The International Road Federation (IRF) audit report on the stretch on which a car that Cyrus Mistry was traveling in met with an unfortunate accident has highlighted glaring safety violations. Former Tata Sons Chairman Mistry and one other person lost their lives when the Mercedes GLC SUV they were traveling in crashed against a barrier that reportedly protruded onto the road that is part of the highway between Mandor in Maharashtra and Achhad in Gujarat.
IRF is a Geneva based global road safety body and this particular audit was conducted by a team of its India chapter. In a press statement, IRF highlighted that the 70-km stretch on NH 48 lacks proper maintenance, does not have adequate signage to guide drivers and there were over two dozen median openings. Additionally, key road markings and signage were also found to be missing. "The audit was carried out barely a week after the fatal crash at Palghar that shook the country. IRF said the audit was conducted after consent from the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI). The report has been submitted to MoRTH and NHAI for action," said Mr K K Kapila, President, Emeritus, IRF.
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The audit further found that there are many major and minor structures located on this stretch, including flyovers, vehicular under passes, pedestrian under passes, major and bridges, and culverts. “The 70-km long section of NH-48 is a six lane highway with divided carriageway, with the exception of the Surya River bridge on left hand side (LHS) where Mistry’s car met with the accident. At this location, there is a two-lane carriageway on the bridge (on LHS carriageway), and there is a separate carriageway through an existing narrow bridge, which is accessed on the old alignment which is provided through an “unassuming divergence" from the running three-lane LHS carriageway a short distance of 75-100 meters before the bridge on the LHS carriageway of the new alignment," said MR Satish Parakh, President, IRF-India chapter.
The report also makes several recommendations to ensure unfortunate - and tragic - accidents are not repeated. These include installation of multiple warning signs at various points before the start of the bridge. It has also recommended providing new jersey-type concrete barriers and that all medians should be closed immediately.
The tragic death of Mistry and one other person has renewed the focus on road safety rules and regulations in the country while also putting the spotlight on the need for better infrastructure. Initial investigations have revealed that Mistry - seated in the back of the GLC - was not wearing a seatbelt. This is a widespread phenomena among car occupants in the country. Lack of awareness and ineffective enforcement are two primary reasons for this although police officials in many states have now begin dedicated drives to check on this. There is also a growing call to ensure relevant authorities are made accountable for poorly maintained roads or highway stretches with potentially risky stretches without appropriate warning signs. Car manufacturers too have been urged to up the safety standards in their respective offerings with a law to make six airbags mandatory in all cars and variants set to come into effect.