#VinitasPune: This Is How Lethal The Pune-Mumbai Expressway Can Get

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Famed and respected spine surgeon Dr Ketan Khurjekar, met with a ghastly accident on the shoulder lane of the Pune-Mumbai Expressway, while helping his cab driver change a flat tyre.

Both tragically lost their lives to the lethal perils that this expressway poses to its daily commuters. 

Last weekend, the medical fraternity of Pune was shocked and mourned the tragic accidental death of the top-notch spine surgeon, Dr Ketan Khurjekar, on the Pune-Mumbai Expressway. Once again highlighting, the various factors that continues to make the Pune-Mumbai Expressway a highly risky one.

In this case, the stopover on the shoulder lane to change the punctured tyre – which should have passed off as a trivial incident – proved to be fatal.

Dr Khurjekar and his doctor colleagues, who had hired a cab from a cab aggregator and were returning to Pune from a medical conference in Mumbai, encountered a flat tyre and were forced to stop. News reports state that the rear, right tyre had given way so, in all probability, despite stopping on the shoulder lane, Dr Khurjekar, who got out of the car to help the driver was on the right side of the shoulder lane. 

As per news reports, the private bus coming from behind allegedly swerved to the left to overtake a truck in the middle lane and in the process, hit them fatally. The scenario every night, of the undisciplined and scary way that trucks ply on just any lane, is a cause of tension for every driver and commuter.

You will find them spread over all lanes although they are supposed to be on the first lane only; they are sometimes terribly slow due to overloading or bad maintenance of the vehicle and thus create traffic chaos. Over speeding of private vehicles amidst these trucks is also common. Last year one of them had overturned due to the excessive speed as the driver braked suddenly and injured over a dozen passengers seated in it. 

Also, I have a problem with drivers (the cab driver which took Dr Khurjekar and his colleagues was in his 20s) as twice in the past, I had undergone an agonising experience. Once, this young driver looked drowsy and I could see from the rear seat (I was seated diagonally behind him) and noticed that he was trying his best to keep awake.

He realised it and stopped on the shoulder lane to splash water in his eyes. I was terrified, every second, as I feared some vehicle could bang into from behind.

This fear is not an exaggerated one, for, as per news reports, in 2019 itself, there have been over 20 such mishaps. Secondly, the other young driver, on another occasion was a cab driver too and he seemed constantly fidgety and was answering the mobile. It took me a great deal of fake politeness underlined by stern warnings to keep his composure and get him to stop answering his mobile. 

In the case of Kudjekar’s cab driver, he probably didn’t have the presence of mind to be wary of changing the tyre at the right edge of the shoulder lane, when, as a cab driver, he should know that vehicles hurtle at top speed, particularly in the night.

So, you may ask, what must one do in such a situation?

Very clearly call up the emergency number 98232 98232 and ask for help. The patrolling team wear fluorescent jackets and they put temporary fluorescent barriers so there are more chances of vehicles coming from behind, spotting your vehicle.  That’s what my friend said she did when her car’s tyre got punctured around midnight, a couple of years back.

As per the findings of the annual study conducted by Mumbai-based JP Research India Pvt Ltd, with the approval of the Maharashtra State Highway Police and the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) for 2018, 58% of total accidents on the Pune-Mumbai Expressway took place while the vehicle was parked or was broken-down or being pushed to the roadside.

The study also observes that an infrastructural deficiency manifests in the shoulder lane being narrow or not existing at all and inadequate warning about the parked vehicle which leads to collision from behind. These two factors accounted for 3% and 8% of accidents, respectively.

The JPRI accident research team investigated 110 accidents on the expressway in 2018. It involved 218 road users (193 vehicles and 25 pedestrians) and 443 victims (418 vehicle occupants and 25 pedestrians). Of the 443 victims, 65 were fatal, 105 were seriously injured and 129 suffered minor injuries. The main causes of accidents were:

  • Collision with another vehicle which starts, stops or is stationary;
  • Collision with another vehicle moving ahead or waiting;
  • Collision with another vehicle moving laterally in the same direction;
  • Collision with another oncoming vehicle;
  • Collision with another vehicle which turns into or crosses a road;
  • Collision between vehicle and pedestrian;
  • Collision with an obstacle in the carriageway;
  • Leaving the carriageway to the right;
  • Leaving the carriageway to the left;
  •  Accident of another kind (such as truck jack-knifing, fires, and rollovers on the carriageway)

Further, as per the JPRI findings, car occupants comprise 43% of fatalities/injuries on the expressway.

The report states, `road users most often involved in accidents are trucks (54%, 118 out of 218) and cars (30%, 66 out of 218); these are also among the principal road users seen on the expressway. As can be observed, the vehicles with the highest share of fatalities or serious injuries to occupants are cars. Cars constitute 43% (41 cars, by count) of vehicles which had at least one fatal or serious injury occupant.’’

Needless to say, we have been provided with an expressway, with hardly any traffic enforcement by law enforcing authorities. While the government keeps flaunting its gift to the two cities which has enhanced quick movement, it has utterly neglected infrastructural deficiencies, traffic engineering (there are several studies on this) and imposition of heavy penalties for breaking rules.

Until the government willfully decides to do everything it should to minimise accidents (instead of blaming human error), precious lives will continue to be lost, causing untold agony to the family members.


#All views expressed in this column are those of the author and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to them. 

Vinita Deshmukh

Vinita Deshmukh

Passion for the written word that comes alive, not only to tell a story, but to speak out loud about all that's good, bad and the ugly in society...

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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