Saturday, June 15, 2013

A POA to Make Us Disciplined Drivers. Really?

Yes, really.

I have recently read at least two posts on bad driving.  Rachana Parmar feels it is best to go with the flow. If you can't beat 'em... It is tongue in cheek and, although she has a few hilarious suggestions about driving in Bengalaru, you can sense her frustration..

Arvind Passey speaks of his being made to feel guilty by other drivers who have the temerity to glare at him if he stops at red traffic lights early in the morning. The prize idiot! The fool! their glares seem to say.

They won't be satisfied until you are part of the chaos they create, Arvind. Aren't there times when you feel like saying "eff it, I'm late today and they are all doing it and getting away so why not I?"  

Reckless drivers are often (dare I use the word), stupid. They feel powerful behind that wheel. They know with unshakeable conviction that the roads are full of fools - pedestrians, beggars, vendors, other drivers and that ruddy cow; that everyone is bent on throwing a spoke in their wheel. Unfortunately, as our road toll shows, too many of them risk not only their own life and limb but have complete disregard for everyone else's. As they expertly manoeuvre their cars into a narrow gap in the next lane and glance victoriously at the frustration on the face of the driver behind them they think to themselves, this is how it's done. And those overzealous goody-two-shoe-upstarts want to teach us driving. Let them try and outmanoeuvre us, and then talk.

Let's get real. Only the truly bold (and foolish) would attempt to change that mindset. It is the very first hurdle in a long list to overcome. Are we willing to face the flak? If the end - that of seeing order on our roads - is still irresistible, read on.

Disciplined driving saves time. Traffic moving along smoothly does move faster. Knowing what the other driver can and will do dissipates much of the tension of driving. Reckless drivers have near misses daily but they are conditioned to brush aside the momentary stab of fear that accompanies those. They've lived to tell the tale, haven't they? Perhaps by the skin of their teeth but they think they've learnt from that lucky escape and won't repeat that mistake again. In the long run, such a mindset does take its toll on our health.

To change that mindset we'd need to think outside the box -  beyond helplessness, frustration or a spirit that cowers at the mere mention of driving in India. 

First, let me give you a few links to very good sites that tell you about driving in India. Next, I'd like to discuss why we should come up with our own POA.

Here are the links.
  • and 
Raj 5004 at the above forum has some advice for the government which is worth repeating (cut and pasted here). I do feel, if we wait for points one and two before trying to have disciplined driving on our roads we might wait forever.

1) build better roads with proper lanes.
2) stop corruption.
3) install automatic sensors which will catch offenders & they can pay fine online.
4) traffic rules are not only for car, even for pedestrians. pedestrians should cross only at zebra crossings, roads are not for bullock carts & animals.
5) most importantly, be strict on lane discipline. catch snails moving in the right lane & changing lanes without indicators.
6) non working brake lights & indicators is an offence & should be fined.

Great suggestions. As we all know, the difficulty is in the detail. To make ourselves aware of the pros and cons of each suggestion we'd need to analyse them. For example

Point #4 mentions pedestrians. With our footpaths taken over by beggars, vendors and street dwellers, it is difficult for our poor pedestrians, cows and pariah dogs not to walk on the roads.

Point #5 mentions lane driving. Experience teaches us that our potholed roads demand swerving and weaving like drunks to prevent damage to our cars.

Point #6 - the deplorable conditions of some of our cars. I would leave that out of the equation for now as the sole business asset of many (and their families) is their car.

Which brings me to what the next stage should be if we want disciplined driving in spite of the difficulties discussed above. 

What we need is a detailed plan of action. If each stage of the plan is on paper to discuss, dissect, weigh and perhaps even discard, it doesn’t matter if it is proved ridiculous or farfetched. Speaking of which, here's one to start the ball rolling :)

This plan would involve our government spending money so it would definitely not be the best. (As you can see I do know how to sell my plan.) Hopefully, in its defence, it would be a huge income generator. 

 My plan is an expansion of Raj5004's point #3 - Automatic Sensors 

Background preparation:  

 First, let there be messages in all media throughout India telling people about the benefits of disciplined driving. These messages could be sponsored by business. In turn, they'd have the right to sell the message on T-shirts etc. Any car manufacturer / dealer would jump at the chance. Animated films would capture a younger audience so that they grow up with a different mindset. YouTube videos like these might prove popular.

Start plugging potholes on target roads.

Let CCTV cameras be placed above targeted traffic lights and dummy cameras everywhere else so that drivers don't know which is which. Let these cameras be interchangeable so that different roads are targeted on different days. The cameras would capture footage so that there is proof someone has actually skipped a traffic light and innocents aren't punished. Or that someone swerved to avoid a pothole, in which case, no fine.

Perhaps, let the fine be nominal for two reasons. First, people pay up readily but realise after three fines that it hurts to delve into their pockets too often. Second, they see that it isn't worth offering a smaller bribe than the fine to the traffic police - that they would rather pay up the nominal fine.

 The possible problems - suggestions welcome:
  • If fines aren't paid up what should the next course of action be? 
  • If a driver is a repeat offender what should the next course of action be? A stiffer fine after the third offence?
  • The awarding of contracts - how do we make the process transparent? For example
    • to make and put up CCTV cameras
    • to create the software  
    • to fill potholes 
  • How do we prevent drivers and traffic police from doing aapas mey, under-the-table deals?
  • How do we ensure that funds collected from this project are used 
    • to plug more potholes
    • to buy more CCTV cameras
    • to improve the system and make it more foolproof
    • for anything connected with disciplined driving?
Here are a few suggestions but I'm sure there's loads I haven't thought of.

Software experts should come up with a programme that links incriminating photographs directly to a website. The website generates reminders to pay up and warnings for not doing so. It automatically wipes out a debt after the fine is paid up. Individual traffic cops shouldn't be able to ignore an offence depending on their hands being greased or tied because someone with "influence" has broken the rules. Anyone should be able to see what's on the website although access to the website should only be in the hands of a few - who? is the moot question.

One last suggestions - perhaps we should warn car or truck owners that the onus is on them to pay the fine and not on the driver.

A plan full of holes? I welcome you to dissect it, shoot it to smithereens if you must - just do it as politely as possible please. 

 Do you have a plan? Let's hear of it. If nothing else, it will show us the difficulties of implementation. At best, we'll be actively participating in the much harder phase of planning to achieve what, at present, looks like an impossible dream – that of having disciplined traffic on our roads.

I am writing on Be Bold Stay Real at BlogAdda


  1. quite an analysis! you must have spent a lot of time to come up with these ideas. will such plans ever get implemented? well, we know the answer. a great post! hope, people read such posts and start thinking about other living beings on the road.

    btw, the opening paragraphs are quite hilarious!

    1. Thanks, Debajyoti. I guess if ordinary people, who use the roads and know them best would start thinking of solutions and use social media to promote their ideas (however full of holes like mine) someone would come up with a brilliant solution to this reckless madness.

  2. A great suggestion I came across in the Times of India after writing this post -

  3. A great post KayEm; Eish, you made me think about that chaos, straight away in the morning. It is good to hope that posts for changes would pave way to a better mindset or at least for feeling the need for that.

    You mentioned it aptly, the change in the mindset, I believe, if the people in India, become concerned about their own wellbeing and in that process of others too, a lot of the chaos not only on the roads but also in their homes and society could be avoided; right now their homes are as or more chaotic than the public roads; I mean the driving of a people along their roads, in any nation, is a reflection of how they drive their homes. This is my take:)

    1. Good analysis, PR. Sometimes, though, responsible or considerate drivers become as rash as the majority.

  4. Very good post and good thinking.

    Yes, disciplined driving saves time, money, and over all life. There are enough laws to handle drinking-driving and/or rash-driving, but, the implementation is the big problem in a country like India... No one thinks for the common man. Only power money and muscle power matters!

    Coming to technology - we working on a technology in which not only the driver's driving skill will be monitored, the road condition and the condition of the vehicle can be monitored on-line.

    1. That sounds interesting, aamjunta. To rope in technology to monitor all that - what a wonderful idea. Although I can't help wondering where, on the government's list of priorities, traffic discipline fits.

  5. Roads are a mirror of our society. Very relevant points and solutions KayEm.

  6. I think the first correct step will be to have a more stringent traffic police force. Half of the offenders will vanish once we start penalising them strictly.

    1. Agree, especially with the word, strictly. And hopefully, without succumbing to bribes

  7. The ideas which you have explored in the post are very original and thought provoking but when it comes to translating anything into action in our country, that remains a dream. I express my solidarity with you in your fervent zeal to see the road ahead free from all the present ills. A great post indeed!

    1. That's exactly it, Kajal. Any idea will remain only that as long as the majority aren't enthused by it. Car manufacturers, driving schools, even the police (to appear good :) should start sending out "the benefits of disciplined driving" ads and we'll gauge the majority reaction then.

  8. You'll be surprised to hear the justifications people give for their bad driving. And what annoys me the most is drivers who talk on the phone while driving!

    1. Those very imaginative justifications should be part of the disciplined driving campaign, Purba. Perhaps the advertisers could make bad driving (and the excuses) appear foolish, uninformed, uncaring and uneducated and definitely not amusing, bold or skilful.

  9. There does not appear to be salvation on Indian roads sometime soon! I remember last year when going around Christchurch last year a lone car stood on the red light when there was otherwise zero traffic! We are still a few light years away from that scenario:(

    1. NZ, on the whole is like that :) but we do have our share of inconsiderate and uncaring drivers.

      I remember your posts about your trip to NZ.