Rude, crude and brash – the Delhi driver
By Maxwell Pereira
maxpk@vsnl.com

Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh’s speech writers deserve compliments for at last introducing into his address crucial issues that touch the milieu. Like his recent words at Bangalore on road user behaviour in the country. They couldn’t have come a day too soon!

But why he chose a southern platform considered comparatively more law abiding and not the more aggressive home base here in Delhi for his apt outburst on the subject, beats me. That there is that much more respect for the rule of law south of the Vindhyas as compared to areas to its north is not a new revelation. So why the Bangalore stage? I believe we Delhi-ites merited more the PM’s attention on driver behaviour a long time ago, and more than anyone else in the country!

Ask me about Delhi drivers! I managed Delhi’s traffic for more years than I like to remember. To be realistic, for some may be ‘Traffic’ was always Delhi Police’s Achilles heel in the past, and continues to be so currently – our road user behaviour, visibly worsening with each new day. It should not be so, one is inclined to say, especially when the top hat for policing the city today was himself a traffic man once of considerable repute. That said, suffice it to add, things would be worse but for those crusading despite odds, and despite a people determined to perpetuate the “traffic road user” malady here through palm-greasing along their driving ways!

Not without reason the Delhi driver is often termed as brash, rude and crude, immensely discourteous, erratic and aggressive. Reasons to render him so may be legion – of driving environment, infrastructure, sheer volumes and so on; but to be cussedly uncharitable, I will give them the go by, while touching on just a few crucial ones that have an immense bearing on the issue and need mention.

Apart from the daily add-ons of fresh entrants in the city’s driving scene, there exist over 4 million old driving license holders, who perhaps secured their DLs earlier perhaps not through the most ideal of means or conditions, from transport authorities – here or any where in the country. All such are free to drive also here in Delhi, and so it is the country’s “driver licensing system” that draws first flak for being the root cause of all aberrant driver behaviour.

Delhi has its share of ‘authorised’ drivers who come on the road to take the wheel without the required basic knowledge of the rules of the road. Armed with a “License to kill, not just a license to drive!” a common refrain one is constrained to hear often. So topping the list of most common driver faults among Delhi’s motorists is their utter lack of knowledge of basic rules.

Like no one knows what’s a ‘right of way’! Unless of course he has driven abroad, where knowledge of the ‘right of way’ is paramount, and without which you cannot last on the road even for a moment. Coming next, an off-shoot from the previous, is the Delhi-ite’s aggressive lack of consideration towards the other road user, leading to bulldozing and cutting into or blocking another’s path. This we do famously at every roundabout and on every road each time we overtake from the left to come into the lane the one ahead was already on.

Apart from this wrong overtaking and the misplaced sense of one’s own right on the road, all this invariably leads to 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, zigzagging, and other forms of rash and negligent driving. The tendency to over speed beyond the prescribed limits is rampant. Also a greater indulgence in liquor today than before among the younger generation merits no less a place in the list of overall compilation of driver faults.

And regrettably, due to aggressive driver behaviour as I said before intrinsic to the north, it is also the educated and the skilled drivers (…if one were to consider those with valid licenses as skilled), who tend to violate traffic rules/ regulations here with impunity. Unskilled drivers who do not possess driving licences are obviously not permitted and not expected to drive a motor vehicle. But on this, just ask all those proud mothers and fathers who bask in their under-aged offspring’s driving prowess! All those traffic police messages cautioning parents on hazards of minors’ driving invariably ending as water on a duck’s back! I could go on and on.

Delhi-ites should pay heed to the PM’s words said in anguish over the gruesome reality of nearly one lakh killed in road accidents every year in the country: “…we have to make road safety awareness, both in urban areas and on national highways, a major national campaign,” he said, adding “We must ask ourselves why can’t we be more polite to each other, more caring to each other, more respectful to each other. Good road manners and adherence to road discipline are equally important”.

“People must learn road manners,” he had made plain, listing such road manners for those who may have forgotten them…. “how to give way to pedestrians, how to observe normal rules while overtaking, how to park and when not to blow a horn. These are simple rules but their observance makes a lot of difference to our daily lives.”

04.07.2006: Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http:// www.maxwellperira.com and maxpk@vsnl.com

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