You may hate the author of this piece for blatantly calling Indians severely uncivilised when on the road, but that will not change the fact of the matter, which is – we are still light years behind from what is called a civilised traffic system. And it isn't only restricted to when we're driving or riding, but even when in car parks. When I say all of India, I make an exception of the few good men and women who realise that the world does not revolve around them and giving someone way might actually help smooth out a clog on the road. However, this population is tiny, almost negligible against the giant army of those who assume that they drive the world's most expensive car and they are the only ones who pay road taxes.
I don't intend this article to sound like a rant from a disgruntled road user but a request, an appeal to people to take a moment and realise that all that is needed to ensure a comfortable commute for everyone is only basic physics, respect for the law and a little bit of humanity. It isn't much to ask for.
This is an aspect much talked about but very lightly absorbed. We've all seen those signboards saying 'Lane driving is sane driving', but a majority of Indian road users only consider these words as a miserable attempt by someone trying rhyme words. The white lines on the road are not painted to make it look pretty, there is a purpose set for every lane on the road. What most Indian drivers do is that they keep the white line under the middle of their car – you're hoarding two lanes! Make a decision, pick one.
Notice one thing in common in all four pictures above. These are the worst traffic jams in Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa and China, but all cars and two-wheelers are lined up in lanes. Empty space doesn't mean it's meant to be driven on. Even with a big jam (top left in the picture), the Brazilians have left the right lane free for those who have to turn right. (Brazil follows right-hand drive)
In the Indian context, broadly speaking, the rightmost lane is the fast lane. If you're planning on cruising 30 or something km/h below the speed limit, get off the fast lane! If you know you have to make a right-hand turn switch to the rightmost lane some distance before the intersection arrives. Same thing for if you have to turn left.
Helmets, or the absence of them
Sure, we don't expect everyone on a two-wheeler wear a DOT or SNELL approved helmet, a riding jacket, and boots. But at least pick a decent ISI marked helmet if you can't afford the Dot and Snell. (And if you can afford them, and still won't buy it! What the hey!) Oh and, if you have one, then WEAR IT!
The pillion on a two-wheeler is as vulnerable to injuries as is the rider. But most Indians don't wear or don't want to wear a helmet. Seen those riders who have their helmets on their arms and not their heads? What does that even mean! Why! You think you're so pretty a helmet will hamper your style! Aaaarrrrgghhhh! Good helmets can actually make you cooler, trust me.
Many areas like Malviya Nagar in Delhi have a grave problem of parking space, and if a car is parked in someone's self-designated parking spot, I've been told they are at times greeted with a slashed tyre or a long and deep scratch on the side made using a key. First, the parking spot isn't technically your property, but I understand, where else will people park. But if you find someone else's car in 'your' space for one night – leave a note explaining how you've been parking at the spot for a long time now and you'd appreciate if they moved their car. Leave a note! Be civilised, I repeat, a note.
Social media, even work emails, can wait
A rising trend I notice in our road users is checking their Facebook feed while in traffic, and moving traffic that is. It doesn't matter if you're going slow, you'll be distracted and hence veer from one lane to another without even realising.
I saw a man watching Masterchef on his phone while crawling in traffic, he veered into the lane I was in. When I tried to tell him, he wouldn't listen because he was sunk deep in the cream cheese batter or whatever it was. Get off your smartphones while driving!
I don't have to explain what these are, but I do. These are meant to ease congestion, if everyone goes at once, there will be a clog on the road – quite common in Delhi's NCR region. These aren't meant to waste your time, these aren't meant to be applicable only when you're afraid you'll get challaned if you don't stop. Stop, because it'll help maintain a constant flow of traffic. Follow traffic rules out of respect for law and common sensibility.
Awareness of the correct use of the traffic system is not something that can be taught in schools and why wait for the government to shove more stringent rules down your throat so as to learn it. Be an example to your kids as they are majorly influenced by what you do.
If you park wrongly, drive in the wrong lane, check the latest Tweets while driving, jump traffic lights, avoid wearing seatbelts or helmets while riding, remember one thing – your kid is watching and s/he'll grow up to do exactly the same things. Be a responsible citizen, don't just blow a trumpet about the rights our Constitution has gives to us, but also the duties we have as citizens of the country. Someone very rightly said – Change begins at home.