Racing on city roads: Disaster waiting to happen

Yesterday (at around 10 pm) we were at a bookshop in Bangalore (Indiranagar, 12th main) when we heard the roar of a sports car (porsche?) and then saw it go past us at a very high speed. A rich guy — no doubt a guy — was getting his thrills and putting pedestrians and vehicular traffic at high risk. A few weeks back, the same thing happened on the residential street where the Royal Orchid hotel in Airport Road is located: this was more brazen and dangerous as the potential for disaster was very high. It is not a matter of “if” but “when” one of these dangerous joy rides ends up in a disaster. There are lots of auto drivers and motorcyclists who don’t believe in turning the headlights on at night; many cycles don’t have a light. Then there are the vegetable and fruit vendors who walk their carts on the roads: not surprisingly the carts don’t have any reflectors, not to mention lights. They are practically invisible at night.

There are probably a handful of such sports cars in the city and I would hazard a guess that most are driven responsibly. However, I am sure that teenage sons of rich businessmen and politicians would figure prominently in the list of people who enjoy living on other people’s edge. And, when there is an accident, and if the driver survives and escapes — due to the safety features like 200 airbags, seat belt pre-tensioners etc. — it will be the family ‘driver’ who will be made the fall guy and take the rap. What is a few years in jail when you get a few lakhs of rupees? The offender would have a convenient alibi. His mother would proclaim him as a “gem of a boy” who couldn’t possibly think of hurting a fly: “He was just doing his homework at that time”. Yeah, right.

The drivers pick roads that don’t have speed breakers. See my previous post on speed breakers. This is one reason why you need them on most roads in the city.

Why do we need 400+ hp cars in India? Or for that matter anywhere in the world? If you want thrills, why don’t you participate in legal road racing on tracks such as Irungattukottai near Chennai or Kari Motor Speedway in Coimbatore?

The offender probably has enough money and clout to avoid prosecution. What is the responsibility and liability of sport car manufacturers? Can the victim’s family sue the manufacturers in Indian courts? A huge punitive damage award from an Indian court will force them to address this issue.  A couple of months back, truckers went on strike to protest against the requirement to install speed governors. If trucks can be required to install governors, doesn’t it make lot more sense to install them in sports cars? In addition,

  • Given that the sports cars are very expensive (even without the 100% duty), it would be relatively inexpensive to require tamper proof or tamper evident GPS based speed governors that will automatically impose speed and acceleration limits inside city limits.
  • Require all the sports car manufacturers (above a certain hp rating) to provide tamper proof or tamper evident black box that records one month worth of gps track, speed and acceleration information. If required, the recording will only be done when speed and/or acceleration exceed a configuration setting.
  • The speed/acceleration limits for the governor can have a lower night-time setting (9pm to 5 am). India has a single time-zone and this simplifies configuration.

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