traffic police personnel controlling the traffic during the day time,” he said. Then, does the traffic police have a plan to put its men during early morning hours on this stretch ? “We are considering various aspects and will come up with a plan…,” said DCP Morale.
Meanwhile, the traffic police have filed a case against the car driver — Rushikesh Mane, son of the pathologist — who died in the accident. Police said they could not help as the law stipulates that a case be made out for negligent driving. Police believe that the driver lost control over the vehicle. “Maybe he felt sleepy during early morning hours and lost control over the vehicle,” Kamlakar Takavale, police inspector.
DCP Morale said the accident occurred less than a kilometre away from Katraj tunnel. A traffic police official said the slope after the tunnel is most dangerous and has seen several accidents over the years. “There is a desperate need for a corrective action at this spot. If you stand for a minute at this spot, you will notice how fast the vehicles zip from here…which is a very scary sight,” the official said.
Civic activists said there was a desperate need to fix accountability for accidents and much more needed to be done to stop the growing number of fatalities on this stretch or else deaths and injuries will continue. “First and foremost, merely filing a case against the driver will not help in reducing the fatalities. What is required to be done is to carry out a scientific investigation of the accident. Was it because of overspeeding? Was it because of visibility problem?
Was it because of the bad road condition or was it because of the traffic engineering problems involving construction of slopes and dangerous curves,” said Prashant Inamdar, convener of Pedestrians First.
Civic activists allege there is no seriousness among the authorities in Pune about investigating an accident, which could go a long way in reducing future fatalities. Inamdar said that in this case, the National Highway Authority of India, under whose control the highway falls, and the traffic police needed to form a joint team which could investigate its cause and suggest the ways to make the highway safer. “But nothing of this sort happens. Accidents are taken as any other incident, cases are filed against driver and then all is forgotten…,” he said.