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On the road...

“Maximum accidents happen due to jumping traffic signals”, “Road rage on the rise”. As the New Year celebrations approach, the newspapers will be full of such stats. Reading them makes one feel that people who drive cars are the biggest evil on the roads.
Of all the millions of car drivers, not all are drunk and rowdy. What makes the prim and proper executive rash on the road? What incites the presumably over cautious moms, uncles, grandpas to become aggressive behind the wheel? Doesn’t take much to figure out. We have a rage inciting environment all round us.

Poor road infrastructure:

In most cities of India, the roads are not prepared to handle the traffic. Road repairs happen during peak traffic hours. Flyovers are constructed when the roads become a dense jungle of vehicles and the construction itself contributes to the traffic. 4 lane roads culminate into a single lane bridge. One vehicle breaks down and blocks the way due to which hundreds of people get stranded in the traffic jam.

As it is the commute time is increasing for people due to the expansion of the cities. No one wants to spend the entire day commuting. How much time will one buffer for these unforeseen delays? 30 minutes more than the usual time and the time bomb starts ticking in our brains. The repercussions of this delay stress us out. Plus in some places the hot weather adds to the brain temperature. Spend an hour on the road during summer temperature of 42 degrees and you will know what I am referring to. This stress finally lets itself out in the form of excessive honking, speeding and so on.

Traffic rules for speeding, not for undue speed obstructing:

I am not referring to the speed breakers constructed on the road, but to people who through their poor driving skills (or habits) tend to frustrate hundreds of others. The first ones to cause this are the driving schools themselves. Here you are, for once lucky to be able to drive at regular speed instead of crawling, and suddenly you see a mass of slow moving traffic ahead. The reason – A “Babloo driving school” car is moving at 10 miles per hour in the fastest lane during peak hours. The result-honking horns, people over-taking from the wrong side and in some cases even signals being jumped. The driver, a learner, understandably is completely confused but other than the confusion, they are oblivious to the significant contribution they just made to road rage.

The other menace are the overloaded trucks and antique roadways buses which cannot move beyond 20-30 miles/hr and yet insist on driving in the fastest lane. The standard limit is 50 miles/hr but at least let the poor car drivers drive at that speed. They did not start from home assuming they will drive in a parking lot all the way. If there is a speeding fine, why is there is no fine for undue speed obstructing which causes road rage.

Road Signs:

Some cities have an obsession with putting “U turn not allowed” signs at every cut on the road even though they may not be applicable. Its left to the motorist to figure out the traffic police’s intent- whether they really meant it or not. Result- the person who wants to take a U-turn sees the sign and keeps the car on the centre lane, but as soon as s/he reaches the cut, s/he sees others taking a turn and suddenly lurches to the right. It is left to the expertise of the other car drivers coming from the right to save an accident.

We talk of global citizenship and our road signs are still in local languages that less than half the population of the city understands. I don’t understand why road signs become an identity symbol for some. Not only this, at times sudden diversions are created without appropriate directions(after all, if you are driving in this city, you need to know all the lanes by heart).

Even after public places like the airport have been moved to a different location, the sign posts for the older venue are not removed (every person is supposed to know that the airport shifted, why depend on sign posts).
I am sure even reading this is giving you a sense of the irritation that the poor person behind the wheel experiences.

Communication problem:

Most traffic policemen speak only the local dialect. The only word you understand in their conversation is “fine” and the only thing they understand is your “car number”. And if you don’t understand their language, you deserve to be fined even more. How dare you invade their roads!

My most amusing experience has been with people who love to give directions even if they don’t know the way. I stop and ask for a certain street, the person’s hand points to the left but he insists on saying it as turn “right”. Even if I sort this out, in a few minutes I realize that I am really nowhere near my destination, and possibly driving in a completely wrong direction.

These are not the only woes of the car driver. The bike riders squeezing in the smallest of gaps, zinging past too close to the car, pedestrians who decide to cross the road when the signal turns green, people who do not believe in using indicators for turning, there are myriad such examples of stressors on the road. These don’t get highlighted as punishable offenses; it’s the aggressive behavior that they lead to that gets punished.

Any kind of aggression on the road is not justified but apart from mindlessly publishing stats, I just hope our newspapers also put some focus on these causes of road rage. It’s always the symptom and not the cause that gets treated. For once let’s shift gears.

As for us, we cannot solve the entire problem but as a New Year resolution, do our little bit. Drive 200 meters ahead to take a wider U turn instead of trying through a small cut that will block the way for other cars. It will not be a huge cost for you, but it will save a lot of rage for you and for others.

Drive safe!


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