Speedbreakers account for an average 10 deaths a day in the country, data from the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways show. Data compiled by the ministry’s Transport Research Wing put the number of speedbreaker-related accidents in India in 2015 at over 11,000, which resulted in 3,409 deaths. The figures were broadly in line with those for the year before that, when speedbreakers led to an average 30 accidents and 10 fatalities every day. The research wing started tracking accidents caused by speedbreakers as a separate category in 2014, collecting figures from police in the states. The numbers for 2016 are yet to be compiled.
In 2015, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh accounted for 6,073 — 55 per cent of the total — accidents caused by speedbreakers. The most deaths in such accidents that year occurred in Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu — a total of 1,794, or 52 per cent, of all speedbreaker-related deaths. The most such deaths in both 2015 and 2014 were in UP — 990 and 1,753. To put these numbers in perspective, 990 was about a fifth the number of murder cases reported in the state in 2015. UP topped all states in the number of murders that year, accounting for nearly 15 per cent of the total 32,127 murder cases in the country, according to National Crime Records Bureau data. Deaths on account of speedbreakers in Jammu and Kashmir in 2015 and 2014 — 15 and 17 respectively — amounted to nearly half the number of soldiers killed in the state in each of those years: 33 soldiers in 2015 and 32 in 2014.
At the same time, the numbers of both accidents and deaths came down sharply in UP in 2015 in comparison to 2014 — from 3,192 to 1,753, and from 1,654 to 990 respectively. The same trend was seen in Bihar, while West Bengal, Gujarat and Karnataka witnessed the opposite trend. Government officials say even these high numbers may be an underestimation, as accidents caused due to speedbreakers get clubbed under the broader category of road accidents in many cases. There is no overarching set of norms on speedbreaker construction, and the Indian Roads Congress (IRC), the apex body of highway engineers set up by the government, in its guidelines on “the provision of speedbreaker for control of vehicular speeds on minor roads”, concedes there is “no particular design” suitable for all types of vehicles using a road.
For example, a speedbreaker designed for trucks can be dangerous for motorcyclists, and one designed for motorcyclists could be ineffective for trucks. The IRC’s design recommendation, therefore, is basically a compromise to suit average Indian road traffic conditions. Based on field investigations and research, it has suggested that speedbreakers be provided a rounded (of 17-metre radius) hump of 3.7 metres width and 0.10 metres height for the preferred advisory crossing speed of 25 km/h for general traffic. This must be changed in areas that see a higher proportion of heavier vehicles, it says. The IRC has also recommended that signs should be put up warning drivers of an approaching speedbreaker, and that speedbreakers should be painted with alternating black and white bands or with luminous strips, or be embedded with cat’s eyes — reflective road safety devices — to give additional visual warning at night.
In practice, though, these rules are rarely followed by public works departments and implementing agencies. Ministry of Road Transport officials said they had issued several circulars advising against the construction of speedbreakers on National Highways, most recently on August 29, 2016. Instead of speedbreakers, that circular asked for properly designed rumble strips at accident-prone places such as sharp curves, level crossings and congested locations. Officials say the construction of unauthorised speedbreakers, often by local people, is frequently brought to their notice, and they get the speedbreakers removed. In March 2016, the National Highways Authority of India had circulated policy guidelines for the construction of foot overbridges or pedestrian underpasses wherever required.