Thursday, December 17, 2009

Musings - Road Sense

A reference to a Readers Digest article translated into Tamil in got me moving on this post to rant.

All the strain of driving in Bengaluru's increasingly chaotic roads is getting on my nerves.

Do people applying for a Learners Licence in India know the "Rules of the road" clearly? Or for that matter, do the "Bhadralok" who drive the motorized genies on the roads (and that includes me as well)?

By Rules of the road, I mean
  • Traffic Signals and their meaning
  • Common and not-so common road signs
  • Lane Discipline-Line colors, meaning
  • Hand signals and Turn signals - When and how of using?
  • Safe driving - Usage of seat belts, Speed Limits, When to honk or not, hill driving
  • Drunken driving and penalties
  • Parking rules
  • Respecting emergency vehicles (ambulances, police vehicles)
  • Respecting school vehicles/buses
  • Zebra/Pedestrian crossings
  • Your rights as a vehicle owner
My experience is that no info on this is available in the Regional Transport Office (RTO) at Bengaluru nor in any of the so called driving schools. I don't think it is any different in other places. In Bengaluru, they point to some photocopier shop outside the RTO which has 3 pages of a printed booklet containing some common signs, some rules and in essence the info that you need to pass the written test.

If this is all the people need to know before getting a licence, no wonder our road sense is as bad as what it is!!!

Where will people get the idea of what the rules of the road are? A good place to start road discipline is in schools. Let us have a subject that covers this and make it engaging and not drab.

At least can't we (the RTO) come up with a "Rules of the Road" booklet as in the US and charge for it (Even 50/100 bucks is okay for that) But it should give a clear idea of what is expected of you as a driver (2 wheeler, 4 wheeler, commercial driver etc).

Keep the entrance test difficult. Test the driver properly. Let the traffic police enforce the rules strictly and maybe let them start with standardizing the road signs. I see sub-text written inside a "No stopping/parking" sign. How the hell can a driver see what is that? And allowing non-standard sized signs even though there are rules in the Indian Road Congress bible (only that it may have references to archaic rules dating from the British times).

Use common sense rules. The traffic police put a 20 kmph speed limit sign on a stretch of a National Highway, of all things, in a village near my house and caught vehicles exceeding that limit with a speed gun. Have those folks driven at 20 kmph to feel what it is, and that too on a clear stretch of a highway? Even a cycle can go faster. Now, I notice that the sign is missing.)

Look at the following booklet of what the road rules are in California, for example. It is so damn detailed and expects you to know the same clearly to pass the written test there. The driving test is even more difficult there. You make one small miss and there goes your chance for a license. You've to retry after a fortnight or so.

India needs a different type of this book given the wild types of traffic, but it is not an impossible task.

When will we ever reach that maturity? When will we ever attain moksha in road-sense and not moksha by being run over or bumped by wayward drivers? If we start the due-diligence and implementation now, maybe 10 years from now, we may see some real improvement. Else, we churn forever in chaos. Until then, let us drive sane and safe.

I sincerely feel we have had too much of freedom and it is being abused to the hilt. No easy solutions, but that is huge rant for some other day. :-(



gils said...

enanchu..nenga maama kita maati mamool azhutheengala?? ipdi polambo polambunu polambi thaliteenga?!!!

RamMmm said...

illa illa. No maama or mamool. I am a relatively safe driver. :-)

Adhaan munnaalayé pottuttaené, it is a 'rant'nnu. Rather than funnel these pent-up feelings into road rage, I rage here. :-(

It is becoming a big deal if I don't hit or get hit by someone these days. Half mad drivers and pedestrians, they are. And I can't avoid driving in to work. :-(

savitha said...

traffic rules in the country- tell me that!! Some schools write the traffic test in the place of the trainees. Getting a license is only a matter of a thousand rupees in the country!!

savitha said...

By the way,Rammmm,people are no responsible in any part of the world. In here, the laws are v strict, yet, people tend to find loopholes and bypass laws, wherever possible. A cycle hit a pedestrian pregnant women on the pedestrian pavement, a oldman was hit on a similar pavement and was dead. So, despite any rules available, any classes taught, it has also to be ensured that rules are not over-ridden!! Follow-up is a huge,huge task! In a country like ours, this big a stature, it is really really difficult, unless every govt servant is really committed!!

RamMmm said...

@Savitha - The premise is, maybe 2% of the vehicle driving population break the rules (S'pore, US, Europe etc). The rest 98% drive properly. Look at India. 50% break the rules and the rest 50% are forced to break rules because of the other 50%. There is laxity everywhere. People can't wait a minute for the lights to turn green. No traffic on either side, well, jump the red signal. Same case when the lights go to amber to red. Amber is an indication to stop, if feasible. Here, it is an indication to avoid the red and even if red lights come on, people continue to trickle down.

It is no doubt a difficult aspect to implement, oversee, institutionalize rules and discipline, but we don't even seem to have started. :-(

I cross a heavy traffic intersection around 5 kms from my home. People stand right in the middle of a wide road rather than the pavement/bus-stop for buses. Buses stop in the middle of the road blocking everybody behind. And the bus stop is close to an intersection. Any common sense city or traffic planner knows not to put a bus stop next to an intersection. And the irony here is that there is a traffic control room right at the place where the crowding happens on the road and I see that the traffic police seems least interested in making the people move back to the pavement or the bus fellows stop at the bus-stop shelters rather than middle of the road.

My BP is now shooting up thinkig of it. Will go for some coffee to get it down. :-) :-) I should have studied for IAS or IPS. Padikkara kaalaththula idhellaam thonalai :-) :-)

gils said...

c la device driver program ezhuthi ezhithi..neenga evlo peria driving forcea maariteenga!!! amazing!!

RamMmm said...

@Gils - :-) :-) I don't code at all these days. I see C and Cc: code. :-) :-) Aaha, ungala follow panni, eppdi irundha naan, ippdi aayittaen. :-) :-)

zeno said...

நீங்க ஒரு பேராசைப் பிடிச்சவர்னு சொல்லவே இல்லை!!There are policemen who get two rupees, and beedi's as bribe for traffic violations. rules or no rules, it is all about attitude at the end of the day

savitha said...

//I should have studied for IAS or IPS. Padikkara kaalaththula idhellaam thonalai :-) :-)//

Good that you didn't attempt!!You would've been washed away by now! Actually, what/where we are now is the right place--we have the freedom of manipulation. Only that any single handed attempt goes fruitless, reaches deaf ears. Wish we could work as a team and nail down issues- atleast one at a time!!

I am v serious as I say this: Rocket-a kelaprathuku kudukra force mathiri, we have to apply a force, so it does not go unnoticed/ and pushes all the lazy butts into vigilant action. Enna panrathunu thaan plan pannanum

RamMmm said...

@zeno - Jaggi Vasudev has said அத்தனைக்கும் ஆசைப்படு. ஏதோ கொஞ்சம் ஆசைப்பட்டுட்டேன். உடுங்க. :-)

@Savitha - You should not be so pessimistic. I still have some hope in our civil services, at least the next gen. :-)

The inertia is too huge. The problem is in understanding the escape velocity/push required. It has to be a grassroots movement, a swell. There are lots of NGOs doing good work. Maybe need to start from there to understand logistics.