Since the unfortunate death of former Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Mistry, the topic of road safety in India has come to great light in the country and across the world. And making advancements on why incidents like this occur in the same place, a team from the International Road Federation conducted an extensive audit on the 70km stretch of National Highway 48. The report from the organization revealed that the 70 km stretch of NH 48 between Mandor, Maharashtra, and Achhad, Gujarat, due to inadequate upkeep, a lack of adequate traffic-directing signage, and more than twenty median openings on the stretch of highway has become a place frequent mishaps.
Commenting on the measures for the improvement of the stretch of highway where the accident occurred, K K Kapila, President Emeritus, International Road Federation (IRF) said, “The audit by the team has recommended immediate low-cost countermeasures to prevent crashes. These include installation of speed limit signs before diversions and bridges, display of warnings of the reduced carriageway and against overtaking, quick maintenance, closure of median openings, and proper markings to guide the drivers.”
Meanwhile, Satish Parakh, President, IRF-India chapter, said, “It found that at the site where the latest fatal crash happened, there is an unassuming diversion for the third lane, which has been created in an unscientific and non-standard manner without proper signs and markings.”
According to the report, no six-lane motorway should include a median opening when made under conventional design. The assessment, according to the statement, advised shutting all of the medians as soon as possible. Only a week had passed since the deadly Palghar collision when the audit was conducted. Furthermore, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) gave its permission for the audit, according to a statement from IRF, and a full report has been delivered to the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) and NHAI for consideration as well.
As mentioned earlier the reason behind this audit and various other similar investigations on the same highway is the untimely death of Cyrus Mistry. Cyrus, who was sat in the back, was discovered to not have been wearing a seatbelt at the time of the collision. And the issue of rear seatbelts has become quite divisive as a result of this move as well. Recently the biggest cab aggregators in the country Ola and Uber have also reportedly now require their drivers to ensure rear seatbelts in their vehicles are accessible to all the passengers.
Just a few days ago it was revealed by a media agency that the ride-hailing giant Uber’s Indian subsidiary in an advisory to its drivers stated that “To avoid any fines or complaints by riders, please ensure the seatbelts on the back seats are accessible and functional,” It further added, “if the belt is hidden under the seat cover, please remove the cover”. Meanwhile, the nation’s largest rival to Uber, Ola, which is backed by the Financial giant SoftBank Group, also just delivered a warning to drivers to obey seatbelt laws.
While we are completely in favour of enforcing mandatory rear seat belt wearing, that should not take away from the more important – and tough to solve – problem of unscientifically designed and constructed highways which throw up unexpected surprises to drivers.