Why cops are struggling to fine motorists over Expressway speed limit

Updated: Jan 09, 2019, 19:41 IST | Sanjeev Shivadekar

While the Central government had, in April 2018, increased the speed limit on all expressways across India to 120 kmph, the police have been fining motorists for going above 80 kmph on the E-way, which is the state's limit

Why cops are struggling to fine motorists over Expressway speed limit
The speed limit according to the state government remains 80 kmph on the Mumbai-Pune E-way

Every time the police stop someone for speeding on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, they walk a fine line between the central and state government's contradictory rules. Recently, the Centre issued a notification increasing the speed limit on the expressway to 120 kmph. However, the state government is not up to speed on this yet, and signboards along the highway still declare 80 kmph as the official speed limit. This ambiguity is the reason the police and motorists now have daily arguments on this stretch.

In a recent notification, the Union ministry of road transport and highways, headed by Nitin Gadkari, announced that the speed limit for vehicles on expressways has been increased to 120 kmph. However, Maharashtra has not made any changes to its existing policy limiting E-way traffic to 80 kmph. Neither has the state issued any notification to clarify whether citizens should follow the Centre's order or continue with the existing speed limit.

Experts say 120 kmph is far too high for the notorious Mumbai-Pune Expressway
Experts say 120 kmph is far too high for the notorious Mumbai-Pune Expressway

To fine or not to fine
A senior police officer told mid-day, "When we stop car drivers for speeding over 80 kmph, some of them point to the Union government's latest notification, and argue with us. This has become an everyday menace."

Despite repeated attempts to contact Vijay Patil, superintendent of police at the Maharashtra Highway police headquarters, he was not available for comment. According to traffic pundits, it is in everybody's interest to clear up any ambiguity over the speed limit. "The state administration should move swiftly to clear the ambiguity, so that motorists and police are clear about the rules," said expert Tanmay Pendse.

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Too fast and furious
However, Pendse also expressed reservations about raising the speed as high as 120 kmph on the Mumbai-Pune E-way, notorious for its winding stretches and frequent accidents. Since the opening of the 94-km-long expressway in 2002, it has witnessed over 5,000 accidents and nearly 1,700 deaths.

In 2017, Pendse and his colleagues had carried surveillance for 21 hours on each lane of the E-way. They observed that of the 4,224 vehicles that passed through the stretch, 4,180 were driving above the prescribed limit of 80 kmph. This is particularly alarming since statistics show that speeding accounts for 61 per cent of fatalities in road accidents.

Hiking the speed limit too much could worsen the problem, said Pendse, who recommended moderation. "Since it is an expressway, the speed should be raised from 80 to 100 kmph — or the tag of expressway should be removed. But, it should certainly not be 120 kmph. That will lead to more accidents," he said.

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