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Road Rage - A menance
Anurakta | 11 Apr 2008

How people go on recklessly driving

Road Rage - A Menace
 
On Indian roads, the safest driving policy is to assume that the other drivers will not respond to the traffic situation in the same way as you think. Apart from power steering and power brakes in our vehicles, we need both road sense and the necessary infrastructure. Though most of the accidents can be reduced by training drivers and enforcing rules, law does not tell you to be courteous. That ,has to self cultivated.
 
Many things can cause road rage. Even trivial and unintentional moves can lead to an act of behind-the-wheel violence. All drivers have their own "driving personality" when they drive. Everyone expresses how they feel or act in society by their driving abilities. If someone has a lot of self-confidence and is concerned with the well being of other, then these qualities will show through their safe driving techniques.
 
There are many different attitudes that drivers can portray while driving. One attitude that drivers depict is carelessness. More accidents are caused by careless drivers than anyone else. These irresponsible drivers are often not watching or paying attention to their surroundings, making dumb mistakes that could easily make someone upset. Just by not signaling when making a lane change could make another driver so angry that they want to retaliate against the careless driver which can end up with someone getting hurt. Another attitude drivers portray is recklessness. Many reckless drivers are often teenagers; they haven't had their license that long so they don't know how to make the right decisions when it comes to driving. When people act reckless, they feel as if they can do anything and they won't get caught. If a driver is driving dangerously, this not only endangers the reckless driver, it puts all the other drivers at risk, which could then lead to road rage.
 
Another attitude that drivers tend to have is temper and ego. More than 80% of drivers are angry all or most of the time while driving. When people get angry, they lose their sense of judgment and values and let their instincts take control. This is especially bad while driving under tense situations. The tempered driver becomes upset over the littlest driving mistake made by another driver. They then react against that driver in an aggressive way, leading to a harsher situation. Many drivers feel like they are ranked on how well they driver. This then causes some drivers to act more superior to other drivers because they feel as if it is their right to be the most important on the road. Drivers that act this way cause hostility between them and the other drivers. Some people feel that driving improves their self-esteem, which leads them to think that they can take more risks than others and that they can criticize or harass inferior drivers. Many drivers with big egos believe that nothing bad can happen to them, until something does.
 
Another reason why road rage may occur is because of race. It might be hard to believe, but an average of 38 road rage incidents each year are a result of a racist hate. These incidents start the same way other aggressive driving incidents, but after a little while of arguing, there is an exchange of racial comments which it then turns into a racial-road-rage dispute. These disputes are usually instigated by groups of males that are "looking for trouble."
 
Another factor to road rage is the environment. One example of environmental caused road rage is noise. Noise can influence the intensity of aggression in a driver. Some music that people listen to can match their feelings that can cause them to become violent. While listening to music for some people can be soothing, this can be dangerous because it prevents some people to give less attention to the road and how they are driving. Noise can also come from outside the car; from another driver's car. If noise can not be controlled, this can produce stress, and can make concentration more difficult for the driver.
 
Overcrowding also causes road rage. Drivers just want to go home and they don't need thousands of other cars in their way, so they may become violent and commit an act of road rage.
 
Another factor of road rage is territory. To many drivers, their cars are their second most valuable possession, so they want to protect it. And if anyone gets in their way of hurting their car, they will react in a violent manner.
 
Literally, "Road Rage" is a term used to refer to the violent incidents caused by stress while driving on high traffic zones on roadways. 
It is usually associated with "Aggressive Driving". But, in lay man's language, "Road Rage" can be defined as an incident in which an angry or impatient motorist or passenger intentionally injures or kills another motorist, passenger, or pedestrian, or attempts or threatens to injure or kill another motorist, passenger, or pedestrian.
"Road Rage" often occurs with exchange of swear words and furious shouts at the fellow commuter. 
 
It has been found that most of the drivers have a feeling of "Road Rage" because it is a cultural norm. Angst and frustration while driving on Indian roads comes naturally which translates into "Road Rage". People learn this behavior from childhood when being driven by parents and adults. In day to day life, more of the incidents can be experienced during peak traveling hours, during fair weather, under moderately congested conditions in urban areas. "Alcohol" has many a times been found to be associated with many of the incidents. 
 
There are many conditions associated with "Road Rage"; including: traffic congestion, driving habits, weather conditions, noise levels, time constraints. Some time it can be an instructive response of careless driving by another driver. 
 
It is usually emphasized that "Road Rage" and "Aggressive Driving" are not synonymous. "Road Rage" is uncontrolled anger that results in violence or threatened violence on the road; it is Criminal Behavior. These are serious crimes that just happen to occur within the roadways environment. "Aggressive Driving" does not rise to the level of criminal behavior. "Aggressive Driving" includes tailgating, abrupt lane changes, and speeding, alone or in combination. These potentially dangerous behaviors are traffic offenses, but are not criminal behavior. Infact, "Road Rage" can be distinguished from any other traffic incident by its "Willful and Criminal" nature. 
 
"Road Rage" is a serious act and may be seen as a violation of property rights and legislations should be made more clear and stringent. Unambiguous laws and penalties are needed and public needs to be educated about its legal consequences. Driver education courses should be made more approachable and taught seriously.
As we now spend more time on roads on either private or commercial vehicles due to varied reasons, incidences of "Road Rage" are increasing. "Road Rage" is becoming the most pressing Traffic Safety problem from the Traffic Police. Occurrence of more "Road Rage" incidences is an indication of deterioration of the civic sense of the modern community. This has become a thought for worry.
 
Not only the civilians but also our respected Prime Minister was not left from the deadly evil's attack. He suggested that "People must learn road manners, how to give way to pedestrians, how to observe normal rules while overtaking, how to park and when not to blow horns."
 
Indian "Road Ragers" use absurd sentences like: 'Sadak kya tere baap ki hai?', 'Bahar aoon kya gaadi se?', 'Pata hai main kaun hoon?' Legally, Government has formulated laws relating to "Compensation Cases for rash and negligent driving under IPC Section: 279, 337, and 338, but looking at the present condition of the road, they all seem to be going in vain.
 
The lack of infrastructure, poor road condition, increase in traffic all add to the already pent up anger within the Indian Drivers which transforms into "Road Rage - A Reason to Worry".
 
Interventions to Reverse Road Rage
"Road Rage" is a relatively serious act, which jeopardizes the public safety. Hence, there seems to be a dire need to enlist various methods that can be implemented to reverse "Road Rage". These include: 
 
 Education through Campaigns
Road Rage campaigns can be run locally for public information. In this direction, a "Road Rage Prevention Curriculum" can be designed covering aspects like driving education, information on road rage prevention etc. Cut outs and templates can be designed to complement the message. These can be sponsored by merchants. 
 
Enforcement of Traffic Laws
Stringent Enforcement of laws can no doubt lend a hand at a regional, state and municipal level. Laws can be enforced using unmarked cars, plain clothed police officers, video cameras etc. Various bodies and agencies (Road Transport Authority, Central Police, Traffic Police, Highway Authority, construction agencies, DDA) can join hands and pool in their resources to combat the menace. 
 
Self-Help Methods/ Co-operative Programs
These programs can help in distributing handy resources personally to drivers to increase driver awareness, reducing stress levels. Tapes, books, classes, surveys and self tests can lend a helping hand in running these programs effectively.
 
Penalties for Offenders/Legislations
Poor existing laws addressing the issues combined with offenders who try to play with the ambiguous wordings of the laws, in combination with the interpretations by Law Enforcement Officers act as barriers in passing Aggressive Driving Legislations. Although penalties including: higher fines, mandatory jail time, loss of license, Warning letters have been formulated but they are not taken seriously as a learning lessons. Drivers pay the hefty amounts and think that they have got the permission to continue with the wrong. They should realize their mistake and discontinue with it. 
 
Call-in Cellular Systems
As in abroad, a number of hotlines can be installed to allow citizens to report Aggressive Driving incidents directly to local law enforcement officers. But, it should be kept in mind that not to misuse the numbers. 
 
Intelligent Transportation System
Such systems can effectively deter Road Rage with intersection cameras. The "Red Light Runners" and "Speeders" can be captured on camera and later use the photographs to counter the offenders. This method makes it possible to detect the offenders without the physical presence of the officers on the spot.
 
Internet and Media
Radio and Television announcements can help in increasing public awareness. Internet can prove to be an effective tool with abundant resources. Sites with "Report It" feature are increasing in numbers. These sites are loaded with "Driver Improvement Pages" and "Self assessment Quizzes".
 
Driver Education
The motorists on a whole are ill informed about the originators of Aggressive Driving. Campaigns can be run to teach drivers their own behaviors and how to deal with the aggressive behavior of other drivers. 
 
Conditions of roads across India are not hidden. In the last 50 years, India's automobile population has grown 170 times while the road infrastructure has expanded only nine times. The country's vehicle population is over 5.5 crore and growing at a phenomenal rate of 25 lakh every year. 
 
The main roads are narrow and in poor conditions, most of them lacking overpasses for intersecting roads. They are used for sleeping, walking and somewhere down the lane serve as "Temporary Shops". Vendors often encroach upon streets and block sidewalks, restricting traffic. In the last 50 years, India's automobile population has grown 170 times while the road infrastructure has expanded only nine times. While roads are widened to allow the increase in vehicle population, side-walks for pedestrians have shrunk. The pedestrian's right of way at zebra-crossings is something of a dream, making "Jay Walking" a common phenomenon.
 
Traffic is a varied mix."Such conditions make driving in India a harrowing experience.Accidents are quite common on Indian Roads. According to figures by the Road Safety Cell of the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, there were 3.9 lakh accidents in 2000; 78,911 were killed and 3, 99,265 injured. Safety studies have found that a majority of accidents occur either due to the driver's error or due to the negligence of the safety norms. Driver fatigue, drunken driving are some other reasons of the mishaps. The actions like dangerous overtaking, lane cutting, jumping of signals, erratic parking can be counted as major causes for the calamities on the roads. Usually, accidents are prevalent in urban cities where "Speed" of the vehicles is uncontrollable and where each and every individual is in hurry. Private vehicles get struck in the local roads while the commercial vehicle accidents are prevalent on highways. Buses are one more player. Many bus tyres get exploded, while most accidents occur because they do not use dim headlights.
 
Road related accidents cost India millions every year, but there is no sign of any possible intervention. Highways lack some sort of preliminary road safety measures including first aid emergency services etc. It is really ironical to note that, we have numerous liquor shops, motels, fun parks, and petrol pumps spread all over the highways, but scarce, or to be more precise, negligible trauma centers on highways.
 
Apart from the infrastructural loop holes, vehicle manufacturers are also to blame to some extent. Knowing the extent of the impact of accidents in India, proper safety measurements are not implemented in vehicle designing for Indian roads. Equipment including safety air bags and many more, although present in vehicles abroad, are absent in Indian vehicles.
 
"Most countries have a multi-disciplinary approach to traffic planning and road design. It is done by psychologists, engineers, doctors, sociologists and vehicle experts. In India, traffic is still a civil engineering issue."