In developing countries like India, heavy traffic is becoming one of the major problems which is concerning the policymakers. In India, the situation is really grave as people have to spend hours in traffic congestion. And the condition is worse in major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Chennai and Bengaluru. There have been some famous news headlines in the past detailing the situation when people stuck in traffic had to leave their cars on roads so that they could go home and rest. Sometimes the situation is so pathetic that it is not possible even for an ambulance to get through the traffic. At times, even detouring doesn’t help the commuters as other paths also get blocked due to the large number of vehicles.
There is no denying the fact that the chances of serious accidents get reduced due to traffic jams as the vehicles are compelled to slow down the speed. But the problem of heavy traffic has posed serious environmental challenges and other problems like road rage due to annoyance, road accidents etc.
The menace of traffic congestion has intensified the problem of air pollution as a huge amount of smoke is emitted from the vehicular traffic which apparently triggers other problems like global warming, climate change, respiratory disorders etc. Noise pollution due to honking of vehicles has its own disadvantages. Traffic problems also lead to waste of fuel and time of people. Increased commuting time is resulting in increasing stress levels among people. Thus, traffic congestion causes great loss of energy and resources to the society and economy as a whole.
Some of the major reasons responsible for the problem of heavy traffic in our country are listed below:
1. Encroachment on roads
Encroachment on public space has emerged as a very serious problem for the government. It has become one of the main reasons behind traffic jams and accidents. Encroachment on roads and streets by shopkeepers is commonly observed everywhere. They put their display goods on footpaths as if the land is a part of their shop and does not belong to anyone else. In many areas, the poor, shelterless and destitute people encroach upon the road dividers and roadsides. Stray animals on the roads also cause traffic jams. Owing to lack of awareness, public space is also used by people for feeding stray animals and birds. Encroachment on roads is also seen in the form of advertisement hoardings.
2. Unauthorized parking
Sometimes people are so careless that they park their vehicles on roads without caring for others. It is usually noticed in market places. Also, due to lack of parking space in residential areas, people park their vehicles on footpaths or even in no parking zones. Long queues of trucks are observed on the roadsides for loading and unloading from godowns. Most of the godowns don’t have parking facilities at their end. This is one of the reasons why traffic jam is common in both urban and rural areas of India.
3. Malpractices in the traffic department
Just like every other department, the traffic department also suffers from inefficiencies like nepotism and corruption due to which many unskilled and untrained drivers also get through the driving license test. And because of these unskilled drivers, the road may get jammed and the risk of accidents may increase. Some challan officials live in bribes and do not issue challans to those who pay them bribes. They are not able to stop illegal road encroachment and unauthorized parking. Corruption is the main cause of traffic jams. Road and transport department is a solution to many problems. They need to bring major changes in their organization to prevent the cause of traffic jams.
4. Increasing number of vehicles on roads
Owing to expansion of population size and rising middle class population in the country, the number of vehicles has increased exponentially in the past few years. People prefer to go by their own vehicles rather than using public transport. Also, good practices like carpooling are not much practised in our country. Excessive number of vehicles is one of the main causes of traffic congestion in India.
5. Sloppy attitude of people
People are not sufficiently aware of the traffic rules and regulations. And even if they are, they don’t care to follow those rules. There are instances when people cross the road despite the facility of foot-over bridges. In many places, zebra crossings have no meaning left as people do not stop their vehicles to let the pedestrians cross the road. There are instances when traffic policemen restrict the movement on roads by using barricades and then leave the road unmonitored. Because of the negligent and lax attitude of people, roads are often jammed and road rages take place.
6. Road blockades due to protests
Being a large and diversified country, people with different aspirations and goals reside in our country. And since India is a democratic country, people have got the absolute right to express themselves in the form of protest marches or demonstrations. Sometimes the protesting groups blockade the roads as a way of expressing their dissent.
Some measures that can help prevent or reduce traffic jam related problems in our country to a large extent.
1. Traffic control at railway crossings
In order to eliminate traffic congestion at railway crossings, it should be ensured that there is a proper gap between the vehicles and that vehicles are stopped at an appropriate distance from the railway track. Under passes or flyovers may be constructed wherever there are railway crossings. The concerned persons should be well-informed about the train arrival timings so that traffic congestions can be prevented.
2. Use of technology to monitor vehicles
Manual checking of vehicles at inter-state checkpoints leads to heavy traffic in the region. It can be prevented by using sensor technology and installation of cameras at checkpoints. It will help reduce the traffic congestion to a huge extent as no vehicle would be required to stop at the checkpoints. Drones can be used to monitor the situation of traffic in different regions.
3. Online road tax collection and E-challan system
The use of FASTag should be mandated with some improvements such that vehicles do not have to stop for toll collection. A similar system can be followed for octroi collection from transportation trucks. The e-challan system needs to be extended to all the parts of the country. This system has helped the traffic police in maintaining proper records of challans and has also helped in avoiding the situations of misbehaviour with the challan officials.
4. Separate lanes for public transport and heavy vehicles
There should be separate lanes for public transport so that the speed of the traffic increases and traffic jams do not take place. It is indispensable as it is commonly observed everywhere that public transports occupy a large space on roads while picking up and dropping the passengers and thus, disturb the whole traffic. Also, there can be separate lanes for heavy vehicles like trucks and buses so that traffic does not slow down due to these vehicles. Bicycles and rickshaws should also be allotted a separate space on roads.
5. Regular maintenance of roads
It includes clear demarcation of white stripes on the roads, timely repair of traffic signals and proper road drainage system, signage and pavements for pedestrians. These upkeep measures play a very important role in tackling the problem of traffic congestion and are crucial in ensuring road safety.
6. Redesigning of roads
The present situation of traffic demands an organized road network. Due to merging of lanes, traffic often gets jammed. There should be due consideration for proper road dividers, parking zones, wider pavements and broader roads in order to mitigate the traffic problems. Hence, redesigning of roads has become inevitable.