While the expressway may be a cool way to travel to and fro to Mumbai, danger lurks just about everywhere…
Last week’s horrendous accident on the Pune-Mumbai Expressway, once again brings forth the dangers of driving on it. Perpetrated by a truck driver (carrying cement bags) who lost control of his vehicle, crashed the divider and collided with three cars.
One fell into a 40 feet deep gorge killing three of the Angre family and injuring several others..
This has happened before and can happen again. You may be in complete control of your car, your driving discipline and your senses and yet, one errant vehicle can instantly script a tragic destiny for you!
My heart goes out to the Angre family who lost three members. Thousands of others who have lost their lives on this Pune-Mumbai Expressway over the years, have been victims of critical issues that are not addressed by successive governments.
They only boast of constructing thousands of kilometres of roads without adhering to responsible and scientific traffic engineering and traffic safety.
Contractors are not made accountable for the quality of roads, the engineering and commuter safety. No stringent laws for procurement of driving licenses are put into place and punishments like jail terms and permanent cancelation of licenses are meted out to the guilty!
Consequently. it is you and I that are always at the receiving end of this criminal negligence, while we fight over various aspects of their apathetic attitude.
The United Nations has declared the decade of 2011-2020 as the Decade of Action on Road Safety and every country is directed to reduce fatalities.
India is apparently working towards reducing the number of road accidents and fatalities by 50 per cent by 2020. However, for us, the Pune-Mumbai Expressway is the one that we regularly commute on and the horrifying reality that nearly 15,000 people have been killed so far in accidents in the past 15 years is testimony to the lurking danger.
The Ideal Road Builders (IRB) which is in charge of operations, maintenance and safety of this expressway may be doing enough to qualify its contract, but, it is clearly not meeting the most obvious needs. You need not read their MoU with the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) to gauge whether it is meeting the terms and conditions.
An alert drive through may be enough to tell you how it is in effect, putting the lives of commuters at peril.
While it is a strict no-no for two-wheelers with large boards displaying this messages, two-wheelers ply quite happily. The riders hail from several villages alongside the expressway and merrily get in from the various exits. They have occasionally been co-players in deadly accidents, besides themselves being victims of them. Is it really rocket science to ban their entry onto the expressway once for all?
Heavy vehicles in dilapidated conditions ply through this expressway occupying each of the three lanes. Despite boards being put up that they should be using only the left lane, there is no adherence to these rules. Several are overloaded, do not have fluorescent strips on the rear and at times driven by fatigued drivers or even drunk ones.
Particularly in the ghat section, these heavy vehicles look like deadly monsters through which smaller vehicles have to weave themselves through.
Is it really impossible to take strict action on them and make them toe the line?
Over-speeding and dangerous switching of lanes by impatient, inexperienced or audacious drivers is a common phenomenon on the expressway. With speed guns and other technological systems it is possible to nab the errant drivers. Such drives are undertaken but only once in a while as if serious and fatal accidents happen only occasionally.
While the limit is 80 kms, speeding between 150-200 km/ph is common particularly of drivers in SUVs and luxury cars. Does it take so much to use technology 24×7 and ensure speeding drivers get challans and their licenses cancelled for a certain period?
Animals run astray or sit in the middle of the lanes posing a huge hazard, particularly after sunset. My brother once had a miraculous escape at night, he tried to avoid what seemed like a boulder in the middle of a lane but when he tried to bypass it, the animal stood up, hitting the side of his SUV which turned turtle.
Luckily all the 10 passengers in it escaped with minor injuries. As per the conditions laid out during the construction and then management of the expressway, it was to be fenced all along to prevent animals from straying on. However, due to the callousness or to allegedly reduce costs, there are several kilometre stretches without fencing or in some cases, the fence has worn out and animals roam free and turn potential killers. Is it rocket science to fix these?
People stopping for a break, picnic or selfies has gained popularity particularly during the monsoons to capture the picturesque backdrop. A few years back, 24 persons of a marriage party were killed, as they halted between two stationary vehicles to have their meal. A truck drove into them from behind and the 24 persons were crushed to death.
Boards have been put up appealing to people not to halt on the expressway but it has been futile. Agreed that people should understand, but is it rocket science for the IRB to ensure implementation of this rule?
Road infrastructure is nothing but a pompous and arrogant word unless accompanied by conscientiousness in making it safe for commuters and not making them vulnerable at every milestone. I trust you agree.
#All views expressed in this column are those of the author and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to them.
That's Vinita Deshmukh, Senior journalist and RTI activist who believes in journalism that reflects the views and needs of the common man.
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