The Maharashtra government’s goal of reducing road accident fatalities looks unattainable for yet another year with 1,231 more people dying in road accidents in the first half of this year and 3,170 more suffering injuries as compared to the same period last year.
According to information sourced from the state transport department, 31,458 road accidents occurred in Maharashtra killing 8,068 people while 14,200 were injured between January to June 2022, as against 14,420 road accidents in which 6,837 people died and 11,030 injured in the same period in 2021.
The surge in road accidents in the first six months of this year is 118.15 per cent, while road fatalities and injuries are up by 18 per cent and 28.73 per cent, respectively.
As compared to the first six months of the pre-pandemic year 2019, the state witnessed about 76 per cent more road crashes and 14.13 per cent more fatalities till June this year while the number of injured rose by 9 per cent.
In 17,864 road crashes, 7,069 people died and 15,617 were injured between January and June 2019, as per the data.
Maharashtra Highway police have been compiling the road accident details from 35 districts and 10 police commissionerates in the state over the last few years for analysis and taking preventive measures to bring down the number of road accidents and fatalities.
Significantly, the data suggests that in very few of the 35 districts and 10 police commissionerates, the number of road accidents, fatalities, and injuries has come down so far this year compared to the corresponding period last year.
Of the 31,458 road accidents, 15,132 occurred in Mumbai in the first six months of 2022. Even though the number of accidents surged by 14,008, the resultant fatalities and injuries dipped by 46 and 90, respectively, as compared to the same period (January-June) last year.
However a senior officer of traffic police department don't agree with the fact and said “Otherwise accidents and fatalities have declined,”
"The number of accidents in Mumbai looks more due to the inclusion of First Information Reports (FIRs) for wrong-side driving. About 150-200 FIRS registered every day for the last three months were included in this year’s accident data for Mumbai" officials said.
He said road engineering changes at accident spots, CCTV monitoring on roads, heavy enforcement action, awareness drives, and no entry for heavy vehicles during peak hours are some of the important steps being taken to curb the number of road accidents.
After Mumbai, the districts of Yawatmal (247), Ahmednagar (160), and Chandrapur (155) witnessed a maximum rise in the number of road accidents.
As far as fatalities are concerned, Buldhana (95) and Ahmednagar (84) districts have seen the highest rise. On the injuries front, Nagpur rural (306), Pune rural (294) and Solapur rural (279) top the chart for the first six months of this year as compared to the same period of the previous year.
In comparison, only three districts—Nanded (20), Dhule (10) and Parbhani (2)- have witnessed a dip in road crashes, while only Mumbai city (46), Thane rural (6), Dhule (4), Akola (4) and Sindhudurg (2) saw a decline in road fatalities.
The number of road accident injuries in Mumbai (90), Latur (19) and Nanded (10) has gone down.
Maharashtra has a vehicle population of more than 3.5 crore and a road network of more than 17,725 km of national highways, 29,029 km of state highways and 63,886 km of other roads.
Significantly, in the year 2021, as many as 13,528 persons were killed and 25,116 others injured in 29,493 road crashes across Maharashtra. According to Maharashtra Highway Police’s report on road accidents in 2020, almost 30% of road accidents occur in Pune, Solapur, Ahmednagar and Nashik districts.
“The lack of concern/strictness on the part of road-users causes accidents and crashes,” the report highlights, adding that overspeeding, drunk driving, red light jumping, avoiding safety gears like seat belts and helmets, non-adherence to lane driving and overtaking, wrong-side driving is the “most common mistakes or human errors committed by road users in Maharashtra”.
Road experts and Regional Transport Office (RTO) officials said a flawed driving licence issuing system, lack of effective road safety education, improved road condition and the rise in the number of vehicles, issuing online (e-challan) instead of visible enforcement, and lack of proper vehicle maintenance, are some other major reasons for the rise in the number of accidents among the others.
A road safety expert blamed the state government for failing to provide a proper road safety education to the last man or the end-user of roads as the current road safety campaigns are conducted in a very superficial and stereotypical manner.
The procedure of issuing a driving licence should be revamped. It should be made stricter and more effective. The driving license should not be issued as a privilege of the person,” he said, adding that driving is multi-faceted and hence drivers should also have better knowledge about the theoretical part along with the driving skills.
A retired RTO official said the condition of roads in Maharashtra has improved and the number of vehicles has also gone up, but drivers lack seriousness about driving skills and they are not well trained in defensive driving skills