'Widen road to four lanes, install reflectors, dividers'

While the death toll on the deadly Mumbai-Goa Highway is increasing by the day, transport experts and motorists using this important road feel that widening the road alone is not enough, and needs to be supplemented with installation of reflectors on accident-prone spots. They also feel that action should also be taken against those who are caught speedingon the road.

MiD DAY’s report on Feb 20, 2010 highlighting the lack of medical aid on the Mumbai-Goa highway

Speaking to MiD DAY, transport expert Jitendra Gupta, who frequently uses the road said, “In order to bring down the number of accidents on the Mumbai-Goa highway, dividers should be installed in the median of the highway, because a majority of the accidents have been taking place due to head-on collision. There are various stretches on this highway where there are blind turns. At such places, more reflectors and information boards should be installed, so that motorists are aware of the accident-prone locations.”

The highway, which passes through Western Ghats and undulated hilly terrain, has many dangerous curves and turns. The highway police have already identified over 100 spots that are accident-prone. “The road should also be widened on the lines of the Mumbai-Pune Highway and Mumbai-Nasik Highway. If possible the government should also use speed guns to catch hold of those speeding,” added Gupta.

Of the 540 km-long Mumbai-Goa Highway, the 84-km stretch between Palaspe and Indapur is being converted into four lanes. Data compiled by the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) and state PWD shows that of all the national highways that pass through Maharashtra, the Mumbai-Goa Highway has witnessed the highest number of accidents and fatalities between 2006 and 2011. During the period, while 1,479 fatalities occurred on the Goa Highway (476 km), the Dhule-Adilabad Road (632 km) witnessed 1,471 deaths.

Motorists wary
Vipul Mane, who uses the Mumbai-Goa Highway to visit his native place in Ratnagiri, said, “Every time I use the Mumbai-Goa Highway, I make sure that I drive only in the daytime. Driving on the road is a nightmare at night because of the blind turns. There are no highway traffic police present to fine those who are speeding. The only way to reduce accidents on the highway is by speeding up the road-widening work and installing dividers on the median of the highway.”

Akshay Kamath, another motorist who often drives on the highway, said, “Flyovers should be constructed on the junctions on the highway, so that vehicles coming from the opposite directions don’t collide.”  Highway Superintendent of Police for Thane Range Prashant Mohite said, “At present the Mumbai-Goa highway is a two-lane road and more than 80 per cent of the accidents that take place on this highway are due to head-on collision. If we really want to bring down the accidents on this road, the solution is to widen the road from two lanes to four lanes. Once the road is widened then dividers should be installed on the median of the road, which will bring down accidents on this stretch.” Transport expert Sudhir Badami said, “Road widening on the Mumbai-Goa NH-17 highway is required but the drivers should also ensure that they drive safely.” 

Treacherous spots
Sukeli Ghat near Nagothane, Kashedi Ghat, Parshuram Ghat between Khed and Chiplun, Sangameshwar Road, narrow road in Banda  

Killer highway
Home Minister RR Patil revealed frightening figures in the state legislature on Monday, saying that since 2010, 828 people have lost their lives on the highway while 2,411 have been seriously injured. The highway has seen 1,338 accidents in 2010, 1,335 in 2011 and 1,227 in 2012, thanks to rash driving, said the minister. Patil said the highway had seven highway police aid centres for traffic regulation and added that after the ongoing work of the widening of the highway is complete, the need for more police posts and traffic posts would be examined. Meanwhile, in a written reply to a question raised by Mumbai MLA Amin Patel and others, Public Works Department Minister Chhagan Bhujbal said that police reports revealed that most accidents on the Mumbai-Goa highway and neighbouring areas take place as drivers don’t stick to the speed limit.

Action against over loaded buses
The RTOs normally ignore overloading inside inter-state buses and luggage kept on their roofs. Although these private bus operators run services in the most callous manner, the RTO hardly takes any stringent action. But not for long. From today, RTOs will start taking action against overloaded buses. Sources claim that this is happening only because it is financial year-end, and that the RTOs have to fill their coffers. RTO officials said that they have limited manpower and so find it difficult to carry out such drives regularly. 

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