At its best, its chaotic, which is perhaps a light word to describe the traffic in India; the word better used would be "maniac". I often wonder whether the situation will ever improve because I have witnessed it going from bad to worse. Perhaps it’s the economic prosperity, or the price of cars falling, the lack of vision of the Indian transport ministry, or lack of pragmatism or simply red tape in dealing with traffic matters’ which has led to the traffic situation going kaput.
There are no traffic rules in India (...most of the times)
You’ll notice that driving in India is not about following traffic rules; it’s about convenience and driving how you please. If you have a bigger vehicle, you have the right of way. You’ll find buses racing towards roundabouts not taking into consideration what’s coming from the other exit; you will find trucks not stopping at give ways, or pillion riders without helmets, people not using indicators, underage bike riders, whole families travelling on two wheelers, increasing instances of Hit & Run cases & culprits getting clean cheats easily, Hilarious use of horns creating nuisance, Usage of phones during driving, keeping ignition on while waiting at signals, increasing pollution and so on.
Not only vehicles, but there are the pigs chewing away at the garbage dump on the side of the roads, dogs wandering around looking for food and then the cows and goats grazing as if they own the roads. In certain parts of country, you’ll find wild monkeys as well. Nowhere in the Developed Countries, will you find such madness. Compared to western standards, traffic and road safety, road regulations or traffic rules or etiquettes in India are nothing more than a joke.
However, even though it’s chaotic and very dangerous, the system somehow works. Things like road rage or drunk driving do exist but they are not so bad as some other countries of the world such as USA, Australia or European Countries. However, sad reality is that more people are killed in traffic accidents here than in any other country. As per WHO reports in 2018, 1.49 Lacs people died of road accidents only in India.
What is expected and what needs to improve...
Traffic Sense has a chance of getting improved by joint efforts from the Government, citizens of the country, NGOs etc. We need contribution from all the stakeholders to improve this maniac situation. We cannot develop traffic sense in a day or a month. But with visionary planning, policy and execution, we can certainly inverse the scenario and image which we have built in the world with regards to traffic.
A few of the feedbacks which I have received on surveying different classes of people, and which I believe, might help in improving our traffic position, have been listed below:
• Major Initiative should come from the Government in terms of policy framing, awareness programs and encouraging those who are doing a good job in spreading awareness. Just levying heavy fines won’t serve the purpose and instead, people will find one or the other way to escape getting caught.
• Government should introduce, promote and work towards advancement of public transport facilities as it is much more mannered, generates revenue for the government, helps in controlling pollution also it helps to reduce traffic. However, condition of public transport needs to improve in terms of frequency of vehicles, maximum coverage, charges, amenities inside the vehicles and punctuality.
• Government/NGOs can launch separate awareness programs on traffic rules just like the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and should make the celebrities, successful professionals, highly influential people from the Corporate world and also social media influencers as ambassadors for this movement. They can also make creative hashtags and encourage people to share their ideas for improvement with that hashtag and let it trend on social media. Culprits’ pictures can be made viral on social media which will instill a fear in the people to follow rules strictly.
• Making Short films and web series on the topic and uploading them on Youtube and other streaming mediums like Amazon Prime, Hotstar etc. will ensure wide reach of the content. The thought can also be incorporated in Movies, TV Shows to some extent, which can certainly spread awareness among the masses.
• Traffic rules need to be rational, easy to understand and require updation at regular intervals and the rules which become obsolete and irrational with time, must be scrapped by the Government.
• Driving License should be issued more rationally and the system must be corruption free. Just by testing a candidate on predesigned maps won’t serve any purpose. There should more emphasis on practical “on the roads test” and also, the theoretical test should be capable enough to test the psychology and mental state of the candidate. They should learn about traffic signs, importance of zebra crossings, signal lights, parking sense, proper usage of horns and indicators etc.
• In a country where people are taking traffic issues so lightly, we should make traffic sense, a part of curriculum for higher secondary schools so that traffic sense becomes a part of their grooming and hence when this next generation starts driving, we will have a greater ratio of rules abiding people on our roads.
• We need to have more controls in terms of effectiveness and efficiency of traffic cops, and increased use of technological devices to capture breach of rules. Today people are not afraid of breaking rules since we do not have an effective system in place and most of the times the miscreants escape. We need devices to measure speed, better quality and the number of cameras and a stronger traffic police force so that the rule breakers are caught and penalised appropriately.
• We also need to come out with creative ways of penalizing culprits. Only monetary fines won't bother everyone; people will simply pay and leave. There should be separate account for fines collected and it should be utilized for improving traffic senses.
• Something needs to be done about the quality of roads in our Country. We are allotting a huge amount of the budgeted expenditure (Rs. 80,250 Crore as per budget of FY 2019) for development and maintenance of roads. Still we have failed to improve the quality of our roads. Present condition of our roads plays a considerable role in accidents and also discouraging the public at large.
• Additionally, each of the road contracts should be awarded with Defect Liability Period (DLP) and contractors should have their offices on the site during DLP for prompt corrective actions in case of damages to roads. Also, there should be an arrangement by which public can approach the contractor for repairs.
• There should be separate tracks for cyclers and pedestrians. Majority of the roads are congested, so, if there are no dedicated tracks for them, it will certainly create chaotic situation for fast moving vehicles and will result into accidents or road blockages.
• Instances of animals coming on the roads and creating flaky situation is very normal, especially on highways and Tier II/III cities. This needs to be controlled since it leads to accidents, deaths of animals and road blockages.
• RTOs should maintain proper records of all driving license holders. In case of any breach of rules, some negative points should be allocated to the driving license, and similarly on following Traffic rules, positive points should be awarded. These records must be linked to that of the different departments like police, revenue, administration to name a few, and let people get rewarded for positive points and be punished for negative points. These things will compel drivers to follow traffic rules.
• Organisations can help spreading traffic awareness by giving appreciation, perks to their staff who follow traffic rules properly, marking it as part of Key Responsible Areas will make salaried class law abiding Citizens.
Developing Traffic sense will not only be beneficial for having traffic jam free roads, but it will also help in reducing the levels of noise and air pollution in the atmosphere, preventing deaths due to road accidents and providing the next generation of the nation with better traffic standards.