Sunday, October 21, 2012

Breaking Rules

All of us break rules, sometime or the other, almost on a daily basis. The most common being the breaking of traffic rules. Like parking in a ‘No Parking’ zone or driving through a street with `No Entry` sign or driving without helmets. Like jumping the red signal - an offence committed by even well-educated people; like you and me! Even if you are a law abiding citizen who stops at a red signal, the impatient driver behind you who wants to jump the signal will keep honking, cursing you for blocking his way. Forcing you to break the rule!

Then there are drivers of two wheelers and auto rickshaws who keep overtaking you suddenly from the left, especially when you are turning into a road on the left. The other day a young boy on his two-wheeler, trying to negotiate the narrow gap between my car and the edge of the road on the left, hit my car and fell down. Instead of accepting and apologizing for his mistake, he started abusing me for not looking at my left rear view mirror before turning! He did not know the basic rule that he is not supposed to overtake a vehicle from the left, leave alone overtaking on a turn.

The worst culprits are drivers on highways who drive without dimming the lights blinding drivers of vehicles coming from opposite direction, endangering the lives of people who may be crossing the roads or hitting vehicles without parking lights – emphasizing the need for medians on all the highways.

One of the basic lessons in traffic rules taught to the children when they are still in school is on crossing roads- ` look to the right first and then left and cross’. Obviously an old lady did not know the rule when she was almost hit by my car, as she suddenly crossed the road looking to her left for ongoing vehicles, ignoring my car coming from the right!

Another common mistake people make is switching lanes indiscriminately, without giving any indication of their intention or suddenly opening the front side door after parking on a main road, again endangering the lives of vehicles that may be overtaking their car at that precise moment. The rule says look into the rear view mirror for any vehicles behind you before you open the door, but who cares!

The latest traffic hazard is caused by the ubiquitous mobile- people talking on their mobiles while crossing a road or while driving on a road with heavy traffic. Recently a relative lost his teenage son when he was hit by a speeding two wheeler while crossing the road right infront of his home- because he was busy talking on his mobile oblivious of passing vehicles!

Most of the accidents on the roads occur because the majority of drivers are not even aware of the traffic rules. Anyone in India can get a driving license for any vehicle by paying a bribe to the road inspectors. They can also get away by bribing the traffic cops any time they are caught breaking a rule.

I remember an incident during one of my trips to USA. My cousin and I were returning home in his car after attending an evening programme. It was 11 pm. There was absolutely no traffic on the side road leading to his house. But still he stopped at the red signal. When I asked him why he did not jump the signal, as there was no traffic, his reply was ‘This is USA and not India. There might be a hidden camera somewhere and if I am caught jumping the red signal; I might have to pay a stiff fine!’

In another instance I met a journalist friend who had moved to Singapore, at his office during one of my trips to that very `fine` city. He boasted to me that he had jumped a red signal on Orchard Road that day but no policeman had stopped him. His happiness was short-lived because three days later he got a challan from the Singapore Traffic police asking him to pay a fine of a few hundred Singapore dollars. He had been caught on camera breaking a traffic rule.

I don’t think the effort of the Government to install hidden cameras at major signals is going to help improve the situation in our country. Our denizens will continue to break rules because they know law takes its own sweet time to reach the defaulters and even when it reaches them, they can get away by greasing the palms of the government agents responsible for implementing the rules!

This is the bane of our society!

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