One recent evening, about 40 km from Bangalore, three men stood near an unmanned level crossing, examining the signages under the golden yellow glow of a sodium vapour lamp above and waiting for a vehicle to pass by. After about 15 minutes, a mini truck scraped through the horizon. As it neared the level crossing, it suddenly swerved from left to right, as if shaken by an invisible giant, leaving the driver, a man in his forties, startled.
That was the ‘eureka’ moment for one of the observers, who told the others: “That is the key. The way it shakes up the driver makes him alert.”
What shook the vehicle and jolted the driver out of his stupor? It was a speed-breaker, about 10 feet from the tracks, that ran diagonally, rather than perpendicular, to the road. When the front wheels of the mini van crossed the bump one after the other, rather than in unison, the van swung from side to side.
The people who designed the oddball speed-breaker belong to a company called FinalMile Consulting and the man who runs the show is Biju Dominic. They are into what they call ‘behaviour architecture’ and here’s how they helped the vehicle avert a mishap at the unmanned level crossing.
The speed of the mini truck was reduced when it hit the speed-breaker. Before it was installed, a truck or a tractor would take about 12 seconds to cross the distance of 10 metres. Now, it takes about 16 seconds. That gives the driver about 25 percent more time to observe and understand the driving condition.
What kicks does FinalMile get out of the exercise? Nothing, except that it helps save lives. If you doubt whether something as trivial as a speed-breaker does something as earth-shattering as saving lives, think about the last close shave you had while driving. What if you didn’t have to slam the brakes at the last minute because you had noticed danger signs seconds earlier? That’s exactly what the diagonal speed-breaker does. It warns you about impending danger and gives you those valuable extra seconds.
Dominic and his team observed the most accident-prone areas near Mumbai’s Wadala station and made a few simple suggestions. Draw bright yellow lines on the sleepers that hold the track, which gave a reference point for the people to judge the speed of the train; blow the train horn twice instead of once for a longer duration, because the brain becomes alert in the intervening period. They were implemented—and the number of deaths dropped to nine in six months and to one in the next six. Prior to this, the number used to be 40.
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(This story appears in the 21 December, 2012 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)
A warning red light with an alarm sound - which will be on when the train enters a 1/2km range can be done using a circuit completionon Sep 23, 2014
Excellent work by Biju and Finalmile. I would say the biggest appreciation for these guys will be when some government officials and politicians take initiative to implement this at-least in a few level crosses. All the best Bijuon Feb 14, 2013
Great work by the Finalmile team. One minute of thinking can stop many accidents. People care less for these signage\'s and get themselves into troubles. How many of us use Foot overbridge at railway stations? Even if its there nobody cared to use it and still cross railway lines pushing themselves into troubles. Would love to see Biju and Finalmile team use this scientific approach and behaviour in other areas also. Such an inspiring story for entire India. Because you showed us how a simple idea can be a big eyeopener for millions of us.on Feb 14, 2013
It’s a great endeavour by Finalmile towards the cause of humanity. I have often seen people crossing the railway tracks in Mumbai with no fear of the incoming train or bothering to look at the signage and often wondered it anything could be done to prevent it. Once I actually saw a middle aged lady get hit by a local train in the crossing near Vile Parle Station and was sleepless for many days. It happened in full view of several people and yet no one could do anything. This approach of Biju and team, has answered the prayers of many people. It has shown that with the right intention, strong conviction and scientific approach any problem can be addressed. Our appreciation to the team of Final mile, for rendering this great service to humanity. Also it was very surprising to know that it is done without even charging a single paisa, at a time when greed has overtaken corporates. This at a time , when we see much bigger companies having much higher revenues trying to squeeze as much as possible from Government, evading taxes and exploiting general public. May you have many more success going forward in this endeavour to improve the world.on Jan 8, 2013
I am very proud to note that a bright engineer from CET where I graduated too has done where others have missed the obvious. We tend to move with the crowd and not be a trend setter. Trust you are taking some thing similar to patents for the wonderful work that you are carying out as you need to be applauded and appreciated for your common sense. Words fail me when I read that you are not rewarded financially for the work done.That is not at all fair when anything and everything in this world talks of a financial impact. Gr8 and keep up the good work.....people like you, can project the God\'s own country on to the global technical map. You folks are entitled for Padmashris.......Any body hearing me?on Dec 21, 2012
Hi Ranjith, thanks for your compliments. We hope to use the unique understanding we have of human behaviour, to solve many more problems in the Indian society.on Dec 24, 2012
Dear Biju, Congratulate Biju and team for the achievement. I doubt the case study reg the 2 wheeler timing(@ wheelers will get 25% more time with a diagonal speed breaker)on Dec 17, 2012
Gurudas, thanks for taking the time to read the article and encouraging words. Fair point on the 2 wheelers. I am guessing that this is due to unfamiliarity. May not last, its not designed to work on 2 wheelers...usually they don\'t get in to trouble.on Dec 18, 2012
Kudos to Final Mile . A lesson for many advertising and communication / marketing professionals.on Dec 17, 2012
Thanks Neville.on Dec 18, 2012
Excellent job Dominic and team at FinalMileon Dec 17, 2012
Thanks Wg Cdr Job Mathew.on Dec 18, 2012
The speed breaker may cause people to be aware the very first time, but the novelty will wear off. Do you feel that it would have the same effect the second time? I know that the final objective is to save lives, but there are many other issues involved. In Karnataka, (dont know about other places), the landscape is \"littered\" with unscientific speed-breakers. You have them in the middle of nowhere, with no purpose. They are set up in front of the houses of local politicians as a sign of \"honor\". I have seen them in the middle of an underpass, there these is absolutely no chance of pedestrians crossing and no chance of any vehicle merging in. You have them so big that your vehicle under-body will touch them, despite all your efforts to avoid the same. What I am trying to say is that in such a scenario, another back-breaking speed-breaker will be ignored as \"just another one\". This movement, in conjunction with the removal of unrequired speed-breakers would be better. Kudos to FinalMile for their work. I am not belittling your efforts at all. Just genuine feedback.on Dec 15, 2012
Excellent work by Finalmile. Great article explaining the sameon Dec 14, 2012
Thanks for reading and the complimentson Dec 18, 2012