Thursday, May 28, 2015

big cars, bigger egos and culture of rule-breaking kills people on the roads!

We are curiously watching the case of Salman Khan’s drunken driving and roadside killing. As of now, Salman Khan, balancing between public sympathy and hatred, is delaying the process of justice with a hope that he might evade it completely. As a reputed judge and author Tom Bingham said, the rule of law unfortunately is ‘hooray for my side’ for most of the people. This partisanship is often used to put pressure on the judiciary. Besides the larger issue of the prevalence of the rule of law, Salman Khan is surely a bad role model for the young motor vehicle drivers. 

Salman Khan is not the only bad role model in young people’s life. Youngsters learn most of their behaviour traits from their parents. How about parents (on motorbikes and cars) dropping kids to school by driving on the wrong side of the road? Lot of people believe that we should teach the kids traffic discipline from their childhood - catch them young! Kids learn more looking at the conduct of their parents then what they learn in the children's traffic parks. How do we expect the kids to follow traffic rules when there is a prevailing culture of casual rule breaking for the sake of little convenience? Unfortunately, this culture of casual rule breaking is considered social smartness in most cases and is further encouraged.
The wrongful behaviour on part of the motor vehicle drivers also emerge from their imagination of seeing themselves as 'victims' - 'what do I do when there is no provision for me!' or ‘give me more space, I am more important than others!’ When someone buys an expensive, big vehicle the feeling of victimhood doubles up - as if buying an expensive vehicle is a license to ask for more road space, free parking space and honking unnecessarily. More powerful people with their more powerful vehicles have a great sense of entitlement. When this self-assumed entitlement for unlimited road space is denied, they see themselves as victim of relentless traffic and not as equal participants in adding to the chaos. The combination of the culture of casual rule breaking and notion of ‘victimhood’ results in road rage and wrongful traffic behaviour. 
The statistics from the National Crime Records Bureau shows us that the bigger vehicles are responsible for larger number of road fatalities. Trucks or SUVs going at a high speed will kill more people than an auto rickshaw. With bigger vehicle comes bigger responsibility of saving other people’s life. 1.25 lakh Indians die in road traffic related crashes every year. If we are serious about reducing the road fatalities then we will not only have to make the physical infrastructure of our streets safer but also target some of these social issues - bad role models, sense of entitlement/victimhood amongst the privileged drivers and the culture of casual rule breaking. 

(11th May, 2015: DNA Ahmedabad edition, Cities Supplement, Page 5)

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