Thursday, December 21, 2006

Road rules

I recently traveled on the new highway SH-17 between Bangalore and Mysore. It is a road on which one can easily do 100Kmph+. But, the average speed turns out to be 60Kmph. When I first saw the road from the train, I was excited to see smooth 4 lane road with a beautiful median full of flowers in full bloom.

I took the super deluxe Volvo bus between Bangalore and Mysore, and it was a comfortable bus. In order to get a good view of the road and the surroundings, I took the first seat up front. Every minute of the journey I was pitying the driver (His name was Ram). He had to slow down the bus ad nauseam, in order to avoid:

- People crossing the highway (who wants to climb the overpass, when you can jay walk!)
- Domestic animals crossin
- Vehicles entering the road without regard to the bus' right of way
- Vehicles riding on the lane divider
- Slower vehicles (mopeds, bicycles) traveling on the high speed lane
- Farm equipment on the road (tractors pulling load, bullock carts, etc.)
- and so on ...

The list goes on. People do not have the sense of road etiquette. Vehicles entering the road seem to have the right of way, and no one uses their rear view mirrors (if present!).

This is an interesting problem for the City/State to solve, if they want to streamline traffic flow between cities.

The first thing that came to my mind is: drivers Ed. and re-issuance of driving licenses.

This idea fails miserably because of the fact that a large number of those on the road do not know how to read, and a minority of the vehicles do not need licenses to operate (bullock cart).

Strict adherence of the road rules (with penalties) also fails for the same reason.

The only plausible solution (which Karnataka is already implementing) is to build separate roads: one for the local/farm traffic, and another for fast intercity traffic. The fast roads need to be toll ways, and should have restrictions on the type and size of vehicles that can get on them (no mopeds, bullock carts, bicycles, etc.).

Hopefully this new toll road between Bangalore and Mysore is going to make life a lot easier for drivers like Ram.