The recent incident involving a KSRTC bus (Kerala State Road Transport Corporation) and a car near Kizhavalloor in the Pathanamthitta district of Kerala has come as a shocking reminder of the tragic consequences of lane indiscipline by commercial vehicles. 

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Lane discipline is one of the top safety behaviors studied as part of Project iRASTE.

Project iRASTE has piloted Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) in public transit vehicles and is today India’s largest study of ADAS for commercial vehicles. Drivers of ADAS-fitted buses receive real-time safety alerts, including Lane Departure Warnings (LDW).  

Dr. Mukti Advani, Principal Scientist, CSIR-CRRI opines, “An uninformed change of lane by large vehicles like buses creates a very unsafe situation for all other vehicles on road. For an informed lane change, indicators are expected to be used by all the drivers. However, quite often drivers miss such indications resulting in unsafe maneuvers.” 

On Indian roads, vehicle speeds rise as one goes from the leftmost side of the road to the rightmost side of the road. For safety, lane change is to be communicated through indicators and should be avoided at turns. Most commonly, non-motorized vehicles are to stay on the left side. Buses and other heavy vehicles are expected to be on the left side of the road. However, this is not followed, especially due to a lack of enforcement and the need for turning movements of buses (and other vehicles) at intersections.  

Varma Konala, CEO, of INAI at IIIT-Hyderabad adds, “Lane Departure Warning (LDW) is one of the main alerts provided by an ADAS unit. Our study deployments in both Nagpur and Telangana are providing valuable insights into how drivers can be encouraged to follow this key discipline.” 

iRASTE study has helped to dispel the following myths regarding lane indiscipline in India.

Such ground studies help to improve our understanding of safe behaviors on the ground, paving the way for effective policy recommendations. 

MYTH 1: Lane indiscipline is only observed on highway roads 

Lane indiscipline is observed on both urban roads and highways. iRASTE deployments in Nagpur and Telangana provide adequate observations from both urban roads and highways. Though instances of lane indiscipline are higher on highways, even a fleet as sensitive as school buses is prone to lane indiscipline on both roads. Our study of school buses in Nagpur indicates that LDW is the 2nd highest type of ADAS warning generated by school bus drivers.  

Figure 1: LDW is the 2nd highest type of ADAS warning generated by school bus drivers in a pilot study  

MYTH 2: Enforcement is the only way to address problems related to lane indiscipline 

Educating road users is a key part of the solution too. It is estimated that only 33% of commercial vehicle drivers in India receive training from a Motor driving school, while the rest train themselves via other informal methods. Adequate training on the importance of lane discipline and how to maintain it on the road is often missed. Hence appropriate training on lane discipline and how to maintain it on the road is equally important. Apart from police and transport department officials, NGOs should come forward to educate drivers on keeping lanes. 

MYTH 3: There is a culture of a general disregard for traffic rules and a lack of accountability 

Consistent monitoring and feedback can yield positive improvements in this key safety discipline. Organized commercial vehicle fleet operators have a key role to play here. iRASTE deployments have shown that with the active involvement of fleet operators, it is possible to reduce instances of lane indiscipline by almost 50%. Below is an illustration of improvement recorded in the study fleet of school buses. 

Figure 2: With training on Defensive Driving & consistent feedback, improved school bus drivers have slashed instances of lane indiscipline by ~50% 

Government has a key role in enforcing safety practices in government-operated fleet

Government departments operate a large fleet of commercial vehicles, both intra-city and inter-city. Delhi government’s recent announcement on strict enforcement of lane discipline for commercial vehicles is noteworthy here.

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Conclusion –  

Enforcing lane discipline is one of the most difficult and challenging tasks for the traffic police. Technology interventions like ADAS are helping create awareness among drivers and provide real-time feedback to drivers. Thus, irrespective of the driving experience of the driver, driver alertness to road events improve and the likelihood of dangerous road incidents reduces. With the active participation of fleet owners in encouraging safety behaviors, an effective decline in accidents due to lane indiscipline is definitely possible.