Why not a better road network in India?
Recently I had been to USA for the fourth time and unlike in the previous trips I toured extensively and in the process had an opportunity to understand the roadway and highway network.Driving or traveling on American highways is very interesting, exciting and at times, if not careful, may be highly risky, too. Vehicles
No concerted effort worth mentioning appears to have been initiated either by the Government of India or the National Highways Authorities of India (NHAI) to overcome the deficiencies in the highways road network. The poor riding quality, inadequate carriageway width, un-metalled road length, un-bridged crossings, inadequate crust thickness, inadequate road boundaries on highways, inadequate marking, display boards and shoulders, lack of parking places on highways etc are the unfortunate features of our national highways.
Recently I had been to USA for the fourth time and unlike in the previous trips I toured extensively and in the process had an opportunity to understand the roadway and highway network.Driving or traveling on American highways is very interesting, exciting and at times, if not careful, may be highly risky, too. Vehicles of all types move in different lanes - minimum four on either side - with not less than a speed of 55 to 65 miles (above 100 km) per hour. Some may even drive with more speed but control and reduce the speed automatically whenever they suspect that a police patrolling van is likely to be behind or ahead of them.
Like in India, where they are named as, national highways, connecting different states, in USA, they are known as ‘Inter-State’ Roads. In India, they are numbered as NH 1, NH 2 and so on. In USA, too, they are numbered but are done in a different fashion and numbers keep changing from the border of the entering state. For instance, while travelling from a place in ‘A’ state to another place in ‘C’ state passing through ‘B’ state, the interstate road from A to B is given one number, and that of from B to C another number. The Inter-state roads of North-South/South-North directions have always odd numbers and those of East-West/West-East have even numbers.
Very wide road dividers separate the highways converting them into a mere one-way traffic drives and as a result there will be no vehicle coming from opposite direction at any point of time and place. It is thus totally ensured, that, there shall not be any head-on collision accidents on the highways. The chances of other types of accidents are also minimum and almost negligible. But if at all an accident takes place it would be ‘major.’ In fact there would be only “crashes’ but not collision type accidents.
On the inter-state roads there would be two or three ‘channels’ or ‘pass ways’ in either direction for the vehicles to move and depending on the speed with which they move, they get into that particular channel. Everywhere ‘boards’ are displayed cautioning “ALWAYS KEEP RIGHT - EXCEPT TO PASS,” indicating that only when the driver intends to overtake the vehicle moving in front of his vehicle, he should chose the next left channel ‘to pass.
This exercise also has to be carried very carefully and without slightest inconvenience to others. In any vehicle, as per the laws, both the driver and the one who sits in the front right seat have to tighten the seat-belts as a safety measure failing which it is an offence and for every offence the one who sits in the driving seat is responsible. All vehicles are ‘left hand driven’ and to drive on right side of the road.
In America, when fined by police it is referred to as issue of ‘Ticket’ by police. Whenever a person driving the vehicle is caught for any offence within the state, where the vehicle is registered and where he obtains driving license, it is simply entered on the ‘driving license,’ by awarding some punishment points. If caught elsewhere it will be in the form of ‘fine’ which will be heavy under proper acknowledgement. Depending upon the number of offences or traffic violations and consequent points entered, the punishment is decided including cancellation of licence. Once the driving license is withdrawn it becomes very difficult to get it renewed. Driving vehicle after consumption of alcohol is a major offence and seldom one drives in that condition.
While driving on the highway, if any traffic violation is noticed, then the patrolling police vehicle signals you from behind and all that the driver has to do is to take the vehicle to the adjacent ‘shoulder’ lane and just stop. ‘Shoulder’ lanes are found on either side of the highway all along the road, which are lesser in width than the actual pass ways, and are meant only for ‘parking’ the vehicles whenever it is required, either due to break down or otherwise.
The driver need not get down from the vehicle, and instead the patrolling police officer, moves towards the vehicle by stepping out from his car and informs the driver of the violation and the award of ticket follows. No arguments are entertained. None else sitting in the vehicle except the driver is allowed to represent, if anything has to be said. To detect the violations and offences on the highway, the police use ‘radar’ and do it very discretely.
All along the highway, a number of ‘exits’ normally managed by private persons are found. An exit is meant for stepping out of the main highway and take the required other road. There will be ‘gas exits’ meant for refilling the fuel, ‘food exits’ meant for refreshments, ‘lodging exits’ meant for resting over night or for a while, ‘comfort exits’ meant for making the traveler comfortable for a while, ‘holiday or camp exits’ meant for going over to a place for a vacation and spending a day or two, ‘hospital-exits’ meant for medical facilities, and so on. In addition, there will be ‘Exits’ for entering a town or city or village, which is numbered as per the mile stones. At the mouth of each type of exit, one can find a variety of facilities like petrol pumps, canteens, telephone booths, vendor machines, motels, rest areas etc.
In addition to the exits, for every 20-30 miles, there will be exclusive ‘Rest Areas’ run by government tourism department, meant mainly for answering nature calls. Even here if someone wants to have some bite or a drink, there will be ‘vendor machines’ for the purpose. The vendor machine is an instrument, in which some eatables and cool and hot drinks are placed. The person who needs them, can have on inserting the required number of currency either in the form of coins or notes, priced against each item, that are retrieved automatically. When you do not have change, the balance amount will be returned back through a devise meant for it.
When one enters into an exit, to join the main highway you need not come back the same way and instead, ahead of the exit another road will join the high-way. Again it will be a one way. Similarly, if you want to enter the exit on the left side of the highway, then you have to proceed further till you get an exit on right side and through it should join the main high-way, to get in to the other direction and to proceed towards the required exit.Infrastructure development figures prominently and figures as the first priority item of any government. Road network forms part of infrastructure development and hence it requires meticulous and utmost care while planning.