Investigating Road Characteristics and Time of the Day for Road Safety in Mumbai

Traffic in Mumbai
Image: Antônio Milena/Agência Brasil

This blog post is a part of the catalyzing new mobility program and receives support from The Rockefeller Foundation.


Recently, EMBARQ India obtained information on various aspects of road accidents in Mumbai city from the Mumbai Traffic Police. This article focuses on some of the interesting insights from analyses conducted on said data, including information on how variations in road designs reflect in the volume of road accidents, as well as testing an urban myth of greater hazard to night-driving vehicles.

While most of these findings come with caveats, they offer a peek into trends in road accidents in Mumbai, and suggest some potential concern areas for enforcement and policy as well. Firstly, for the purposes of analyses, we took night-driving to signify the time period of 10 PM to 6 AM. The data indicates that night-driving is less pronounced as originally believed. Since 2008, the number of fatalities during this time period was steady at around 30% of all persons killed in road accidents. This figure peaked at 33.6% for 2009, and has since decreased to 30.45%(Up to Oct, 2012).

Numbers relating to the traffic volumes during these specific times are unavailable, otherwise a more concise analysis might have told us whether lower accident rates in the night are due to safer driving, or just reduced traffic volume. Thus, attributing lower incidence of fatalities and serious accidents during the night to safer driving, or any other cause may not be possible, as there is not enough data to go on to draw such a conclusion. For all details, refer to the chart below.

Time of Day Chart

Looking now to road design, we have two types of data on the same – one that classifies roadways by the number of lanes (road width), and the other that looks at other road characteristics (like traffic control measures and design of intersections or junctions). Road accident figures classified in this way offer an intriguing (if one-sided) perspective on what type of roadways are most commonly observed at road accidents.

A majority share in fatal accidents is taken up by roads having four or more lanes with a divider. For 2011, nearly 350 fatal accidents (out of a total of 539) occurred with roadways having four or more lanes. Worryingly enough, this trend has reduced of late, as in 2008, accidents in roadways having three or more lanes, without dividers (but less than 4) were 18.68% (110 fatal accidents), and this figure steadily rose to 39.74% (242 fatal accidents) in 2010. Fatal road accidents on three-lane roads without dividers have since decreased, although are still witness to nearly 110 fatal accidents (as of October, 2012). Presumably, this indicates that smaller roads are also getting more dangerous (as a similar trend was observed for two-lane roads), perhaps due to a tremendous increase in motorization in Mumbai.

Finally, looking at intersections, uncontrolled intersections are unsurprisingly most common in fatal road accidents, confirming the belief that traffic control is vital to achieving safer roads. An average of 232 fatal road accidents occurred at uncontrolled junctions over the years of 2008-2012, contributing to a large chunk of all fatal accidents in Mumbai during the period. Furthermore, staggered junctions made up for the largest number of fatal accidents, potentially indicating that they are problematic in bringing about traffic safety. While we are unaware of the number of such road junctions in Mumbai city, therefore offering only a unilateral view of the problem at hand, it can be said that the number of fatal road accidents at staggered junctions have reduced from 276 in 2008 (46.86% of all fatal road accidents in that year) to 211 in 2011 (39.15% of all fatal accidents in that year). In contrast, junctions with four arms (and sometimes with more than four arms) were found to contribute less to fatal road accidents, although most of these road types may be well signalized.

Road Features

In offering a take on the road characteristics that are most common in fatal road accidents, this author hoped to identify a pattern of fatal road accidents, with regards to where they occur, as well as when. We now know that for Mumbai city, there are multiple perspectives into analysing road accidents, and that nearly all aspects must be considered in ordered while considering any form of road safety reform.

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