Back in 2007, when I went to USA for the first time, the first thing I appreciated and fell in love with, was the traffic. I had been a hollywood fan for a long time and so I was not amazed after seeing beautidul roads and 99% of
time orderly traffic. But as its said, its different feeling seeing with you eyes than reading, hearing, seeing pictures or watching on screen.
In December that year, the client was taking the entire team to a party to an Indian restaurant. I did not drive in Us during those days (many of us in the team, who were Indians, did not), and so was supposed to hitch a ride with one of the client managers. While I and 2 more of vendor guys were walking over to his car in the parking, this guy told us that the most frightening and amazing thing he saw in India was that animals (as in cows, dogs, horses and what not) shared the road with automobiles. That was said as a light remark, somewhat like a joke and we did smile on it. Nonetheless, I realized how true it was.
Whenever, I think of that statement, I figure that Indian roads are more like an ecosystem of their own. Maybe, a bio-diversity, where organisms from different species can share the same environment to sustain and thrive. Yes, Indian roads are like that. But, how and why is it like that? And what exactly I am talking about here? Well, I am talking about the dangers of driving on Indian roads and the part heroic, part dumb-ass Indian driving community. Well, don’t be offended, I am not addressing the “few”, but I used those two words for the majority of people driving on roads in our beautiful country.
I wanted to write about this for a long time, but the final push came today, when I was travelling back home in my office bus.
We all know, how dangerous is driving around in India. Some of you might argue that, driving is equally dangerous around the world, and I have no intentions of not concurring. Nonetheless, in India it is degrees higher than in most of the countries (Please don’t compare to under-developed countries. I would remind you all that, one should always compare oneself with someone better, in order to improve).
What are the actual issues here? What Government and we can do to improve the situation?
First of all, most of the times, I feel that in India, people don’t care about their lives, and obviously lives of others. What else could be the reason of jumping traffic signals, overtaking from the wrong side, driving a two wheeler without helmets, driving four wheeler without seat belts, and one of the favorites all over India – driving on the wrong side? We feel that, these things are just to add nuisance to our driving. People don’t want to wear helmets, coz maybe they want to feel the wind in their hair, not using seat belt can be connected to the desire of people to not spoil the ironing of the clothes! Well, these are what I can think of. Maybe there are altogether different reasons – maybe, there are some religious reasons, maybe superstitions, maybe a prophecy! Well, I can just wonder, since I cannot think of one reason which makes sense to me.
The first thing which I want to blame for all this is – lack of awareness about driving rules and regulations. Well, why not – it starts from the rules. Don’t you think. How many of us have seen the driving manual which contains the Do’s and Dont’s as per the Indian Motor Vehicle Act. Do you know all the rules which govern driving? Do you know all the rules which govern the upkeep of your automobile? Maybe a few do, but am sure enough that most of us have never seen that manual. I’ll again draw a parallel with US here. When you go for a driving license there, you need to take two tests (in phases). A computer based test of “rules awareness” followed by (on condition of passing) a driving test. The written test is what I want to focus on here. The DMV (what we have as RTO here) has a driving manual on their website (also available as a printed material from their offices) which lists down all the rules which one should know for safe driving. I want something like that in India. I am not saying that after having that, people will start abiding by all rules. No, they would not, but at least they would know, and at least some of them will try to adhere to rules, who might not be knowing what they’re doing wrong. Knowledge is the first step.
The second problem is lack of enforcement. Mostly, people break traffic rules since they know, they can easily get away without being penalized. I have seen many a times, when the traffic policeman is just a mute spectator (on his own will) to people breaking traffic rules. There are so many times, when these guys prefer to turn a blind eye to the offenders. Obviously, when people see and know their unwillingness, they will break the rules. In NCR, especially in Noida, jumping traffic signals is like a right of people! People in shiny and jazzy cars do it, so it cannot be blamed on bikers and rickshaw-wallas. Traffic police has a critical role to play in saving lives of people on road and unless they enforce the rules strictly and penalize people frequently, nothing is going to change.
People driving on high beam is like the most common thing in India – as if they don’t even know what “high beam” is and they too stupid to know that there is another “mode for the headlamps”. How often you’re blinded by the high beam of the moron driver coming from the opposite side? I can bet that, there would not have been a single day, when you would not have encountered this. I have never seen traffic police penalizing people for this, when they should. It has to be an offense which needs at least a warning!
Then many people, think that the side view mirrors is damaging the looks of the car, so some of them prefer not to open it while driving, and some intelligent ones, simply get the side view mirrors removed. After all, why the hell should they care about what’s coming on their right or left? A related thing here is, not using indicators. Well, but aren’t the indicators just supposed to be used on special occasions – that including when we park on the road (in such a case also, it should be used occasionally). After all, why does one want to care about other vehicles on road, which might be totally unaware of which turn I might take the very next second. After all, it’s their responsibility of knowing when the hell will I turn and not mine, even though the manufacturer has provided the indicators for this very specific purpose.
Driving on the wrong side of the road it totally cool and fun and makes you look smart in eyes of others on road, as far as it is saving you maybe a guided U turn which was far away! After all, why to take all that pain and spend fuel, when one can drive on the wrong side without being penalized? And what about, the oncoming traffic and safety of people who are coming from ahead, being on the right side of the road? Why should one care about them – Don’t they have eyes to see that there’s a car/jeep/truck/bus/bike coming towards them? Well, aren’t they paying attention to the road? Point taken douches!
Right of way – Yes, they know about right of way. It’s so simple. What’s not to know about it? Right of way, simply means that “I have the right of way always”. Others can go and screw themselves. If I’m travelling straight, and there is an intersection, obviously I have right of way. If I have to take that turn on that intersection (uncontrolled), then suddenly the “right of way” is transferred back from people going and coming straight to me, since “right of way” always belongs to me. I will never stop, if I see from a distance, someone trying to make a turn. Instead, I’ll speed up so that in case that other vehicle was planning to stall in middle of the road, I would be long gone! I will never give way to emergency vehicles as long as none of my family, relatives, friends are in need.
I can park anywhere. That also means right on the moving road, even though it can stall traffic and cause inconvenience to others. Others? huh?
Coming back to animals – I can (and I should) write an entire blog on stray animals in India. It looks so cool to have cows, buffaloes, old horses roam on the road. Once cows, buffaloes have been milked in the morning, they can be freed to roam on roads -after all, they also need to take fresh air and see the city. Leave them on the roads to block traffic, to cause accidents. As far as the animal is not harmed – the owner doesn’t give a damn!
Well, don’t think that I am all complaints about everything related to driving in India. I am not. Nonetheless, I am firm believer in that fact, that unless we confront the problems/issues, we cannot fix it.
I just wish and hope that, one day traffic and driving on Indian roads will be more smooth, more safe!