Opinion: Highway speed limits need rethinking


Low speed limits on a 6-lane road result in dangerous braking in front of speed cameras.

I write this column as someone who has evolved into a very sedate driver over the years. Don’t get me wrong, I have my fun on bikes in the right environment, but I find much more joy in driving to a destination as efficiently as possible rather than as fast as possible. I suppose it also helps that my personal car is a twenty-year-old Maruti Zen. It’s a car whose ability to transport you to a simpler time is something I adore, and it also doesn’t feel very comfortable above 100kph. 

With that foundation laid in place, it’s time to get to the point of this column. Some of our speed limits are ridiculous to the point of being downright dangerous. A prime example would be what’s happening on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. A few years ago, the speed limit was raised from 80kph to 100kph and I think that number nicely balances the capability of our modern cars along with the driving skills of the average Indian road user.

However, this speed limit only applies to the straight stretches and the problem begins when you get to the ghat section between Khopoli and Lonavala. Here, the speed limit is immediately halved to 50kph, which is simply way too slow for a road that remains a very wide and flowing six-lane expressway throughout. 

How do we know that this is far too slow? Well, the authorities have now erected plenty of new overhead gantries with speed cameras, and I’ve noticed that almost nobody – not even most commercial vehicles – are going that slowly, especially downhill. People either drive past with oblivion or suddenly and dangerously brake to avoid the fine.

Things get even worse when you’re on the elevated section over Lonavala where there’s a 30kph speed limit board that is soon followed by a row of new cameras. To put it into context, how absurd is this on a six-lane ‘expressway’,  an above-average athlete can run faster than that. 

Having recently been stung by a Rs 2,000 fine for doing a very sedate 64kph on the expressway ghat, I tried slowing down to 30kph for this board and had to completely get off the road to do so without possibly causing a pile-up.

I really wonder how this hasn’t already been corrected. Do the authorities who set these speeds actually drive on these roads? Or have all these new speed cameras been intentionally placed right next to unrealistic speed limit boards? Either way, something has to change.

For bikes, things get worse, with painfully low speed limits on many state and national highways, and a growing number of strategically parked speed interceptor vehicles waiting to catch you out.

Speed limits are important and the steep fines associated with them do a good job of keeping reckless driving under control. But at the same time, more thought and science needs to go into the design of these limits, especially when tens of thousands of crores of taxpayer money is being put into road infrastructure development. 

The very point of making great roads is to facilitate more efficient traffic movement, which will lead to a more efficient economy. Doesn’t it completely defeat the purpose if we are going to then artificially slow the traffic down again?

Also See:

Opinion: Now is a smart time to buy an EV… again

Opinion: Cars are getting safer, but are drivers?

Source link

Tags: No tags

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *