The Great Rush: Ignorance towards Urgent Problems of Traffic

Posted by Shweta Banerjee
July 17, 2017

Self-Published

Before reading on, think about these:

How did you get your driving license?

How many times have you broken a traffic rule (which is common in developing countries all over the world)?

How many times have you seen people arguing on the road or come across accidents?

Traffic Jam, Traffic, India, Street, City, Road

        When you think about the above questions, you get a picture of conditions of traffic in India. As millennials of a new India, we have to start here, by discussing how we manage to not get ourselves killed on our streets. Breaking a traffic rule at least two or three times a day has become a routine action for most people in our country of 1.3 billion people. This is not entirely the fault of the governments that have come and gone over time, but have failed to deliver. Also,  it is not always an issue with the ‘irresponsibility’ of people in our country. It is a mix of all the different factors in a developing country. Economic sectors in India are advancing, leading to more jobs and businesses, and education facilities are spreading to people of all classes and groups. These activities require more moving around. With so many people in our country commuting together at the same time, and roads being insufficient for the heavy influx of traffic, India easily showcases horrific traffic conditions. Looking at Numbeo‘s 2017 traffic index, 3 out of the top 10 most traffic-troubled cities of the world belong to India. With Kolkata having the slowest moving traffic in the world, Mumbai and Delhi are close behind in aspects of time taken and dissatisfaction caused due to this. Delhi ranks 11th in the world in terms of carbon dioxide emissions caused by traffic. Analyzing the exact factors leading to the choking of roads and fatalities by traffic conditions in India, we come across the constant ‘doesn’t matter’ attitude of individuals towards traffic. This video gives you an idea of the traffic in Delhi if you aren’t a familiar Delhite. Here are some facts which point to urgency of traffic management in India

  • Licenses being distributed like samosas -> Most Indians receive their traffic licenses without a test, or providing a proof that they can drive responsibly. According to this TOI article, 6 out of 10 people in India have got their licenses against the law, and many are not aware of this flaw. This is mostly due to the corrupt nature of the responsible authorities and ignorance towards the rules. Stats say Regional Transport Offices (RTO) hand out and average of 40 licenses per day in a region, with Delhi offices handing as much as 130 licenses a day. This shows the reluctance of authorities towards following the rules and causing people to get thrown around on the streets on a daily basis. Drivers don’t have the necessary information or practice of safety on roads or driving skills, but are announced ‘experts’ in driving when they are issued the driving licenses. Pedestrians are more anxious than ever about road safety and need the authorities to act. Amendments are underway and may be a step to road safety. 
  • Thrill, Ignorance and Peer Pressure -> Large numbers of teenagers can be found driving massive cars and fancy bikes. These young enthusiasts lack basic skills or knowledge about driving and mostly do it to show off or gain peer acceptance. Another source points out that ages of underage driving offenders are getting younger. Parents may want their children to drive young to gain praises from relatives and friends. This attitude of not abiding by a law causes multiple deaths each year, and the drivers face the consequences of injury or death as well. Traffic rules in India are considered to be an unnecessary piece of information in the textbooks. Memorize the rules, vomit them out during the tests, and then forget them later on. Peers make fun of those who are reluctant to rash drive. This quora thread takes on issues like peer pressure, and thrill inspired by movie or video games, which lead to kids rash driving on the road. While it is important to expose teenagers to driving, it is not wise to let 8 year-olds sport a Ferrari (no, it is certainly not cool). Teaching them to drive with proper rules and skills, like teaching them to reverse safely and paying attention to road conditions can help a lot. For this, individuals are required to familiarize themselves with grass root driving knowledge and take professional training. Families should also try to pass down their knowledge on driving safely.
It may feel heroic, until it’s too late to realize it wasn’t that heroic. Image Source: Economic Times
  • Ignoring Traffic Rules and feeling ‘heroic’ -> Perhaps it’s true, after all, that problems of traffic can be best solved at the individual level, and that’s my sole reason for writing this to all my fellow citizens. If we can all try and feel proud by actually following the traffic rules and encouraging others to do so, it can be of great help. I can’t emphasize enough how important giving driving lessons and safety tips at schools might be. This will not only give teenagers a young exposure to avoiding road mishaps, this will cause people to respect the laws for the road. Excessive honking and fighting on roads, all the while blaming each other isn’t going to help. These mishaps are so ‘everyday’ that law enforcement probably has no idea of who to punish and how to punish so many offenders. Rash drivers knocking old men down (my grandfather had been in such an accident and lost his leg), running over pavement dwellers and then simply driving away without offering help. Sympathy is another aspect of unity and humanity that we are missing. Without these ideals, we cannot call ourselves a untied nation. 
  • Reluctance of the Traffic Police and the Police Stations in general -> Recently, while my father was in his car which was being driven by our driver, they got into an accident. According to my father, two young boys were on their bikes, and they crashed into our car while making a sudden u-turn. I don’t want to generalize them by saying that they were illegal, underage or fake drivers, but I can say that they probably willfully ignore traffic rules on a daily basis. Nobody in the vehicles was hurt, thankfully, but a pedestrian suffered some injuries and was rushed to the hospital. The boys started fighting with the driver, and my father was enraged. He wanted legal action taken against their careless driving and now has a lawyer. The boys had then offered to give some money to my father for repairs to the car (I know… open bribing). My father, further enraged, instantly complained to the nearby jail. Later he heard that the jail didn’t want to act on the complaint as it was too ‘common a problem’. This is how deep rooted corruption and laziness is in our system. 
Image result for the reputation of this office is going from bad to worse rk laxman
One of my favorites from Cartoonist RK Laxman
  • Various excuses and being apathetic also form the core of our problems -> “I am getting late.“, “Why should I follow the rules when nobody else does?” and the most popular, “chalta hai yaar, kuch nahi hoga (it’s okay man, nothing much is going to happen)“. It’s like walking in front of a train and believing you won’t get hurt. Formally speaking, statements are many, and many of them are for valid reasons. People do run late because of the ‘slob’ traffic, but they always have the alternative to use public transport to reach on time. Also if everyone tries to adapt to the rules, commuting is bound to get easier. Also, just because everyone’s doing it, anything becomes a trend. Like drugs have become a trend among rural teenagers in Delhi, as goes the recent news. Someone who follows it and tries to encourage other face ridicule – “Gyaan mat de“, They are often told.

 

As goes the anonymous quote (somewhere on the internet)-

“Life is too short for Traffic”

I can end off by saying that we should not do this. But this isn’t a textbook lesson and we don’t have a test to give (if you’re not in class 3, 4 or 5 anymore). Why not apply everything we read when we come across to such situations? Well, it’s hard to start, for whatever reason, but once you do, you are a responsible citizen. Start by talking about these in your living room with friends or family.

Adiós!

-Shweta

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