Highways in Maharashtra, which saw the highest number of fatalities in India in 2007 and 2008, may just get safer for motorists.
Highway police can now fine motorists between Rs 100 and Rs 1,000 for offences like rash driving, speeding, driving without valid documents or taking wrong U-turns. They can even confiscate your licence.
And although they cannot penalise motorists for drink driving, they have been equipped with breath-analysers.
The highway police department — disbanded in 1989 and then given only patrolling and rescue powers in 1996 following complaints of corruption — has got back its powers to prosecute errant drivers on the state’s 15 highways.
The state Home department issued a notification empowering the highway police on August 7. Now, sub-inspectors and assistant sub inspectors of the highway police can penalise drivers under certain sections of the Motor Vehicle’s Act 1988.
In 2008, 12,397 deaths were reported on the state highways, including the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. In 2007, the figure was 11,935. This year, 5,892 deaths were reported till June.
“There have been several accidents on the highways and fatalities have increased due to the lack of knowledge about traffic rules among drivers, weather conditions and several other reasons. Now that the highway police have got powers, the number of accidents would surely come down,” said Arup Patnaik, additional DG (highway police).