As humans, we have a fascination with moving fast. There are enough sports around either running, driving or even flying! The tendency to go “faster than ever before” has lead to numerous inventions around improving the speed. In swimming, there were faster shark suits invented that would ostensibly help the swimmer wipe off seconds from existing records, a huge margin considering how little the timings have varied over the years. In running, there have been fantastic advances in the kind of footwear to assist in healthier and consequently, faster times. Sports science is a specialized area and there are innumerable advances in this field over the past 20-30 years as we learn more about the human body and its response to external stimuli. In motorsport, the goal is simply to go faster and reach the finish line quicker than anyone else. Teams in Formula 1 spend millions of dollars in aerodynamic development of the cars and in research on the type of material to be used as the body of the car, the engine components, etc. The complexity of it all is mind boggling considering that the end goal is, after all, to get to the top in just a sport.
The seeming obsession with speed is quite remarkable for human kind well encapsulated in the popular game series “Need For Speed”. It is probably a theme that ties together the majority of the human population across the globe. With speed comes risk. The faster you go, the riskier it is, simply because the time taken to react to any unforeseen circumstance is that much lesser. It is not a major surprise then that one of the top reasons for deaths in many countries is due to road accidents. It can be safely assumed that the faster you go, the more likely it is that one can be in an accident. Of course, all this is well known and well researched – the governments and various regulatory bodies bring in various ways to slow vehicular traffic on the roads. Living in Bangalore, it is impossible to escape the aptly named speed breakers (or road bumps) – the seemingly fool proof method to force vehicles to slow down. These speed breakers are ubiquitous every where in India – in office spaces, in apartment complexes, on roads, even in places where the road is itself almost non-existent, it would seem that the powers that be decide that a pre-requisite for any road is a speed breaker.
Speed breakers are definitely not the best solution to slow traffic down. It causes traffic build up at inopportune places on the road and inappropriately sized and multiple speed breakers in a short distance can cause health hazards for the people in the vehicle. Back pain and cervical spondilytis can easily result due to frequent sojourns on these speed breakers. Options to replace speed breakers include chicanes, which is basically about causing the traffic to move in a snake-like fashion with the help of barricades. Other interesting options include gamification.
The Fun Theory, started by Volkswagen, has a very interesting video on how we can make people follow the speed limit by making it more fun to do so! http://www.thefuntheory.com/ has an awesome video which shows how this theory proposed by Kevin Richardson from USA has been implemented in Stockholm, Sweden and that, quite successfully. The main theme of the idea revolves around making drivers aware of the speed that they are going at. Surprisingly enough, once your speed is displayed in front of you, on a huge screen, people do slow down to the speed limit! Kevin’s idea takes this a step forward by putting in the money collected by fines into a lottery that is open to the public. The tenet behind this idea is that every person, by nature, wants to comply and do good for the society. The challenge is in making it fun.
It would thus seem that simply by putting a speed detector on public display on the roads would make people slow down to the speed limit set for that stretch of the road as a starting step. Of course, driving in India, it is enough fun to negotiate a 10 kms drive through the city traffic at any time of the day! Surely, this is a unparalleled video game like experience but with trivial rewards!