Samruddhi Mahamarg: 358 Accidents, 39 Deaths In Five Months And The Big Problem Of Highway Hypnosis
The newly constructed Samruddhi Mahamarg connecting Nagpur to Shirdi is turning into a death trap with 358 accidents reported between December 2022 and April this year, resulting in 39 casualties over the five-month period.
The State Police has attributed the high numbers of accidents on the 520-km-long operational stretch of the expressway to ‘highway hypnosis’ syndrome, among other factors.
According to data released by the State Highway Police, 143 people were critically injured while 236 received minor injuries in the total 358 accidents that have occurred on the Samruddhi Mahamarg.
Highway hypnosis has emerged as the biggest cause of accidents on the Samruddhi Mahamarg, accounting for 98 accidents or 27 per cent of the total 358 accidents.
As per the data, after highway hypnosis, overspeeding and tyre bursting are the other two major causes of accidents on the Samruddhi Mahamarg.
During the five-month period, the police recorded 68 cases of over-speeding, in which 72 people were injured, including 19 grievously injured.
Similarly, 55 accidents on the Samruddhi Highway occurred due to tyre bust incidents. A series of accidents are said to have been caused due to tyres bursting at high speed due to which the vehicle overturns causing injuries, and at times casualties.
Over-speeding constituted the main traffic rule violation associated with accident-related deaths, accounting for as many as 11 fatalities, the Highway Police data noted.
Apart from over-speeding, highway hypnosis and tyre bursting are the other two major causes of deaths on the Samruddhi Mahamarg, each leading to nine casualties, the data showed.
Two deaths resulted from accidents involving vehicles hitting animals and ramming into parked vehicles. The cause behind the remaining eight deaths is still unknown.
According to Healthline, highway hypnosis, or, white line fever occurs while driving on an empty stretch of road on the highway as your mind gets bored and while watching the road, stays in the same state for a long time. The brain goes into autopilot mode. Simply put, a person keeps driving the car, he also has control over the steering, but he forgets or does not pay attention to everything that happens around him.
Experts say that it is usually caused when a person is driving on a highway having monotonous scenery, no traffic light, and sparse traffic.
“Due to continuous driving on a monotonous stretch for long hours, the driver kind of get hypnotised and sometimes lose control and reach a state when there is a temporary disconnect between the brain and body’s action. This results in the driver losing control of the vehicle and leads to accidents,” said Additional Director General of Police (Highway Traffic Maharashtra State) Ravindra Singhal.
Motorists travelling on the Samruddhi Expressway are experiencing highway hypnosis, as there are no hoardings or billboards on the roadsides or hotels/dhabas on the newly built highway that would distract a driver’s mind.
The state police have made elaborate plans to put up billboards, signages, posters, message boards along the Samruddhi expressway to ensure the drivers are kept engaged through positive distractions which would not allow them to slip into highway hypnosis.
However, until the time, such hoarding and amenities come up alongside the highway, the police have decided to implement alternate measures to curb accidents resulting from motorists experiencing highway hypnosis.
Among the measures proposed is the putting up flags at regular intervals of every half an hour. This straightforward yet impactful measure is currently being implemented and is scheduled to be completed within a week.
“The flags would be of yellow and white colours. Besides this, reflectors are also being put in place to catch the motorist’s attention and keep their brains busy and active and prevent accidents,” Singal said.
Further, a committee led by the RTO, state traffic police and an NGO have suggested the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) to paint a few spots and put in place equipment that will produce the sound of police siren to keep drivers alert.
Also, putting increased number of rumble strips on the highway is another effective intervention which can mitigate hypnosis-related accident. The strips can create a vibration and a rumbling sound to keep sleepy drivers alert
Officially named ‘Hindu Hrudaysamrat Balasaheb Thackeray Maharashtra Samruddhi Mahamarg’, the 701-km-long expressway connects Mumbai and Nagpur.
The expressway connects 10 districts of the state, namely, Nagpur, Wardha, Amravati, Washim, Buldhana, Jalna, Aurangabad, Nashik, Ahmednagar and Thane. The road link is said to be a game changer, especially for the state’s hinterland, as more investments can be attracted with improved connectivity, thereby generating additional employment opportunities
The project is the brainchild of Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis and was conceptualised when he was the chief minister in 2015. At present, commuters use NH-3 (Mumbai-Dhule) and NH-6 (Dhule-Nagpur) to reach Nagpur, covering a 839 km distance which takes at least 17 hours. The greenfield expressway, once completed, will reduce the travel time between Nagpur and Mumbai to eight hours.
The first phase of the Samruddhi Mahamarg, connecting Nagpur to the temple town of Shirdi in Ahmednagar district covering a distance of 520 km, has been in operation since December 2022, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated it.
Another 80 km of Mumbai-Nagpur Samruddhi Mahamarg, between Shirdi and Bharvir village in Igatpuri taluka in Nashik district, will be inaugurated on 26 May.
The remaining 100-km stretch under Phase-II between Igatpuri and Vadpe in Thane will be completed by end of this year or by March next year.
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