3 accidents in 2 hours: Why this 14-km stretch is a danger zone
The 14-kilometre patch of the Mumbai-Bengaluru Highway between Katraj and Narhe — which includes the spot where the three accidents took place on Sunday morning — remains a key accident-prone area with heavy vehicles causing most of the accidents due to human errors, according to traffic police. Drivers switching to neutral gear has been cited as the main reason among the human errors, the officials have said.
On Sunday morning, three back-to-back accidents were reported in a radius of one-and-a-half kilometres in Narhe Ambegaon in a span of two hours. The area where these three accidents were reported is less than one-and-a-half kilometres away from Navale Bridge where in November last year, a truck carrying gunny bags of rice went on to hit or brush as many as 48 vehicles. Nearly 24 vehicles were heavily damaged in the accident while 25 persons were injured.
The two traffic jurisdiction looking after this patch of highway — Bharti Vidyapeeth and Sinhagad Road — have together reported as many 40 fatal accidents in 2022 in which 44 people lost their lives. This patch of the highway also has two major accident black spots, identified as Navale Bridge and Selfie Point, which have together witnessed one of highest number of accidents among other black spots in Pune City. Between 2018 and 2022, these two spots have witnessed 108 accidents in which 40 deaths have been reported. According to the norms set up by the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) and the Indian Road Congress, a patch of 500 metres of the road on which five or more accidents with fatalities or grievous injuries have taken place in three years, is referred to as a ‘black spot’. The District Level Road Safety Committee chaired by the District Collector is the nodal authority that monitors the black spots and also remedial measures taken by the stakeholder agencies to reduce the risk factors on these road patches.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (Traffic Control) Vijaykumar Magar said, “This patch of the highway between Katraj and Narhe remains a very accident-prone patch of the Mumbai-Bengaluru Highway due to various reasons. The analysis of the past accidents has shown that the top reason being the drivers of the heavy vehicles switching to neutral gear and also turning off the engine on the downward gradient in order to save some fuel. With neutral gear and turned off engine, the driver of the heavy vehicles which move with heavy loads can’t properly control them, causing accidents. Another important reason being a number of entry and exit points where vehicles leaving or entering the highway and those on the highway witness accidents.”
Magar said, “We have to understand that every accident can have a combination of causes. It can include flaws in road infrastructure and physical conditions at the time, various human errors, health of the driver and the vehicle and also issues related to traffic rule enforcement and traffic management among others.” Magar further said, “In coordination with the National Highways Authority of India and other stakeholder bodies, we have implemented a number of corrective measures on this patch. A number of rumble strips have been painted to slow down the vehicles near accident-prone area. We have established a new traffic police outpost and have increased the traffic police deployment in the area. Enforcement of speed limits is being done meticulously and several signage boards in various languages have been installed on this patch.”
After the accident on Navale Bridge in November, all the key stakeholder agencies had jointly announced a series of corrective measures — both short term and long term — to improve safety on the patch of Katraj Dehu Road Bypass between Katraj and Narhe. These measures include phased reduction in speed limit of heavy vehicles and dismantling the ‘selfie point’.
A reduction in the gradient of the slope on Navale Bridge and reduction in curvature of the highway bypass connecting the viaduct and Swaminarayan Temple, has been proposed. Authorities have said that painting additional rumble strips and installing more reflectors is also on cards. In some areas, painting rumble strips every 400 metres has been proposed along with their regular maintenance. A phased reduction in the speed limit of heavy vehicles and taking it down to 40 kilometres per hour is also one of the priority items on the list.