THE public works department (PWD) authorities have admitted that 85 per cent of speed breakers, rumblers and humps erected along the National and State Highways in the state do not comply with scientific specifications. They have accepted the fact that unscientifically designed speed limiting structures have been the cause of several accidents. Why did the PWD continue with unscientifically designed speed breakers for so many years? The Union ministry of road transport and highways has now directed all states, including Goa, to remove all speed limiting structures from the National Highways in order to facilitate seamless travel, but despite the order the structures remain and in some cases more are added. PWD officials plead they were compelled to set up speed breakers by politicians and politically influential groups. Why did the PWD officials meekly give into their pressures? Why didn’t they stop adding more unscientific speed breakers in order not to add to the vulnerability of motorists travelling along the highways? Why did not they give priority to safety of citizens instead of giving importance to the wishes of political masters?
Concerns had been raised by the medical fraternity that continuous exposure to unscientifically designed speed breakers, humps and rumblers could trigger cardiac arrest in patients having a history of heart disease including an enlarged heart. While there is no scientific data to link speed breakers to cardiac arrests, cardiologists say there is possibility that patients being transported in ambulances could suffer ventricular fibrillation which could result in cardiac arrest as the vehicle passes over these speed breakers. Improperly designed speed breakers could also lead to paralysis in patients having spinal problems and other health complications like triggering pain in kidney stone patients. It will be in the interest of road safety and general public therefore that if at all a speed breaker is to be erected it must be according to scientific standards.
The directions of the Union ministry of road transport and highways to remove all speed limiting structures were issued to state governments after the Road Accident Report (2014), published by the ministry, revealed that 4,726 lives were lost in crashes due to humps and 6,672 lives due to potholes and speed breakers. The Goa government is yet to comply with the directions to remove speed breakers along the highways and was pulled up by the Centre for failing to act in this regard. It has been known that most of the speed limiting structures in Goa have no standards or uniformity; their forms and heights vary from place to place. In most cases they are not painted and the cautionary signs to warn motorists before its location about existence of speed breakers along the highways are missing: either the signs were never put up or are hidden by growth of foliage around them or damaged by miscreants. As speed breakers, bumps and rumblers are known to be causes of accidents, the PWD officials could do well by erecting clear signs to forewarn motorists. Care has to be taken to ensure that erection of speed breakers, rumblers and humps, if necessary, was carried out in scientific manner taking all parameters into consideration.
After a long delay in removing the speed limiting structures along the highways the PWD officials have promised that most of the speed breakers will be removed as the construction of four-six lane road work has started along most stretches of the National Highways. The department has written to the district collectors not to issue any notification for erection of speed breakers on National Highways. The state PWD could go by the Centre’s recommended provisions of properly designed rumbler strips at places like approaches to sharp turns, curves, at level crossings, at congested or accident-prone locations to control the speed of vehicles. In many western countries, there are no humps or speed breakers on roads and the administration there leaves it to the driver’s training, education, common sense, responsibility and awareness to slow down wherever necessary. This, however, cannot be applied to Goa and India as the sensitivities, awareness and responsibilities are low among most drivers. Many roads in Goa are being reconstructed or widened. The authorities could do well to remove all the impediments that existed all along to ensure smooth movement of traffic. The roads, National or State Highways, and approaches to them should be designed scientifically and laid out so as to prevent accidents and ensure that the traffic movement in the state was as seamless as in any advanced country.