Monday, May 07, 2007

Article - Driving in Chennai

Drive me Crazy!

Driving …is for just about anyone. Good driving is an Art! Artistic driving aside, reality has people honking unreasonably at you, autos weaving in and out all around you, and heavy vehicles demanding your respect! Where is that dash of driving etiquette that would make roads bearable these days? Speaking of etiquette, is the car-horn used “sparingly” as it is supposed to be? It is in the car for a reason -- However, the signal turns green and all hell breaks loose! Am I given a moment to get going? Blaring horns raise my hackles and in the ensuing noise, my vibrating eardrums block all messages to my brain! It seems more urgent to glare around at everyone in indignation than to get going. Sound familiar?

Being late for appointments is… not unusual. It can happen to the best of us. However, stomping down on the accelerator does not seem worth the strain and effort anymore. Given our road and traffic conditions, I have analysed this -- within the city, speeding up to cover a distance of say ten kilometers, saves only about 2 minutes whilst risking an accident.

Risks notwithstanding, indicators are not on the agenda of any auto-rickshaw driver! I always have that jumpy feeling whenever I have an auto in front of me. It keeps me guessing… usually bringing me to a “sudden-brake” scenario. As for me, even by using indicators and reducing my speed appropriately I find that people have often not even noticed the blinking lights on my car! I have to furtively keep tabs on the guy behind me, to check just how nose-to-bumper he is with me. The “sudden-brake-syndrome” is most risky as not everyone is blessed with the attention span and reflexes required to jam the brakes in time! It used to be that we could cut back on speed by shifting gears smoothly unlike today, where with pell-mell traffic-goers, we keep hitting the brakes. Its like a tap dance between the accelerator and the brakes – if only we could lose some calories that way!!

Overtaking…is quite a stunt these days. Nobody is appreciative of being overtaken suddenly from the left. Moreover, there are those who try to overtake a vehicle that is already in the process of overtaking! Motorbike-riders minus helmets studiously ignore you whilst overtaking any which way they please – and then you observe they are minus helmets. Thoughts of a seemingly “small-fall-turned-fatal-brain-damage” plague me everyday. When are helmets going to become mandatory?

Then there is that “roadrunner” that cuts in front of you into your lane causing you to swerve and brake – my mantra is “just ignore it”…better for my health! No point dashing madly after him for revenge! Today, defensive driving is highly recommended. Why invite unnecessary trouble -- Do we really want to stop and have an argument with a crude-speaking stranger? Speaking of crude, here is a ridiculous habit during a traffic jam -- people rushing to get ahead by infringing into the opposite side against the oncoming traffic just because it seems relatively empty. While executing this completely thoughtless manoeuvre, they coolly avoid eye contact with those waiting patiently in their lanes, superior smirk in place. Superior smirk vanishes when they in turn are soon passed by more of their kind to make further lanes… until it becomes a one-way street preventing all oncoming traffic and a much bigger traffic jam.

And, woe betide anyone who talks incessantly on his cell-phone or fiddles unnecessarily with his car’s stereo! If you ask me, the former category is not being punished enough for the offence! As for the fiddler-on-the-road (not roof!), agreed -- the current choice of radio channels is a super means of entertainment whilst on the road, but don’t even they advocate things like “drive safe and drive with a smile”?

I guess neither smiles nor road rage is the answer – it is time for some serious traffic policing!

Sujata Tarakesan.

“One for the road”: It only takes a split second’s distraction to make you the center of attraction.


Emera said...

Great work.

Rithika said...

was searching for my blog with this name n found urs...good one!

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