Road infrastructure in India: Much improved but safety is questionable

The introduction of things like road reflectors and rumble strips on highways appears to be counterproductive for all the positive advancements.

BHPian sarathlal recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Came across this news article quoting Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari:

"Vehicle speed has improved with the improved highways in the country, so now we will have to make tyres of international standard. We will soon make norms as per the requirement of international standard tyres so that there is no accident due to tyre burst."

And have to applaud the high-quality road surfaces we are getting on these newly constructed highways and expressways.

While this is a good idea to focus more on equipping vehicles to be better prepared for the improved infrastructure, have a few queries in terms of new ‘particles’ being introduced onto the newly built roads that are actually pulling the system in the opposite way.

Inadvertent usage of Static road reflectors

Road reflectors are critical elements that should be used on roads for better nighttime illumination. But what we could observe about the newly built roads, is their inadvertent usage.

These reflectors are scattered haphazardly all over the roads instead of being arranged in one or two lines in an evenly spaced manner. And the frequency of such strips is very high. These series of strips appear every 300-400 meters on some roads. Will this not damage the vehicle tyres eventually, or at least accelerate the deterioration? Not to mention their condition after a couple of months with the nuts and bolts exposed.

Rumble strips made out of paint

Again, these are critical elements that should be there on the road. The problem is, these are not built to any standards. Some of them are very thick that it literally rattles out the entire vehicle while running over. Worst case, these are placed at corners sometimes which could destabilise vehicles running over. The rumbling sound that it creates is another level of sound pollution for those living near these places. More on this here.

Both of the above could have been ok and required if done right. For eg - a single lane of around 4 pieces per side of the road for the reflectors and ~5 mm thick rumble strips.

These appear to be newly introduced (within the last couple of years) particles to road infrastructure. Wondering if they are really thought through as they appear to be counterproductive for all the positive advancements made in terms of road infrastructure.

Won't these eventually contribute to a higher frequency of tyre burst-induced accidents as the overall vehicle speed increase on the expressways?

(The above example is from a city road, but it is the same condition on city roads, state highways as well as national highways)

Here's what BHPian GForceEnjoyer had to say about the matter:

Definitely, this is a situation of one step forward (new infrastructure such as expressways) and half a step back (things like rumble strips). They definitely accelerate vehicle wear and it sometimes fills me with rage thinking about how we have to subject our prized possessions to such involuntary abuse.

However, I'd say that this isn't nearly the worst consequence. The most severe suffering is imposed on two-wheeler riders. The situation in Hyderabad for example, has gotten so bad that many people are complaining of severe back issues due to this. A damaged suspension can ultimately be replaced, but can a damaged spine?

This video is in Telugu, but the sheer number of people speaking up about this in the nearly two-hour-long video is enough to understand the magnitude of the problem.

The long-term damage caused by these measures will be substantial. Mounting vehicle repair bills, a ton of noise pollution (this is a genuine negative externality imposed on anyone living near roads) and the increased risk of fatality. This is worsened by the sheer number of rumble strips (infused with reflectors or not) being laid down. Look at this horrific satellite view from Hyderabad for example.

Or this picture I personally took on a national highway in Maharashtra.

The problem definitely isn't confined to just these two locations either.

Isn't it ironic to see that something touted as a "traffic calming measure" or "safety device" brings so many of its own perils? Countless times, I've felt vehicles lose traction if braking on rumble stirps or simply driving at any speed over rumble strips on curves. There is a genuine risk of a loss of control if someone is unable to counter-steer, which can cause a nasty accident.

Moreover, it causes traffic to behave haphazardly, with some road users slowing to a crawl and some trying to speed up (because ironically, in most cases, the slower you are, the more severely you are physically rattled by these). This creates a very unpredictable and dangerous situation.

So yes, such measures definitely have the potential to increase the number of mishaps in the long run. Not to mention the annoyance and inconvenience that has now been discussed extensively here and here.

Here's what BHPian windrider had to say about the matter:

Those thick rumble strips are a real pain. I am forced to run my Alto and two-wheelers a couple of PSI lower than what the manufacturer suggests just to stop my spine from disintegrating. The dashboard of the alto shakes violently when I pass over these strips even at slow speeds that I am forced to slow down to almost 20-25kmph when driving over them. My Honda City on the other is able to deal with them a lot better. I think if the govt could slightly reduce the thickness and increase the gap between each individual strip, it wouldn't be such an issue. At present, it feels like driving over a washboard.

Another major problem I am facing is the huge expansion joints on newly built flyovers. Some of them are so deep, that if you are at speeds above 100, you feel like you are literally flying out of them. I remember travelling in the middle east, and the expansion joints on those flyovers never felt so jarring and they were constructed in the 70s and 80s during the Gulf boom. It's sad that we can't get such basic things right even in 2023.

Here's what BHPian cryptarchy had to say about the matter:

I recently drove on parts of the newly built Dwarka Expressway that is open to local traffic. I was going way under the proposed speed limit. But the expansion joints on the flyovers are so badly built that there is no way cars can go the speed limit and be stable. My car was like a kangaroo on those expansion joints.

Here's what BHPian TheVegabond had to say about the matter:

There are 3 major issues that I have been facing whenever I drive on the expressways:

  • Truckers using the rightmost lane - this is something coming from the years-long practice of driving on single-lane narrow highways where frequent braking is needed on left lanes due to obstructions caused by autos/cycles/bikes/jaywalkers. On access-controlled expressways these truckers occupy the lanes on the right and, drive relatively slowly causing the fast vehicles to zig-zag through this slow-moving traffic - this can cause severe accidents.
  • Expansion joints and uneven curves - Irrespective of which expressway you are driving on, the expansion joints are so badly designed/executed that they almost always catch you by surprise and can cause you to lose control when driving at more than 70km/hr. Same is the story with curves, especially at the start/end of a flyover - the road is usually uneven slopping vigorously towards the curving side causing you to brake hard and, hope that the vehicles behind you do the same.
  • Wrong side driving - Local drivers especially tractors happily drive on the wrong side of Access controlled expressways with entry/exits/u-turns few and far between. No point arguing with them as they would never understand what an expressway is.

Check out BHPian comments for more insights and information.

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