Opinion: Highway speed limits need rethinking

    Low speed limits on a 6-lane road result in dangerous braking in front of speed cameras.

    Published on Mar 16, 2024 09:00:00 AM


    Opinion: Highway speed limits need rethinking

    I write this column as someone who has evolved into a very sedate driver over the years. Don’t get me wrong, I have my fun on bikes in the right environment, but I find much more joy in driving to a destination as efficiently as possible rather than as fast as possible. I suppose it also helps that my personal car is a twenty-year-old Maruti Zen. It’s a car whose ability to transport you to a simpler time is something I adore, and it also doesn’t feel very comfortable above 100kph. 

    With that foundation laid in place, let’s get to the point of this column. Some of our speed limits are ridiculous to the point of being downright dangerous. A prime example would be what’s happening on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. A few years ago, the speed limit was raised from 80kph to 100kph and I think that number nicely balances the capability of our modern cars along with the driving skills of the average Indian road user.

    However, this speed limit only applies to the straight stretches and the problem begins when you get to the ghat section between Khopoli and Lonavala. Here, the speed limit is immediately halved to 50kph, which is simply way too slow for a road that remains a very wide and flowing six-lane expressway throughout. 

    How do we know that this is far too slow? Well, the authorities have now erected plenty of new overhead gantries with speed cameras, and I’ve noticed that almost nobody – not even most commercial vehicles – are going that slowly, especially downhill. People either drive past with oblivion or suddenly and dangerously brake to avoid the fine.

    Things get even worse when you’re on the elevated section over Lonavala where there’s a 30kph speed limit board that is soon followed by a row of new cameras. To put it into context how absurd this is on a six-lane ‘expressway’, an above-average athlete can run faster than that. 

    Having recently been stung by a Rs 2,000 fine for doing a very sedate 64kph on the expressway ghat, I tried slowing down to 30kph for this board and had to completely get off the road to do so without possibly causing a pile-up.

    I really wonder how this hasn’t already been corrected. Do the authorities who set these speeds actually drive on these roads? Or have all these new speed cameras been intentionally placed right next to unrealistic speed limit boards? Either way, something has to change.

    For bikes, things get worse, with painfully low speed limits on many state and national highways, and a growing number of strategically parked speed interceptor vehicles waiting to catch you out.

    Speed limits are important and the steep fines associated with them do a good job of keeping reckless driving under control. But at the same time, more thought and science needs to go into the design of these limits, especially when tens of thousands of crores of taxpayer money is being put into road infrastructure development. 

    The very point of making great roads is to facilitate more efficient traffic movement, which will lead to a more efficient economy. Doesn’t it completely defeat the purpose if we are going to then artificially slow the traffic down again?

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    Parikshit - 32 days ago

    The south bound road of Mohd Ali road flyover does not have a camera anymore, hence I don't bother slowing down. But the northbound still does

    Jeevan Chaukar - 33 days ago

    This is actually a brilliant new revenue model of our fantastic Govt of India. First, build wide roads. Next, allow selling of good quality powerful cars and bikes. Follow this by also making premium petrol available. All good? Now, apply ridiculous speed limits and set up speed cameras, mobile radar units and send ₹ 2000 fines to almost every other driver on the road. Moreover, be completely idiotic in enforcing this rule - so that in case of a 50 kmph limit, if you 51 kmph, sorry mister! You are way out of luck so please pay ₹ 2000...It's quite possible that during the travel between two prominent cities, you may accumulate fines that could have sponsored your air-ticket to at least London if not New York City! What an idea sirjee! Our government is nicely setting up the citizens for these speed traps!

    Ravindra Punwani - 35 days ago

    You hit the nail on the head. The 100 km/hr speed limit is ok with me, the 50 km/hr on the ghat section is absurd as is the 30 km/hr limit on Mohd. Ali Flyover and the 40 km/hr speed limit on the entry ramps of the Atal Setu. Even with the most basic car/s one would find it difficult to get down to 50 km/hr when coming down the ghats or 40 km/;hr when exiting the Atal Setu. Ironically, the ramps coming onto the freeway have speed limits increase from40 km/hr to 80 km/hr on the Freeway - a sure recipe for disaster. In my limited opinion, the speed limit on the ghats & entry/exit ramps of Atal Setu should be 65 km/hr and 50 km/hr for the Mohd. Ali Flyover

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