A total of 14,883 people were killed in road accidents in Maharashtra last year, an increase of 2,095 compared to 12,788 fatalities recorded in the pre-COVID-19 year of 2019, while the number of such incidents rose by 144 in 2022 from three years ago, as per official statistics.
Last year, 33,069 road accidents took place in the state compared to 32,925 in 2019, as per the data.
0.44 per cent rise in number of accidents in 2022 compared to 2019
While there was a 0.44 per cent rise in the number of accidents in 2022 compared to 2019, the fatalities went up by 16.38 per cent, though the number of injuries to 27,218 from 28,628 during the period.
The issue of road accidents gains prominence as 13 people, including five minors, were killed and 29 injured after a bus carrying young male and female members of a traditional music troupe fell into a gorge on the old Mumbai-Pune highway in the state's Raigad district on Saturday.
The private bus with 42 persons on board was going from Pune to Mumbai when it plunged into the 300-feet deep gorge in the Bor Ghat mountain pass section, better known as Khandala Ghat, on a sharp S-shaped hairpin curve. The accident took place near Khopoli, 70 km from Mumbai.
Maharashtra had witnessed a dip in road accidents and fatalities in 2020
Maharashtra had witnessed a dip in road accidents and fatalities in 2020 when there was COVID-19 pandemic outbreak and the vehicular movement was restricted due to the lockdown, but the numbers went up in 2021 and the trend continued in 2022.
The state saw 8,098 more road accident cases in 2022 as compared to 24,971 in 2020, and 3,592 higher as compared to 29,477 in 2021, as per the data.
The state reported 1,959 more deaths in road accidents last year as against 11,569 in 2020, and 1,355 more than 13,528 fatalities in 2021, apart from the similar upsurge in the number of injuries.
Maharashtra has more than four crore vehicles and their density on the state's road network of 3.25 lakh kilometres, including around 18,000 km-long national highways, is increasing every year.
According to Maharashtra's latest economic survey report published on March 8, the state had a vehicle population of 4.33 crore till January 1, 2023 and 134 vehicles per km road length at the start of this year as against 128 vehicles per km road length on January 1, 2022.
As per the data, among 34 districts and 11 big cities in Maharashtra, the number of road accidents, fatalities and injuries have gone up in majority of the districts and cities and very few of have seen a reduction in the numbers.
In 2022, the highest surge in road crashes was in Yavatmal (454), followed by Ahmednagar (256), Pimpri-Chinchwad city (249), Pune rural (213) and Palghar district (132).
The highest rise in fatalities was in Ahmednagar (135), followed by Buldhana (96), Chandrapur (75), Yawatmal (72) and Solapur district (69), while the highest increase in the number of injuries was in Nagpur (367), followed by Pune (295), Satara (272), Solapur (252) and Raigad (242).
The number of road crashes have gone down only in three districts and cities - Mumbai city (441), Nashik city (10) and Dhule district (10), whereas fatalities dipped in Mumbai city (115), Nandurbar district (35), Navi Mumbai city (16), Akola district (26) and Nashik city (4).
Among all the districts and cities, only seven have witnessed a dip in the number of injuries and Mumbai city tops among them with number of injuries going down by 324, followed by Hingoli district (27), Bhandara district (20), Aurangabad city (18), Buldhana district (15), Nashik district (12), and Latur district (10).
Maharashtra government has taken several steps to mitigate accidents in the last one decade
In the last one decade, the Maharashtra government has taken several steps such as increasing traffic penalties, levying cess on registration of new vehicles, formation of road safety committees from state to district level, declaration of road safety policy, camera-based fitness tests, besides buying several equipment like hand-held devices for officers (to impose fine on road rule violators), new interceptor vehicles and portable weigh bridge, among others.
Besides installing CCTV cameras on highways and city roads, the government has made QR code authenticated reflective tapes for better visibility of vehicles during night time, speed governor to keep the vehicles below 80 kmph limit and GPS for live tracking mandatory, but the number of road accidents is still going up.
Ranjit Gadgil, project director of NGO Parisar from Pune, said this has proved the CCTV enforcement is not working, and police know this.
"Deterrence requires the certainty of getting caught, certainty of having to pay a fine, having to pay it immediately and for the fine to be substantial. Most of these conditions are currently not met," he claimed, adding that other traffic violations also need to be dealt with firmly.
Gadgil said pedestrians and two-wheeler riders, both considered as "vulnerable road users", make up a very large percentage of those dying on roads.
"In urban areas, we need far better pedestrian facilities. In rural areas, safe crossings for pedestrians are critical, especially in small towns and villages that dot the highways. In some places infrastructure may be needed, but in the short-term, vehicles need to be slowed down where such conflicts are likely," he said.
The Maharashtra Highway Police's road accidents statistics of 2021 pointed out that over-speeding, drunken driving, red light jumping, avoiding safety gears like seat belts and helmets, non-adherence to lane driving and overtaking from the right side or without giving an indication, and wrong-side driving were some of the major reasons for road crashes.
Prakash Jadhav, a retired regional transport officer, said in the last few years highways have become wider, smoother and better, but while on highways, drivers focus more on speeding.
When such high speed vehicles crash on highways, it leads to an increase in the number of fatalities, he said.
"Due to over speeding on highways, the severity of road accidents has increased," Jadhav said.
Another retired RTO officer said as per his observation, the number fatalities in road accidents increased in Maharashtra as such incidents involving two-wheelers and buses have gone up, besides the death of more persons in accidents of four-wheelers.
"Last year, majority of the accidents happened either on junctions or due to dashing by other vehicles from behind for which rash driving and lack of visibility could be the reasons," he said.
Incidents of vehicle fires also witnessed a spurt
In the last few years, incidents of vehicle fires also witnessed a spurt and many of these accidents were fatal. Hence, the state government needs to appoint a study group for this before more innocent people lose their lives, he added.
Gadgil said, "This year, the UN Global Road Safety Week has the theme-Rethink Mobility, which calls for safety to be the key consideration in any mobility planning as well as shifting people away from modes such as two-wheelers to public transport, which is not just safer but also environmentally better."