Wheels Of Fire

Do you drive a mean machine? Then it’s time you got your foot off the accelerator and toned down your road rage, says Reshmi Chakraborty.Thirty-five lakh vehicles, 13 million people and inadequate roads — it makes for a deadly combination. Small wonder then, thatthe Capital’s roads abound with demonic instances of road rage. IT’S A RAGE Road rage can be broadly defined as the use of motor vehicles for self-aggression. But it’s more than that. It involves anybody using the road and includes the well-educated, supposedly nice mannered lot. Like the polite skating instructor,who ran down a man when their cars had a minor accident. The embassy staffer who chased and abused a woman in her car.The motorist who knocked down a young girl and brutally dumped her body in a nearby drain.
“Drivers are becoming more violent,” warns Maxwell Pereira, Joint Commissioner of Police, Delhi Traffic. Most motorists have either been a victim or given in to road rage themselves. An old man in a Fiat chased Mohit Gupta after their cars collided. “He threatened me with dire consequences in filthy language,” Mohit, a veteran driver, recalls. “I got down and apologised.” WATCH OUT! LUNATIC ON THE ROAD Road rage strikes without warning, making a person lose stability and control over his or her impulses and temper. One common factor attributed is stress. And lack of knowledge about traffic rules and inadequate enforcement machinery make it worse.In a perpetual hurry to reach their destinations, people indulge in mindless driving, disregarding traffic rules. However, the personbehind the wheel is not always at fault. “Road rage extends to any road user,” says Dr Nishi Mittal, senior scientist at the Central Road Research Institute (CRRI), Delhi.

In 1980, there were 5.21 lakh vehicles on Delhi roads. Twenty years later, the number of vehicles has multiplied but the number of
roads hasn’t. In fact, Delhi has more vehicles than the other three metros put together!

The result is impatience at growing gridlocks, rising tempers and the need to get ahead of others — which result in the maximum
number of accidents (about 2000 per year) and altercations. You may not think it possible, but the weather also worsens things.
“When weather conditions are uncomfortable, it provides the spark to ignite mental irritability and irrationality,” notes Maxwell
Pereira.

ROAD TO HELL The lack of a good public transport system also results in more people taking their cars onto the road. Bad
transport results in bad people, believe experts, leading to a hostile road culture. Yahan ki sadken to maramari hain , laughs
Kirpal Singh, a taxi driver in his 60s, who has been driving in Delhi for 22 years.

Consulting psychiatrist Dr Avdesh Sharma says, road rage is the result of several factors. “A car is like a personal space, where
inflated egos come into work,” he says. “People feel that an assault on their vehicle is an assault on them. They may be frustrated
because of pressure at home or work; in their car, they feel they are in control,” Dr Sharma explains, “The aggression shows in
the way they drive.”

There is a growing sense of feeling among people that they can get away with murder — literally. Delhi has had several highprofile
cases where connections have mattered more than the crime. “That sense of ‘getting away with it’ allows people to feel that
they can do what they want,” Dr Sharma remarks.
Dr Mittal says the feeling isn’t limited to just the well-heeled. “Drivers of buses and trucks come back on the road after major
accidents. Instances of one driver having three licences are common.”

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