Delhi Drivers…!!
By Maxwell Pereira

I was asked recently by a foreign newspaper: "What are the most common driver faults among Delhi's motorists? To what extent is it skilled drivers who choose to violate laws, or unskilled drivers who undergo lapses in concentration or poor judgement? And what attitude do Delhi motorists have towards the traffic police?"

Well, what really could one answer this one with! Much as I hate to be that 'carpenter who blames his tools for the shabby product' nor do I enjoy pointing fingers - I find myself taking recourse to the oft-repeated malady, deemed to be the root cause. The driver licensing system in India, unfortunately has not been as stringent as it should have been - so much so, millions of authorised drivers come on the road and take to the wheel without the required basic knowledge of the rules of the road. I will touch on driver attitudes, later.

Consequently, despite the fact that in Delhi the system has improved considerably over the past few years, given the fact that there are already over 4 million old driving license holders who secured their DLs from the local transport authorities earlier, and the more dominant fact that drivers with licences obtained from any other transport authority anywhere else and from all over the country are free to drive also in Delhi - this I believe, is no great help to change driver behaviour over night in Delhi.

Given this scenario, the most common driver faults among Delhi's motorists are - their utter lack of knowledge as to the basic rules of the 'right of way', and an aggressive lack of consideration towards the other road user leading to bull-dozing and cutting into another's path. All this invariably leads to wrong overtaking, misplaced sense of one's own right on the road, a wanton disregard to traffic signals, indiscriminate honking, obstructive/ unauthorized parking, disregard to the prescribed norms in display of registration number plates, driving without helmet and hazardous triple riding on two-wheelers, and other common violations like non-adherence to lane discipline, not yielding the right of way to fellow drivers leading to road hogging, zig-zagging, and other forms of rash & negligent driving.

Also, Delhi being a city that still can boast of wide roads with a considerably comfortable surface capable of giving motorists ample opportunity to achieve speeds not conducive to city traffic, the tendency to over speed beyond the prescribed limits is rampant. And I believe greater indulgence in the Bacchus today than before in the younger generation coupled by the Page-3 motivation for late nite party-ing, merits no less a place in the list of overall compilation of driver faults.

And regrettably, due to perhaps the aggressive driver behaviour intrinsic to the north Indian more than the south Indian, it is the skilled drivers (…if one were to consider those with valid licenses as skilled) too who tend to violate traffic rules/regulations here with impunity. Unskilled drivers who do not possess driving licences are obviously not permitted to drive a motor vehicle. But there is without doubt a vast component of other road users who operate a plethora of non-motorised category of slow-moving vehicles contributing no less to the chaotic scenario that makes the task of any Traffic Manger a real nightmare.

In the circumstances, I believe the Indian driver prides on his capability - defined or can be described as a skill, a rare combination of the sleight of his hands on the wheel to coordinate with the deftness of his feet on the brake or the accelerator and a total reliance on his keen reflexes to cater to unforeseen contingencies with a readiness for the unexpected unpredictable move or manoeuvre of the other road user - making him perhaps the best example of a 'defensive driver' in the negative sense.

And so, surprisingly, lapses in concentration or poor judgement while driving by skilled drivers are something distant to the psyche and constitute a nominal percentage of the total traffic violations in so far as city driving is concerned.

The attitude of the public towards the police, in my opinion, is both of hatred and love. The law abiding motorists appreciate the efforts of Delhi Traffic Police; while the frequent traffic violators do criticize traffic cops for being high-handed or dishonest, in a circumstance where the giver tends to be happier than the taker for being let off with a lesser amount in lieu of the prescribed quantum of fine - and strangely, it is this that turns their attitude to hate. That the system is fraught with temptations galore for either is no secret - and battling this malady is no less a Herculean task.

850 words: dated 24.08.2004.
Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http:// and


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