Jagdeep Desai, Architect and Secretary & Founder Trustee, Forum for Improving Quality of Life in Mumbai, feels our laws are not inadequate but often, the enforcement agencies are inefficient. Here, he gives multi-pronged precautionary and remedial measures for road safety.
Planning, administrative and enforcement authorities seem to make solutions as visible as possible to the public in order to show they are doing something to solve problems, without understanding that the problems were created by inappropriate infrastructural interventions in the first place, like North South flyovers instead of East West underpasses, etc.
There should be zero tolerance to traffic offences. We use infrastructure and its applications in an inappropriate manner. Along with better coordination among the authorities, TP, RTA, etc., we require computerised linkages. It is very important that the decision makers see reason and enforce law. Most traffic offences and violations are by those impatient drivers who want to get ahead of the rest by short cuts, taking wrong side, cutting lanes or by breaking signals. They can be made to cool down for one hour at the nearest police station and made to think about how others too are in a hurry to reach their destinations. The second time, they should be made to sit for two hours, the third time, four hours, and so on.
General rules for Road Safety in India
It must be ensured that all vehicles are road worthy at any given point of time and not only during the annual clearance at the local RTO. All goods and public vehicles such as auto rickshaws, taxis, delivery LCV, MCV, HCV, contract and public buses, cranes, dumpers, garbage compactors, all kinds of tankers, trailers, cement concrete mixers, bulk cement carriers, excavators, road rollers, tractors, fire tenders, ambulances, etc., must have functioning lights and brakes and all their tyres must have sufficient groove. All goods and public vehicles must have working reflector and fluorescent strips on all sides and triangles on the front and rear must be completely visible at all times. All vehicles must have unused single use breathalyser kits in the vehicle at all times for immediate testing by authorities in case of need, as is being done in France from July 01, 2012. The front and rear lights must be kept on throughout the day and night. All road and street lights in all villages, towns and cities, must be switched on half an hour prior to local sun set and must remain on till half an hour after sun rise.
All expressways, highways, roads, streets and lanes must have long lasting, durable, legible and visible lines and all markings must be as specified in international standards for roads, lanes, stop lines, zebra crossing, lay bys, parking boxes & slots, no parking spots & locations, no halting & stopping lines, delivery van slots and garbage compactors. All vehicles must keep to their lanes, if not voluntarily, then by force by traffic police, traffic wardens and traffic marshals. Till clover leaf and other interchanges are in place, all turns should be made from extreme left lane only ? U turns, left turns and right turns. The present system forces drivers to cut lanes for doing so and also makes a mockery of fast lane, i.e., extreme right lane which is occupied by vehicles for turning right. These wrong practices force the vehicles to overtake from the left.
The concept of time as part of the punishment and penalty for traffic offence is important. Most of the traffic offences like lane cutting, overtaking, over speeding and breaking signals take place because the offending drivers think they are saving their time. Traffic calming features must be restored where they are removed for road widening, resurfacing, civic works, etc., and must be installed where they are absent. Traffic islands, median dividers, raised pedestrian crossings must be ensured.
Low Cost High Value systems should be the norm, instead of High Cost Low Value infrastructure projects such as flyovers, especially on expressways, highways and main roads. The world over, flyovers and road over bridges and underpasses are made for side and service roads, and the main roads are level grade. If any such grade separators are required, then they should be the rotary grade separator, as proposed by Architect Anil LAUL (link: http://anangpur-net.webs.com/ and http://anangpur-net.webs.com/transportation).
Lighting on all roads must be at the levels necessary to light the road area under influence and footpath uniformly and evenly. The present system is to replace the lamp poles as they are even if the road width has been increased by one or two full lanes. The number of lanes on any stretch of road should be uniform and kept distinct. Any extra road width must be clearly demarcated out of bounds and vehicles must be prevented from using that portion for overtaking. The present system creates undesirable bunching of vehicles where the road can be of say, four or six lanes till a point. And where it reduces in the number of lanes, vehicles try to surge forward to get ahead in the constricted area, causing accidents and unnecessary traffic jams.
Close circuit television monitoring on real-time basis on all junctions with chip reading sensors to record the vehicles? registration from High Security Number Plates must be done. National and state highways must have formal public rest areas for all vehicles with organised parking, restroom and washroom facilities, food and refreshment areas, apart from those run by the private sector. All drivers of public vehicles must wear high visibility fluorescent jackets at all times with seat belts in all vehicles and must be strictly banned to use mobiles while at the wheel.
GPRS must be made compulsory in all public vehicles so that their movement and speed can be tracked and all such vehicles must have tracking log discs — basic versions of black boxes on aircraft to record speeds, duty hours, etc. Ideally, front and rear facing CCTV cameras must be made mandatory on all MCV. Goods vehicles and buses must be made to travel in convoys on all roads, and not just the ghat or potentially troubled zones.
Specific Measures for Road Safety
All public goods carriers must be allowed in town and city limits only between 23h00 and 07h00. This will enable the roads to be relatively free from these dangerous vehicles during the daytime, minimise accidents and allow traffic to move relatively faster. Also, less traffic jams, faster turnaround for the public goods vehicles due to relatively less congested roads in the said duration and less fuel usage by the vehicles will ensure less air and noise pollution. All MCV, HCV, buses and other multi axle vehicles must have their rear lights fixed on top of their body for greater visibility from a distance, instead of below the floor board — next to the tyres where the dirt, grime, grease, oil and cement cover the lights. Decorative grills on these lights must be banned as they cover the lights. Similarly, the front head lamps must be in all cases lower than the eye levels of drivers of LMV so that they do not blind the oncoming drivers.
All environment and pollution laws, rules, Acts must be strictly implemented. For e.g., ?No PUC No Fuel?. All illegal, i.e., unpermitted horns must be destroyed on the spot, and all manufacturers and dealers of such horns must be issued notice of closure. Their licences must be compounded. Action must be taken against violators of air and noise pollution. All enforcement personnel must seriously ensure the implementation of all traffic rules with ?Zero Tolerance for Traffic Offences? as the motto. The compounding of licence action must be carried out without fear or favour or discrimination at all times. Traffic rules are to be implemented twenty four hours, seven days a week, and not just for those few hours during the day when traffic police are visible on the roads. Night traffic violations are often serious and many accidents occur due to very lax policing.
School bus and other vehicle drivers must strictly be told to drive only in extreme left lane, and state and local authorities must mark spots for common pick up and drop stops like for public buses to ensure safer systems. Bodies of school buses must conform to international standards and all school children have to be seated with seat belts. Over loading in public vehicles should be termed a criminal offence against the service provider.(As told to Vidyottama Sharma)