No one kills like Maharashtra’s highways, not even terrorism. With more than 25 deaths every single day on highways, Maharashtra has been consistently leading in the natioanl accident statistics for the past few years with annual average of 10,000 deaths a year.
The two highway accidents on Friday, that killed seven Mumbaikars, will go down as mere statistic as till June this year, the figure of deaths has already reached 5,922 as compared to 10,354 deaths in the entire last year.
The state RTO has plans to introduce a 7-8 month driving certificate course for heavy vehicle drivers to train them in traffic safety and driving, but plans are yet on paper.
The reason behind the rising number of accidents is simply the growing density of vehicles on the state’s roads. In Maharashtra there were 3,07,030 motor vehicle in 1971. Thirty-five years later in 2005, the figure rose to 99,35,965, an increase in almost 33 times. During the same period, the road length has risen by mere 5-6 times. In fact there are several roads where the vehicular traffic 4 to 5 times their capacity.
According to data with the Maharashtra highway police and the Union Ministry of Shipping, Road Transport and Highways, “The accident records show an interesting trend. Among the various reasons for accidents, besides faulty driving, over-speeding and drunken driving, there are also factors like the driver being too tired and on occasions had dozed off on the wheel or because the driver got dazzled by headlights.
A senior highway official said, “Overtaking is one of the top reasons for accidents too and that’s what happened in both the cases yesterday. In their zest to overtake, motorists cut lanes, leading to head-on collisions with vehicles coming from opposite direction.”
“Having dividers is one of the solutions, but at many stretches the roads are so narrow that one practically cannot have dividers. Once national highways are widened and upgraded, this problem will be solved,” he added
Vijay Kamble, special inspector-general of police (highway traffic) told Hindustan Times that most accidents happen because of human error.
Asked why Maharashtra topped the accident list, he said, “The problem is with people and not infrastructure. You say overtaking is one of the major reasons, but it is not so. Take the example of the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. It has dividers, so there’s no threat from vehicles in opposite direction. Yet there have been accidents. If roads were bad, people won’t be able to speed up their vehicles and there will be no accidents. So the problem is with driving habits not roads”
“Maharashtra has a mere 450 km highway length as compared to 40,000 km in the country. Yet accidents top here because of undisciplined driving habits. Driving is a high-skilled job. There are cases where a driver drives for continuous 10-15 hours without a break or does not follow basic traffic rules. All this leads to fatigue and a tired individual is more prone to accidents,” Kamble added.
Agrees Nitin Dossa, executive chairman of Western India Automobile Association, “The trend of not following basic traffic rules while driving is the main reason for the increasing number of accidents along highways. The need of the day today is have stricter traffic norms and the Regional Transport Office (RTO) should stop issuing licenses randomly. The driving tests should also include all aspects of traffic safety and the RTO must see that all the rules and regulations do not remain on paper, but are diligently implemented.”
“It’s about disciplined driving and following traffic guidelines. Individuals should be more careful for their own safety,” adds Sunil H Merchant, former president of WIAA.
State RTO Commissioner Shyamsunder Shinde told HT, “We are planning to make driving norms stricter and there is a proposal lying with the state government to introduce a 7-8 month driving certificate course with software simulators on the lines of ITI for heavy vehicle drivers and only those who clear the test will be eligible for driving heavy vehicles.”
· 65,686 in 2003
· 66,910 in 2004
· 67,720 in 2005
· 81.3 lakh in 2003
· 89.6 lakh in 2004
· 99.3 lakh in 2005
· 9,483 in 2003
· 9,875 in 2004
· 10,354 in 2005
· 2.24 lakh km in 2003
· 2.26 lakh km in 2004
· 2.27 lakh km in 2005
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