The section of NH-48 where the Mercedes Benz GLC sports utility vehicle carrying former Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Mistry and three others met with an accident Sunday may be declared a “black spot” by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, if two reports commissioned on the accident — one by the Maharashtra government and the other by an independent agency — reveal a design flaw in that section.
Sources said initial reports from the site in Maharashtra’s Palghar district seem to suggest that factors behind the accident include “driver fatigue” and the “high speed” at which the premium SUV — equipped with seven airbags — was being driven.
“Currently, it (the site) is not a designated black spot. We will declare it a black spot if investigations suggest that the spot is accident-prone,” said a government official. A black spot is a road stretch or section where accidents happen frequently due to a design flaw and corrective action is subsequently taken.
There were 5,803 designated black spots identified on National Highways based on data from 2016 to 2018, according to the Ministry. Of these, there are about 25 black spots in Maharashtra and two on the same highway stretch where the crash took place but the exact spot where the accident happened — where three lanes converge into two — has not been designated as a black spot yet.
Mistry and the three others were returning to Mumbai on Sunday when their car rammed in a road divider at a spot on a bridge over the Surya river at Charoti in Palghar, about 100 km north of Mumbai.
“The SUV (Mercedes Benz GLC) was being driven at a speed of 130 km/hour and driver fatigue could have caused the accident,” the source added.
Investigators picked up evidence Monday and took them to a lab in Pune to reconstruct the accident. Speaking to The Indian Express, one of the experts engaged in the exercise said that the stretch in question did not appear to have a system to enforce speed restriction, which it should have had.
Moreover, there needed to be crash barrier at the fateful spot to avoid fatalities, he said. “There also appeared to be road engineering issues as the parapet wall should not have been so close to the curb. But we will go into all that in detail,” he said.
The top-end model of the GLC comes equipped with seven airbags — driver, passenger, driver knee, driver side, front passenger side and two curtain airbags.
The kneebag, in combination with the other airbags, essentially protects the driver’s legs from contact with the steering column or the dashboard in a severe frontal crash.
The car is also equipped with a “pre-safe” feature, whereby the front seat belts can be electrically pretensioned in hazardous situations. As a result, the forward displacement of the occupants during braking or skidding can be minimised in the event of an accident.
While both the persons on the front seats survived, Mistry and his co-passenger on the back seat died in the accident. Whether the passengers in the rear were wearing seat-belts isn’t known. Not wearing seatbelts results in the passengers being thrown frontwards when the car comes to a sudden halt resulting in injuries and fatalities. Also, the airbags typically work in tandem with the seat belt.
An independent survey released in January 2019 had recorded about 26,896 people having died in India due to the non-use of seat belts during the year 2017. This is despite rules mandating wearing of seat belts in the rear. Under Rule 138 (3) of Central Motor Vehicle Rules (CMVR) “all persons occupying front facing rear seats”, should wear seat belts.
An analysis of the recently published accident data National Crime Records Bureau reveals that crash severity on Indian roads climbed to 38.6 in 2021, up from 31.4 in 2016. Crash severity reveals how many deaths occurred in every 100 road accidents. The higher the crash severity, the higher is the risk of death in a road crash. At 38.6, India ranked top among the most dangerous countries in the world when it comes to road crashes.