Safe Systems’ Approach Vis-à-vis Road Engineering in context of Speed Breakers

‘Safe Systems Approach’ refers to a holistic approach for improving road safety. It recognizes that accidents don’t happen only because of drivers’fault,but are due to numerous factorsthat maybe outside the control of the driver. The World Health Organization (WHO) refers to road accidents as road crashes. These road crashes result in Road Traffic Injuries which need to be recognized as a serious health issue which requires an adequate remedy.

In 2014 and 2015, a staggering 22,092 road accidents took place on Indian Roads due to faulty or illegal speed breakers. The data as reported by the Police Departments of States/UTs, has been compiled as follows:


Number of road accidents due to speed breakers

Number of persons killed due to speed breakers

Number of persons injured due to speed breakers









Specific guidelines known as“Tentative Guidelines on Provison of Speed Breakers for control of vehicular speeds on minor roads”have been laid down by the Indian Road Congressfor construction of speed breakers,which are known as IRC 99-1988. However, the ground reality is that there little compliance with the same.

These guidelines define a speedbreaker as “A speedbreaker 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 decreased 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”The guidelines further lay down the requisite dimensions for an ideally designed hump/speed breaker,for it to be anappropriate speedbreaker.

Speed breakers are supposed to act as a deterrent for speeding and rash driving. They also help to regulate road safety. However, if speed breakers are not made according to the prescribed guidelines they can be a serious threat, causing injuries and fatalities which can be seen from the table mentioned above.7,042 people have been killed due to faulty, illegal, and unauthorized speed breakers.Various cases have been filed in different courts over the country,that have highlighted the dangers of these speed breakers.

Cases pertaining to speed breakers

  1. J P Sanghi and Anr Vs State of Madhya Pradesh and Anr. 1985JLJ172

    This was one of the first cases which was filed which dealt with the relation of road safety and improperly constructed speed breakers.The petitioner in this case had submitted that “in the town of Jabalpur itself a number of speed breakers have been constructed and in some cases they are so high that even at very ordinary speed of the vehicle they endanger the vehicles, their silencers, petrol tank and chambers hit the humps of the roads and sometimes cause serious damage.”
    This case was filed in the High Court of Madhya Pradesh praying for removal of all speed beakers from town andfrom all national highways in the territory. Additionally, it was prayed thatdirections be issued by the Court to put appropriate safety signs on roads,cautioning the drivers wherever such road humps or speed breakers were erected and also that the roads be properly maintained.
    In this case the court held that there was no provision in the Motor Vehicles Act 1988 providing guidelines for construction of road humps or speed breakers. The court further held “ In our opinion, it is not necessary for us to issue a direction to the State Government to frame rules Under Section 91 but it is directed that unless such rules are framed, the respondents will examine the matter and prepare a scheme conductive to the purpose for which the road humps and speed breakers are erected and also conducive to the safety of the persons travelling in vehicles and their property that a reasonable design and scheme about road humps a may be prepared and all the speed breakers and road humps may be made uniform in accordance with that scheme within six months.”

  2. Kumudben Sureshchandra, Vs  Jamnagar Municipal Corp 1997GLH(1)491

    This case was under Section 85 of the Motor Vehicles Act 1988 and Section 203 of the Bombay Provincial Municipal Corporations Act 1949. It challenged an order holding the corporation solely responsible for the accident which had occurred while passing over the speed breaker.
    The High court quashed the lower court’s order on the premise that even though the Municipal Corporation was negligent and did not construct an appropriate and safe speed breaker, the driver was also negligent as he permitted more than one pillion driver to ride behind him.
    The court also held “In the instant case, the erection of the speed breaker itself was not permitted by any law; and to add to its gravity, no signboard is kept to indicate existence of such a speed breaker; no markings are painted on the speed breaker and no light is provided. These ought to have been provided so that the speed breaker is made visible. If painting on the speed breaker is defaced, it is the duty of the Corporation to see that the same is painted.”

  3. KewalSemlani vs. Commissioner of Bombay and Ors. 2005(4)BomCR25

    In this case the petitioner had filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) alleging the extremely poor condition of roads in Mumbai that lead to many road accidents and caused inconvenience to Mumbaites.

    The court had recorded “It is mentioned that a circular had been issued by the Chief Engineer (Roads and Traffic) to Assistant Commissioners of all the wards directing them to give a status report of the speed breakers indicating the number of speed breakers authorized by Traffic Police Department and the other speed breakers which have been constructed without permission and out of them how many unauthorised speed breakers (constructed in contravention of specifications) have been removed.” The court in this case had also issued direction to be read with the IRC guidelines for speed breakers.

  4. Guru Hanuman Society of India Vs Govt of NCT of Delhi &Ors

    This writ petition is pending before the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi and broadly pertains to the construction of speed breakers on public roads in Delhi. The court by its previous order dated 04.09.2017 had directed the Govt. of NCT of Delhi “to constitute a Body/Committee that will constantly meet from time to time and review the situation. The role of the committee is to collect data and also ensure that unauthorized speed breakers in terms of the location as well as the dimensions are appropriately removed within the timeframe indicated with regard to each of the localities/zone.”

    The court in this case had also issued a mandamus vide order dated 25.05.2016 by which they had given guidelines regarding (a) speed breakers being constructed in compliance with IRC specifications (b) appropriate signage indicating the speed breakers on roads as per IRC guidelines.

The types of marking and painting which needs to be done on and around speed breakers

It is essential that the Speed breakers not only meet the guidelines specifically prescribed, but also haveproper signs indicating the placement of these speed breakers.  IRC has issued specific guidelines which state that there should be warning signs around speed breakers that should read ‘HUMP OR ROUGH ROAD’. These have been prescribed in IRC:67-1977 ‘Code of practice for Road Signs’.

Road accidents in India have increased tremendously. In 2015 alone, 1,46,000 people died in road accidents, according to the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. There is an imperative need to recognize the importance of a ‘Safe Systems Approach’.Activeefforts need to be undertaken to understand and recognize not just the negligence of drivers when it comes to road accidents but also the need for proper road engineering mechanisms and compliance with the same.