Last November, Deepak Gogate, a resident of Baner, was hit by a speeding motorcyclist travelling on the wrong side of Baner Road.
He suffered serious muscular injuries and had to undergo physiotherapy for several months. A cervical collar and braces on his elbows are painful reminders of the accident.
People driving on the wrong side of roads in the city are not just breaking the law, but also putting other road users in danger. Pedestrians, who may not be expecting the sudden obstruction in their paths caused by such vehicles driven at great speed, are also at risk. The problem is rampant across the city and is often the cause of serious road accidents
The collective feeling among citizens, traffic engineers and city-based activists is that stricter enforcement of the law, random checks and steep fines would deter people driving on the wrong side of the road. It also needs long-term solutions like better road designs and educating drivers about the repercussions of their actions, they added.
In an urban setting, there can be no compromise about following traffic rules, said Satish Khot, president of National Society for Clean Cities. “In Pune, where the population density is high, whatever you do will impact others. A driver on the wrong side of the road is not only risking the lives of others, but also his or her own safety. Traffic rules must be enforced strictly, with steeper fines, so that they are followed diligently. The traffic police should conduct surprise checks at different spots across the city. At an individual level, it is the duty of everyone to stop friends, family and employees from breaking the law,” he said.
While enforcement is the biggest deterrent, the traffic police cannot be everywhere at all times, and thus it is more important to educate people about the risks involved through awareness campaigns and social media outreach programmes, suggested Pratapsingh Bhonsle, a traffic engineer assisting the city’s traffic police.
“One person drives on the wrong side to take a shortcut, and then it becomes herd mentality with the others thinking it is acceptable to do it. Without exception, everyone from students, parents with children riding pillion and trucks rampantly break this law. As adults, parents and teachers should set an example for the children to follow,” he said.
Bhonsle said signages and hoardings reminding drivers about not breaking the law and the possible penalty can serve as a deterrent, as can surprise checks and better enforcement.
Streets need to be designed better to be able to truly tackle the problem, said Sujit Patwardhan, founder member and trustee of Parisar, a city-based organization working on issues related to sustainable development.
“Roads built without scientifically placed punctures in medians will encourage drivers to break the law. Streets thus need to be designed better, median breaks need to be provided in a well-thought out manner so that drivers are not tempted to break the rule. This needs a concerted effort, besides of course the police ensuring that they keep on catching the culprits till the message reaches home,” he added.
Deepak Gogate, founder member of Aundh Vikas Mandal, who has been championing the cause of enforcing right side driving since 2013, believes the issue needs to be tackled scientifically. “Only sealing punctures on the median is not the solution__ it starts the problem. Not following the law is an urban malaise. Police need to enforce the rule strictly,” he added.