Mumbai: Maximum City is fond of extremes, so are its roads: extremely poor, extremely pressed, and extremely fatal. While ever-enlarging aspirations and incomes have pushed over 19 lakh vehicles on Mumbai's roads, there is no commensurate improvement in road infrastructure, safety and traffic regulations. The upshot is that three people die every two days on the city's roads, not to mention the countless rendered disabled.
Over the last 10 years, more than 2.83 lakh road accidents have occurred in the city, in which, 5,905 died, 21,282 were gravely injured, and 43,975 sustained minor injuries. This number is exponentially bigger than that of terror casualties but the everyday nature allows road accident to slink out unnoticed when there is a mention of 'serious issues' plaguing the city.
In a bid to throw the klieg lights on this giant killer, MiD DAY brings you an evaluation of the 10 most dangerous stretches of road, and the characteristics of victims and vehicles involved in the mishaps. The danger roads were zeroed in on by the government and the city traffic authorities. In their parlance, these are Black Spots that require special attention. But in no way should the fatal stretches absolve those who meet with the accidents. A closer look reveals that motorists are as much accountable. And they exhibit certain common traits and properties -- age, vehicle, behaviour, etc.
Not for pedestrians
Walking along the road is as lethal as driving on it. According to statistics provided by the traffic department, since 2008, nearly 1,460 pedestrians died either crossing roads or walking along it. Traffic officials feel that motorists are equally at fault, and equally the victims. The average number of pedestrians killed is not less than 350 every year. Until February last month, at least 44 people died crossing roads this year alone. On the other hand, in the last four years, at least 523 motorcyclists died on the city's roads.
In the first two months this year, there have been 20 victims of road accidents. Pillion riders who tend not to wear helmets also suffer in these clashes. "It is true that walking on the street is a nightmare. The whole culture of driving seems skewed. The authorities don't seem to be taking action; they simply announce compensations," said transport expert Ashok Datar.
Young and furious
"The whole car culture has become such that drivers are the least mature: most are youngsters. While officials spend thousands of crores building roads, they take nil measures to improve road discipline," said Datar. Last Saturday, 18-year-old Shivani Rawat died after her drunken friend rammed the car into the divider and then collided with an auto rickshaw, injuring four others.
Statistics show the incidence of youngsters up to the age of 25 years falling prey to accidents is on the rise. In 2010 at least 100 motorists below the age of 16, and 236 people in the age group of 17-25 years, 354 people in the middle-age group of 26-40 years, and at least 340 people above 41 years met with accidents.
Bikers are especially infamous for speeding, especially on the Eastern and Western Express Highways.
Vehicles of disaster
Those driving cars, motorcycles, lorries, dumpers and tempos top the list of drivers involved in accidents. Since 2009, there have been 263 cases of car drivers involved in road accidents. Sources in the RTO claim that most accidents occur due to rash or negligent driving and speeding. "Those behind the wheel and those riding bikes are known to drive exceedingly fast especially on highways. Although there is a speed limit of 80 km/h, hardly anyone follows it," said an RTO official.
Next in line are the heavy vehicles, notorious for rash driving. Their drivers hardly take note even when they have just knocked or run someone over, more interested as they are in fleeing and saving their skin from the authorities. In 2011, there were 66 accident cases involving lorries, 43 involving dumper trucks and 18 related to tankers.
"The government should take initiative in imparting training to heavy vehicle drivers from time to time. There is no such step taken. It could be the fault of anyone during an accident, but mostly the driver driving the bigger vehicle is blamed," said Bal Malkit Singh, President, All India Motor Transport Congress, who claims to have given refresher training to 5,000 drivers across India only last year.
This is one of the major issues marring the authorities and people as well. At regular intervals, there have been cases of drink driving accidents and deaths. "People should realise the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol," said VN More, transport commissioner. He added that the traffic police have not more than 14 people to monitor drink driving across the city. Between 2007 up to February 2012, there have been 60 deaths due to drink driving. "It is high time that those serving liquor at restaurants take care of their patrons. It is their responsibility too to ensure that no one drives after drinking," added Brijesh Singh.
Since 2002, Mumbai has seen an annual average of 28,305 accidents, bereaving 590 families of a loved one every year. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), road accidents will be the third major cause for death by year 2020. If we are to duck this prophecy, a proper understanding of the malaise is essential. Official figures say that some of the roads prone to accidents are General Arun Kumar Vaidya Marg near Mahim Causeway, Godrej Soap gate in front of Kanjurmarg dumping ground on the Eastern Express Highway, outside National Park on the Western Express Highway, Wadala-Chembur Link Road opposite Anik Depot and Adi Shankaracharya Marg in Powai.
These stretches are said to be the Black Spots -- they have some unresolved geometrical or environmental issue, which leads to repeated accidents. "We study those roads where accidents occur repeatedly and suggest necessary changes to the authorities concerned," said Brijesh Singh, Additional Commissioner (Traffic), adding, "Even with the tremendous increase in the number of vehicles on road, the number of fatal accidents remains comparatively less." Singh is referring to a skinny silver line: a steady decline in mishaps, although overall figures remain extreme. In 2011, there have been 25,471 accident cases of which 563 people died. In 2010, there were 28,424 reported cases. During 2007-09, the annual average remained well over 29,000. In 2006, it crossed the 30,000 mark.
March 31, 2012: In a case of drunk driving, 18-year-old Shivani Rawat died after the driver of the car she was in lost control on Juhu Tara road. There were six people in the car, including the driver, Rahul Mishra (23), who was in an inebriated state. Two girls are still in a critical condition. An auto rickshaw driver has also been injured.
March 29, 2012: A speeding truck hit an ambulance carrying five people, including an asthmatic 70-year-old patient, at the Bahar Cinemas junction in Vile Parle (E) in the early hours of the day. One person, Melvyn Almeida, was seriously injured.
March 25, 2012: Charu Khandal, 28, an animator, is still in a critical condition after the auto rickshaw she was riding in along with her sister Ritu Khandal, 26, and friend Vikrant Goel, 26, who is also critical, was hit by a speeding car in Oshiwara. The car's driver, Manoj Netrapal, 39, was allegedly drunk.
March 22, 2012: 27-year-old Israr Khan was riding on the Western Express Highway near Andheri when an overhead cable snapped, came slashing down at him, and slit his throat. While Ahmed Khan died, the pillion passenger, Ram Bhavan Pal, survived with minor injuries.
December 30, 2011: A 24-year-old fashion designer, Ankita Cheda, died, and her friend Jimal Garodiya, 27, was grievously injured when their car hit a divider near the Kherwadi Junction in Bandra (E). The police said they suspected that the driver had consumed alcohol.
November 12, 2006: 21-year-old Alistair Pereira who was driving in Bandra in a drunken state had driven onto a pavement, running over 15 sleeping labourers. The High Court sentenced Pereira to three years of imprisonment under Section 304, one year under Section 338 and six months for causing injuries, a judgment upheld by the Supreme Court.