Highway safety panel to submit report in Jan

Committee was set up after 27 people died in an accident on the Pune-Mumbai Expressway in July

The death of Marathi film and TV actors, Anand Abhyankar and Akshay Pendse, and Pendse's 2-year-old son Pratyush in an accident on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway has brought to focus a committee set up by the state government to suggest measures to improve highway safety. On Sunday, a speeding truck had crashed into a car killing occupants Abhyankar, Pendse and Pratyush who were travelling to Mumbai.

The committee set up following the death of 27 people of a wedding party in an accident on the Expressway in July, is expected to submit the final report in a month, though a few of its recommendations have already been implemented. The committee has held two meetings so far.

As per its recommendation, breathalysers have been given to the highway police to test people for driving under the influence of alcohol, and sound systems have been provided at toll nakas to make announcements to warn incoming traffic around the spot of an accident. Moreover, five per cent of the total road work cost has been earmarked for zebra crossings and signal boards on all roads, even on road stretches in rural areas.

"We have taken some steps after the committee suggested measures to curb drunk driving. The final report is expected in a month and will look at steps to improve overall highway safety," said Minister of State for Home Satej Patil.

The Maharashtra Home department had set up the two-member committee to recommend measures to improve safety on highways, especially the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. The committee was formed after 27 members of a wedding party were killed in July and at least 29 were injured in the worst-ever accident on the 11-year-old Expressway.

The wedding guests were travelling from Ghatkopar in Mumbai to Pune when, around midnight, one of the mini-buses in their cavalcade developed a flat tyre near Khalapur toll plaza, about 42km from Panvel.

Many passengers stepped out and waited between the buses and around them while the snag was being fixed. A speeding truck came and crashed into them, killing many on the spot.

The committee has also recommended installing speed guns on the highway to check speeding. The speed limit is 80 kmph. The highway police had also recommended that a dedicated police station be set up to handle accident cases on the 94km Expressway which falls under the jurisdiction of several police stations along the route.

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