Need for speed: A reality check

In a State where 8.3 million chilfter being stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic for hours on end, a long stretch of empty road is what all Bangaloreans crave for: To let the engine breathe and to set the horses loose. But as people on Bangalore’s access-controlled roads have realised, dreams can turn into nightmares in a matter of a few seconds.

NICE Road, Electronics City Elevated Express Way and Bellary Road are some of the new haunts of Bangalore’s speed demons.

F1 superstar Lewis Hamilton might have spun his car and made the tyres smoke, but he was not the first, not even on this road. Even before the road opened for the public, speed fanatics and budding stuntmen headed to the NICE Road to rev up their mean machine and burn some rubber. Unofficial drag races and stunt competitions were the norm to begin with, but a lot of bad press meant NICE officials got a bit stricter.
Road blocks, patrol cars and interceptors were introduced to check stunts, but that hasn’t stopped people from speeding.

According to Rahul, when he was in college, he and his friends used to go out driving late at night on the Kormanagala ring road. But when the cops intervened, they had to find another place to satiate their appetite for speed.

“We were overjoyed when we discovered NICE Road. It wasn’t open then, but some stretches were already done up. The roads were so good, it was a driver’s paradise.”
He says, even now NICE Road is his choice for a high-speed drive. “It is a private road and there are no restrictions. I have hit 190-200 kmph on it in my i20 on a regular basis and haven’t been caught for speeding even once,” says Rahul.

Prakash, who drives his Skoda Laura on the road on a regular basis, says newer cars have a lot power wasted in the crawl of the city traffic. Only on NICE Road does he get to push the car to the limit, he adds.

“The road isn’t as good as it used to be, but it is still the fastest way to get from South Bangalore to Tumkur Road. In the City, we can’t go beyond 50 kmph, and it would take us an hour and a half to get out of the City. Here, I drive at a constant speed of 150-170 kmph and take just 40 minutes,” he says.

Prakash says he feels safe even while driving at that speed. “The newer cars come with a bunch of safety features like anti-braking system, EBD and curtain airbags,” he says. The Elevated Expressway to Electronics City is one of the newest of the access-controlled roads, and though it is packed during peak hours, it empties out by around 9:30 pm.  According to Nazeem, this is when they get on the expressway. “It is easy to hit 180-190 kmph on this road, but you have to watch out for the cops. They are usually parked on the second layby, so when we are getting close, we drop our speed to around 80 kmph and once we are past it, we accelerate back to full speed,” he says.

However, for Batul studying in Christ College, this need for speed is something beyond comprehension. “My friends drive like maniacs on these roads and there is no point telling them to go slow.”

She says Indian roads are not safe for high-speed driving as nobody follows traffic rules. “Even on NICE Road, you suddenly come across a herd of cows or very slow-moving traffic in the high-speed lane. And at those speeds, it is very difficult to react quickly,” she says.

Rahul says many people make a lot of money at a very young age. “One of the first things they want to buy is a car and most of them want to drive them fast,” he says.
He feels that no amount of enforcement and restrictions will stop people from speeding.
“People like me are addicted to speed. Nothing gives you the adrenaline rush that get when you are driving the car at its limit,” he says.

Most Western countries have racetracks where people can pay a fee and drive around the track. “They can satisfy their need to drive fast in a relatively safe setup without endangering the lives of others. Here in India, there is no such facility. So, we have no other option but to speed on the highways,” he says.

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