Wikipedia describes speed bumps as “Traffic calming devices that use vertical deflection to slow motor-vehicle traffic in order to improve safety conditions.”
However, to many of us, this statement might sound a bit ironic. In all the time we have been driving, I am sure most of us would have faced moments of panic when suddenly faced with a speed bump, had a scary pass over an unmarked one or rubbed the belly of our well kept cars over a ridiculously tall speed breaker. For the motorcyclists among us, these moments would have been even scarier. Over the years, we have started accepting this as a standard part of the experience of using Indian roads, and that is a scary position to be in.
Potholes and poorly laid down speed breakers not just annoy commuters and damage vehicles but they actually kill. They lead to road accidents that sometimes injure the participants so much that they succumb to their injuries on the spot or later.
In 2015, the government, for the first time recorded deaths caused due to such mishaps. According to the figures quoted by a Times Of India article, around 11,400 people died in related road accidents in the year 2014. Uttar Pradesh had the most number of fatalities (4,455), followed by Karnataka (970), Madhya Pradesh (915), Bihar (867), Tamil Nadu (636) and Odisha (569). It is to be noted that these numbers are in the official records; the real numbers might be significantly higher because according to sources, the figures were not properly recorded by the local police while registering accidents and often these are recorded as any other road crash and attributed to other reasons.
Isn’t it ironic that something that is meant to increase road safety increases the chances of road mishaps instead? This is because the parameters specified (for the building of speed breakers) by the Indian Roads Congress (IRC) and Unified Traffic and Transportation Infrastructure (Planning & Engineering) Centre are rarely adhered to. The routes are devoid of proper signage and as a result, the speed breakers come as a surprise to riders and that too at a time when it is too late.
On the other hand, talking about potholes, poor quality building material unsuited to the Indian climate that gets eroded by rains, heavy vehicles, etc is responsible for the degrading quality of roads that we have. They are so common that the public has accepted potholes to be an inherent part of Indian roads. In another 2017 TOI article, it is stated that on an average 6 people died everyday in India in 2016 due to potholes. By the time commuters notice themselves approaching a pothole, it gets too late to avoid it without taking a sudden deviation and hitting another vehicle.
A majority of Indian residents like us will take these two problems as external infrastructure factors and will be able to do little on our part to get it solved. But this does not reduce our exposure to the threat that they cause to our lives too. It has to be fixed, and maybe we need to lead this transition together.
At intents Mobi, we are working to change this with the help of technology and a community driven towards the cause. We are working on multiple solutions to achieve this, starting with an app that helps in mapping potholes and poorly designed speed bumps to give timely alerts to allow for enough time for drivers/riders to respond and by also supporting organisations and government bodies by providing them with actionable data to improve road conditions. So join the community and #DriveForSaferRoads.