(Snap taken by me from the Khopoli flyover)
Today morning, it was very distressing to read the Times of India headlines "16 killed in Mumbai expressway mishap". This accident occurred on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway when the jeep in which the victims were travelling rammed a trailer early on Sunday. The overloaded Trax Jeep got stuck in the rear axle of the trailer with 14 wheels and was dragged for seven kilometres as the trailer driver did not realise what had happened. The speedometer of the jeep was stuck at 130 kmph. Initial investigations by police reveal that the driver had falled asleep at the wheel. This news made me wonder if the trailer had it's tail lights working? Nothing has been mentioned in the news about the trailer's tail lights. The reason why this thought came up is because I have always felt these kind of mishaps are waiting to happen on the expressway, looking at the number of trucks travelling at night without tail lights. I have been a regular traveller on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. For any person who has travelled from Mumbai to Pune on NH-4, before the expressway was built, would realise the enormous difference the expressway has made to travelling. The frustration of getting stuck in Lonavala ghats for hours is totally forgotten now. It now takes close to 2 hours to reach Aundh (Pune) from Mumbai Suburbs like Chembur or Navi Mumbai. The road is beautifully built and one can even cruise at high speeds in the ghat section. I have known this expressway for quite sometime now. There are 3 things which have irked me during my travel on this wonderful road. No... The toll cost of Rs 118 does not figure in this list :)
1. Truck and their tail lights
While I was working in Infosys Pune, I would generally travel every weekend to Mumbai. Many a times I had to travel during the night. The thing which annoyed me was that there were Trucks with really slow speeds on the expressway. Worst, they had no tail lights. My guess would be that an astonishing 80% of the trucks on the expressway do not have working tail lights. And many of these trucks are even without a reflector. A person driving at night needs to be really vigilant to spot these trucks. You need not overspeed to encounter this kind of situation. Even driving at 80kmph (official speed limit, which I believe can be pushed to 90 or 100 kmph :) ), you can suddenly come across a truck moving at snail's pace without reflectors or tail lights. The Traffic police could do us a favour if they fined these trucks along with the speeding cars. Pretty often the traffic police with their radar/laser guns crack down on speeding vehicles on the Mumbai Pune expressway. Its time they even start cracking down on slow moving vehicles without tail lights.
2. End of the Road
The end of the expressway towards Pune is one of the most dangerous places and I think the most prone to accidents. There was a time, when while travelling back to Pune every Monday, I used to spot a vehicle rammed at the end of the road. Sometimes the count used be even more than one. The curve is too sharp for people to realise and contol their vehicle. Also travelling for almost 2 hours at high speeds people don't realise that inspite of reducing their speed towards the end of the road, the speed at which they are travelling is still very high to make that curve. The authorities had to put tyres all along the curve to reduce the impact of accidents. There are ample of signs suggesting you to slow down like the yellow lines across the road which give the driver a small jerk as well as the sign boards. But still these signs are failing to get the attention of drivers or making them realise to not just slow down but slow down drastically.
The landslide problem during the rainy season slows down the traffic a lot. It now seems to be a ritual every year to close down one side of the road for a particular stretch. I don't know what is the solution to this problem but would be glad if its resolved. The sign board suggesting "Drive carefully - Landslides Ahead" is of very little help.