good motoring

Highway to mess
H. kishie singh

H. kishie singhNational Highway 1 (NH-1) is in a mess. One more deadline has been missed. The 2010 dead line was missed, then again in 2011. It should have been February 2012 but that became June 15, 2012. Now it is December 31, 2012 for the Haryana section and March 31, 2013 for the Punjab section. It is not likely to happen. None of the flyovers or bridges are any where near completion. The Ambala-Delhi stretch, a 200 km distance, can take up to four hours. It is not the time wasted, which is important but the fact that the road is an obstacle drive fraught with danger. The construction company has very thoughtfully put up signs: "Caution! Accident-prone area !" Quite unnecessary. Because this is a universal truth. Every millimetre of any Indian road is accident prone ! So let the driver be aware and then beware. These are killer roads.

The incomplete bridges and flyovers have mud stacked around the construction area. This has been washed on to the roads which are a sea of mud. Even the sleek and swift sedans designed for high-speed cruising on super highways get a taste of off-roading. Adding to driversí agony are the hidden potholes under the layer of mud and slush.

The day I drove to Delhi there was a monsoon downpour which lasted over an hour. The road was under a sheet of water. There is inadequate drainage which points to faulty design and naturally faulty execution. The World Bank, which is funding the NH projects has complained that the top layer on some stretches does not last six months. So by the time the road is finished in Ambala, repairs will have started at the Delhi end. The obstacle drive will start again.

When water accumulates on the tarmac and the car is travelling at a speed, the tyres are not able to clear the water ahead of the tyres.
When water accumulates on the tarmac and the car is travelling at a speed, the tyres are not able to clear the water ahead of the tyres.

However, the immediate problem is the water that does not drain off the road. Cars and buses and trucks in particular with four wheels at the rear leave a spray of water behind them. Visibility can be reduced to 30-40 metres. Braking distances increase. Horrifyingly, no one decreased the speed of their cars, no one put on their headlights. Under these circumstances it is important to see and more important to be seen. Add to this the fact that most drivers have not read the ownerís manual. They donít know how to keep windows defogged. All the windows are misted over, opaque ! Outside rear view mirrors are closed. All round visibility can be lost by 60 per cent.

If this has not created a catastrophic condition, there is yet another danger to contend with. Aqua-planning or hydro-planning. When water accumulates on the tarmac and the car is travelling at a speed, the tyres are not able to clear the water ahead of the tyres. This means the car is riding on a sheet of water. The steering will be rendered useless. Should you try and change direction nothing will happen! There will be no braking. You donít need a vivid imagination to figure out what will happen.

It is entirely possible that half the cars on the road have tyres which are past their serviceable life. Even if the road was dry tarmac, worn out tyres will provide only 50 per cent or less traction. On a monsoon-drenched road traction will be zero.

The accompanying photograph shows a picture taken through the wind-screen during a downpour. It gives you an idea of how visibility can be reduced.

Happy Motoring !





HOME