The sleek road connecting the Indian cities of Mumbai and Pune is a model of modernity. While it’s much safer than the aging, dilapidated highway it replaced, it is still a very dangerous road to travel - the scene of 2,000 crashes over its 12-year history, resulting in 500 fatalities and thousands of injuries. Atlantic Cities shares this story.
ndeed, although India has been modernizing its roads, it has not been creating safer environments for those who use them. India accounts for about 10 percent of the road fatalities in the world at this point, and the incidence of death increased by more than 44 percent between 2001 and 2011. In 2011, nearly 137,000 people died on Indian roads, and the rate still keeps going up, despite the ongoing construction of more modern roadways.
A Mumbai-based behavioral science and design firm called Final Mile is studying the problem and trying to come up with effective design solutions to address some of the reasons behind India’s traffic death crisis. Ram Prasad, one of the company’s cofounders, says roads like the Mumbai-Pune Expressway have been designed with only cars in mind, and fail to take the human factor fully into account. They are so straight and wide and clear that they encourage excessive speed, inattention, and carelessness. In other words, they lull drivers into perilous complacency precisely because they seem so safe and predictable.
Risk perception was the key in that case. Final Mile painted alternate ties of the railroad tracks yellow, enabling people to better gauge the speed of approaching trains. In another tactic, they installed signs showing shocking images of a man’s face as a train bore down on him. The message was understandable in a second, no matter which of India’s 25 languages you speak, and the number of deaths in Wadala Station dropped dramatically.