The law on speed breakers and speed humps in India
Did you know that there were laws governing speed breakers? Very few government officers and even motorists are aware of these laws and design specifications. This article attempts to explain the law on speed breakers in India.
What are speed breakers?
Speed Breakers are traffic management devices which use vertical deflection to slow down vehicles passing over them.
Speed breakers are also known as Speed Humps, Speed Bumps, Speed Ramps, Speed Cushions or Speed tables
Why are speed breakers used?
Speed breakers are used to slow down traffic near schools, hospitals so that children can cross the road more easily or senior citizens can cross at ease. They are also placed near toll booths and entry points of bridges or narrow roads, to ensure that motorists reduce their speed.
Why are unplanned or illegal speed breakers bad?
While speed breakers can help in slowing down traffic and reducing high speed crashes, an unplanned or illegal speed breaker can be as much (if not more) dangerous than the high speed crashes it is trying to prevent. It is very common across India to see speed breakers being laid willy-nilly
- Slows down emergency vehicles like ambulances, police vehicles and fire trucks
- Cause traffic congestion and sudden braking
- Reduces fuel efficiency and increases air pollution of vehicles
- Causes rapid wear and tear of vehicles
- The impact can be harmful for patients in transit, senior citizens and pregnant women.
- Causes an increase in Noise Pollution due to sudden braking, honking, vehicle parts and traffic congestion
- May scrape the under-body of low floor cars
- Can cause vehicles (especially 2 wheelers) to skid and cause a collision due to loss of control
Is there a law governing speed breakers?
There are various judgements by various Courts, directing the government to formulate rules and policies for setup of speed breakers.
Laws which refer to speed breakers:
- Home Department’s Resolution No. TFC-1092-991-V dated 23rd March 1992
Where can speed breakers be placed as per law?
Speed Breakers must be used only in urban areas for minor roads and residential areas. Speed Breakers are NOT recommended on high-speed roads or highways outside urban limits.
As per the Indian Road Congress guidelines, dated 12 June 1987, speed breakers must be placed on minor roads, only as follows:
Use of speed breakers is justified only in the following 3 circumstances:
- T-intersections of minor roads with rural trunk highways, characterized by relatively low traffic volumes on the minor road but very high average operating speed and poor sight distances. Such locations have a high record of fatal accidents and as such a speed breaker on the minor road is recommended;
- Intersections of minor roads with major roads, and mid-block sections in urban areas where it is desirable to bring down the speeds; and
- Selected local streets in residential areas, schools, colleges or university campuses, hospitals, etc. Also in areas where traffic is observed to travel faster than the regulated or safe speed in the area.
Other place where these may be used include:
1. Any situation where there is a consistent record of accidents primarily attributed to the speed of the vehicles e.g. when hazardous sections follow a long tangent approach;
2. Approaches to temporary diversions;
3. Approaches to weak or narrow bridges and culverts requiring speed restriction for safety;
4. On the minor arms of uncontrolled junctions and at railway level crossings;
5. Sharp curves with poor sight distances; and
6. Places of ribbon development, where road passes through builtup areas and vehicles travelling at high speeds are a source of imminent danger to pedestrians.
What are the specifications for ideal speed breakers?
The Indian Roads Congress has suggested that speed breakers are formed basically by providing a rounded (of 17 metre radius) hump of 3.7 metre width and 0.10 metre height for the preferred Advisory crossing speed of 25 km/h for general traffic. It is mentioned that more humps be constructed at regular intervals depending on desired speed and acceleration/deceleration characteristics of vehicles and that the distance between one hump to another can vary from 100 to 120 metres centre to centre.
The “Draft Guidelines on the provision of Speed Breakers for Control of Vehicular speed on Minor Roads” (Highly Recommended read) states that:
1.1 Definition: A speed breaker is a hump surface across the roadway having a rounded shape with width greater than the wheel base of most of the vehicles using the road. When there is decrease variation in sensory stimuli and at locations where speed controls are desired, a speed breaker acts as a strong stimuli to arouse reaction in the brain. Since the driver reaction times are faster in response to audible and tactile stimuli than to visual stimuli, a driver subconsciously reduces the speed.
An ideally designed hump should satisfy the following requirements:
i. There should be no damage to vehicles nor excessive discomfort to the drivers and passengers when passing at the preferred crossing speed.
ii. The hump should not give rise to excessive noise or cause harmful vibrations to the adjoining buildings or affect the other residents of the area.
iii. Above the design speed, a driver should suffer increasing level of discomfort (but without losing directional control and without any vehicle damage) depending on the extent through which design speed is exceeded.
What type of marking and painting needs to be done on speed breakers?
- Drivers should be warned of the presence of speed breakers by posting suitable advance warning signs. The warning signs, should be of the design ‘HUMP OR ROUGH ROAD’ detailed in IRC: 67-1977 ‘Code of practice for Road Signs’. The sign should have a definition plate with the words ‘SPEED BREAKER’ inscribed thereon and should be located 40 m in advance of the first speed breaker.
- Speed breakers should be painted with alternate black and white bands to give additional visual warning. For better night visibility, it is desirable that the markings are in luminous paint/luminous strips. Embedded cat-eyes can also be used to enhance night visibility.
Who is authorized to install speed breakers? Who is responsible for maintaining and installation of speed breakers?
Location of the speed breakers are authorised by the Traffic Police Department on its own or on suggestions received from the public .
The public may send suggestions on placement or requirement of speed breakers to the
- Traffic Police Department or
- Traffic Department of the Municipal Corporation (Eg: MCGM in Mumbai)
The Director General of Police of the state and concerned Municipal Commissioners/ Councillors in charge of Municipal Corporations/Councils are also accountable for the upkeep and maintenance of the speed breakers and to ensure that new speed breakers are constructed in consonance with the guidelines provided by the Indian Road Congress.
The National Highways Authority of India is responsible for speed breakers on the highways.
Landmark Cases on Speed Breaker Law
- J P Sanghi v. State Of MP 1984 – Petition challenging the speed breakers in the town of Jabalpur and also on national highways passing through Madhya Pradesh.
- Kumudben Sureshchandra v. Jamnagar Municipal Corporation 1996 – Death due to unmarked speed breaker and compensation – “The Government, the authority in charge of Highways and local authorities, such as Municipal Corporation, Municipalities, Panchayats, and Urban Development Authorities, within their respective territorial jurisdiction, are duty bound to provide safe and motorable roads without any obstruction and with just and reasonable safety devices. If in law there is no provision for erecting a speed breaker, and if it is found that the speed of vehicles at a particular point of road is to be regulated, then a scientific study of the same keeping in mind various aspects has to be undertaken so as to make the device to reduce the speed just and reasonable, which would not result into causing more unintended harm than intended benefits.”
- Kewal Semlani v. Commissioner Of Bombay And Ors. 2005 – Bombay High Court issues directions for speed breakers in Mumbai.
- N.D.M.C. v. Shri Chander Kishore Aggarwal 2011 – Compensation of Rs. 1 Lakh granted to motorist. NDMC held guilty of negligence for not maintaining speed breaker and thereby causing the accident.
Guidelines on Speed Breakers
- Ministry of Railways: DraftSpeedBreakerGuidelinesIR
Draft Guidelines on the provision of Speed
Breakers for Control of Vehicular speed on Minor Roads
Report no. RDSO/WKS/2016/1 by the Works Directorate of the Research Design and Standards Organization, Lucknow