Why is Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway so dangerous? Amid accidents, a look at road's traps, black spots
Five people were killed on the spot in two separate accidents on Tuesday at the the Mumbai-Ahmedabad national highway in Palghar district when the drivers of their cars lost control and collided with oncoming vehicles, reports said. Motorists blamed the accidents on the pothole-ridden highway.
Talasari police told the Times of India that the two accidents happened on the highway near Aamgaon village in Talasari taluka, close to the Maharashtra-Gujarat border. The highway and its issues have received renewed attention after the death of former Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Mistry, who was killed on September 4 in a car accident at Charoti in Dahanu taluka.
According to the Times of India report, the driver of a car travelling from Mumbai to Gujarat lost control of the vehicle near Aamgaon village, jumped the divider, and collided with a tempo on the Mumbai lane early Tuesday.
Kuldeep Mourya (32), his friend Viren Mishra (34), both of Surat, Gujarat, and tempo driver Srikrishna Mishra, of Uttar Pradesh, were killed on the spot. Rajesh Desai and Ajay Desai, who were seated in the back seat, were seriously injured and are being treated in a private hospital.
Mistry was returning from Gujarat’s Udwada to Mumbai with three family friends — brothers Darius and Jehangir Pandole, and Darius’s wife Anahita Pandole when the accident took place. According to the police, the car crashed into a divider at Surya River’s Charoti bridge on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad National Highway. Jehangir, 49, who was in the back seat of the Mercedes along with Mistry, too, died in the crash.
What Do Motorists Complain About?
There are a number of things that motorists say is wrong with the highway. Drivers who frequently use the Mumbai-Ahmedabad National Highway said it was poorly maintained and, when combined with speeding, could be fatal.
Bad Discipline, Pockmarked Road
Naraayan Kannan, who commutes on the highway frequently, told the Times of India that many sections of the road were pockmarked and traffic discipline was poor. He complained that that he had damaged the right wheel of his car once while driving amid heavy rain. “On the stretch from Vapi to Daman and at the entrance to Vapi, there are huge craters in the middle of the highway. There is zero lane discipline and people overtake with extremely low caution,” Kannan told TOI.
Transport activist Jagdeep Desai echoed the sentiment, and was quoted as saying in the report that truck and bus drivers, in particular, lack traffic discipline. “Many vehicles are seen passing on the left. In addition, the road is uneven in some places,” he said.
The All India Vahan Chalak Malak Mahasangha has said that the fatal crash involving Cyrus Mistry was caused by faulty engineering of the highway. The body’s spokesperson Harbans Singh Nanade says that the width of the southbound lane on Charoti flyover is 10.50 metres, but has been narrowed down to seven metres on the bridge built over Surya River. “What kind of road construction is this? The lane is also serpentine, and the driver cannot see the L-shaped death trap into which the gynaecologist (Dr Anahita Pandole) dashed,” he was quoted as saying by Mid Day.
He said that motorists from Gujarat frequently prefer to take the bridge’s right arm because the left arm is very confusing, adding that a new driver frequently misses the black spot and ends up in the L-shaped death trap. “The driver cannot see its length. There are no warning signs on the highway,” Nanade was quoted as saying.
According to the Free Press Journal, 100 people have died and nearly 50 have been injured on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway between Manor (Palghar) and Achad (Gujarat) in the last two years. This 52-kilometer stretch contains nearly a dozen accident sites, including the Surya River bridge.
What Can Be Done to Prevent Accidents/Fatalities?
More Trauma Care Centres & Enforcement of Traffic Rules
Activists emphasised the need for more trauma care centres along this heavily travelled highway, according to a TOI report. “There are few hospitals near ‘hotspots’ (black spots are stretches of about 500 metres where either five road crashes took place in three calendar years or 10 fatalities in all three years combined). The government should establish several trauma care centres so that any crash victim can be admitted to a hospital in a timely manner. It is critical to treat a victim during the first golden hour following a crash,” Western India Automobile Association’s Nitin Dossa was quoted as saying. He also stated that more enforcement is required to reduce crashes.
Road Signs, Street Lights
A long stretch of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Highway is devoid of critical road signs, including dangerous spots for motorists, a report by the Mid Day states. It adds that 18 of the 21 bridges on the carriageway between Mumbai and Charoti are barely illuminated due to a lack of street lights on the overpasses.
Mid Day’s ground report stated that bushes in the median are another challenge as many plants grow tall, obstructing signage and reflectors and creating blind spots for vehicles. Furthermore, the paint on many reflectors and signage has worn away, exacerbating drivers’ problems at night.
Traffic officers on the highway who requested anonymity were quoted as saying that clear and visible highway signage is essential. They emphasised the non-operational streetlights on the bridges in particular.
Eighteen of the 21 key overpasses on the Mumbai-Charoti stretch do not have working lights, the report said. Though there were signs informing motorists about the overpasses a few metres ahead of the bridges, there were no road signs or reflectors at the start of the bridges.
What Authorities Say
Recent reports said that officials from the district and the National Highways Authority of India recently inspected the 110-kilometer stretch of highway.
However, traffic police officials have stated that the road design was not to blame for the accident in which Cyrus Mistry died, and that the crash was caused by overspeeding, the Firstpost reported. Officials had stated that the site is not prone to accidents and is not on the list of “black spots” where fatal accidents have occurred in the past.
“We continuously alert road maintenance agencies about black spots, quality of highways and their vulnerabilities,” KK Sarangal, additional DG (state traffic) was quoted as saying by TOI.
Meanwhile, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation imposed a fine of Rs 3.66 lakh on Lalbaugcha Raja Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal for creating 183 potholes on the road during Ganeshotsav this year, with a fine of Rs 2,000 per pothole, ANI reported.