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Dr. NK Venkataramana, Founder Chairman & Director, Brains Super Speciality Hospital, Bengaluru.
HIGHWAY is a special road that often connects two major cities or at times two countries. The very purpose of it is to ensure fast transportation to save time. The first such highway was said to have been built by Mr. Adolf Hitler in Germany. They are called Autobahns. They were built with such engineering knowledge and became famous for their quality, and stability. I had the fortune of traveling on those roads while I was in Germany. People will travel at 200 to 250 kilometres per hour at times. Despite that, the number of accidents is so meagre. That is because everyone follows the system and obeys rules and no one ever tries to break the rule. it was fascinating to see the number of people driving and the way they follow the traffic rules. The cultural difference was obvious. People prefer to go by road than flight in those countries. Once I travelled from Frankfurt to Berlin and reached before time than expected. The roads were so smooth that it was not only a pleasure traveling but also very much convenient.
Roads indicate civilization and culture, it is fortunate that our roads are improving in quality and expressways are getting ready. Expressways will have several lanes and one must have a different etiquette, system, and rules to follow without any compromise. Unfortunately, the driving culture in India is so haphazard, when they get onto such highways they continue to behave the same way. Driving on such high ways is a different ball game. It can't be equated with a football match where people run in a zigzag way.
Fundamentally expressway has to have certain special features. It should be built in such a way the ride is smooth, without any surprises, obstacles, or hindrances. Local people including police should not modify the internationally accepted rules. No humps, barricades, or other obstacles should be allowed on the highway.
There should not be any crossing over of the side roads. stray animals should not have access. No pedestrians are allowed to walk on the highway as a rule including hawkers. The expressway must have a lane culture. Lanes and all signage including speed limits should be visible. Lane disciple has to be followed by all the users without any crisscrossing. The two wheelers must stay on the extreme left. Heavy vehicles such as buses and trucks will occupy the next left lanes. Only fast-moving vehicles will stay in the right lanes. No overtaking from the left. Overtaking as well as lane changing has to be done in a very systematic way with proper indicators and only when the lane is free. No sudden stopping of vehicles is allowed except in a designated place in an emergency.
The designated speeds have to be followed strictly and drivers have to be well adapted and trained before they get on to such highways. Unfortunately, many Indian drivers are not aware of the rules and discipline of the highways, particularly the taxi and truck drivers. So we need to strengthen the system in such a way that all the drivers are aware of the system and have sufficient knowledge. We must make our licensing system more scientific and rigid. Secondly, all highways should have emergency speed-detecting cameras, and emergency telephonic access at periodic intervals and the highway should have a display of emergency helplines. Highway hospitals have to be equipped to handle such emergencies.
When such a project has been planned the provision for the ambulance bay, first aid centre, as well as helipads, must be designated. One needs to educate in all these aspects and the highway ecosystem. Police patrolling has to be very strict. The Comprehensive Trauma Consortium had been established between Bengaluru and Mysuru two decades ago with an ambulance station every 25 km. Unfortunately, the whole system has now become obsolete. Unless we recreate the whole system we cannot make these highways safe. In all expressways not only speed, but safety must also become the priority. Then only we can become on par with the developed countries.
Unfortunately, our future is far away from such progress. The Mysore Bangalore expressway is a laudable and much-needed project. But it is disheartening to know the huge number of accidents and deaths that were registered soon after the opening. We had similar experiences with every bypass road including the ring roads. We must adopt all the international standards not only in making roads but most importantly in changing our mind-set and culture. On the occasion of world head injury awareness day Brains Hospital appeals to all the stakeholders involved in such highways to follow all these safety guidelines without fail to make roads safe and purposeful.