Saturday, March 31, 2007

How stupid drivers cause traffic problems

Here I was stuck in another jam on the Delhi-Haridwar highway. And why had this jam happened ? A very simple explanation. This highway is a 2-3 lane highway with no central verge, and there is a lot of traffic on this highway. So, many times, traffic gets a bit slow. And so, what do clever people do ? Seeing that traffic on their side is slowing down, they simply move to the other side of the road (no divider) so that they can move ahead of the idiots who stayed on their side of the road. So, eventually, the road is completely filled with people
all wanting to move to Haridwar.
Of course, these clever people forgot that there are people who also want to go to Delhi, and they will need some space on the road as well. Now what happens, gridlock ! I once spent 5 hours in such gridlock, and was resigned to spend the whole night on the road, since it seemed to be that the gridlock will only get worse as more vehicles arrive. It took the effort of around 10 policemen plus around 15 local youths with sticks and raw language to get vehicles into a single file so that these vehicles could move. There was only one set of people who profited. Roadside vendors on the highway did good business and stayed open for much longer.
This may go away when the highway is widened, but I never can understand how people can do such things, and inconvenience everyone. In some parts of the highway, I have already seen dividers being built, and while building a divider on a narrow road reduces the overall speed of the highway, I can see no immediate way of getting around the jams that happen nowadays.
The same thing can be seen when one is waiting at a railway crossing. People crowd all the space in front of a crossing on both sides of the road, so that even when the rail gates open, it takes some time for the vehicles on both sides to manage to cross to the other side.
Now I have started seeing this inside the city as well. I saw this very recently in the road leading from Ghazipur to Noida. This is a narrow road, and there was some holdup at one end, so traffic was moving slowly. So these smart people started moving to the head of the line in the same way as outlined above, such
that eventually there was no way for vehicles from the other side to advance, and this seemed to be an incredible gridlock. I was at the tail end, but could this mess starting to happen, so I turned around and ran from there (spending 45 minutes in a jam did not seem exactly pleasurable).
Such incidents cause an immense amount of frustation, and I have seen road rage in people who see this happen. I see cars in front of me swerve in order to prevent such vehicles from moving to the front on the other side like this, and seen heated words. It causes even more frustation because you know that you are driving right, and yet see others muck up the whole traffic.
Why does such a thing happen ? Do these people realy not understanding of what they are doing, or do they not care ? It may be that they think in isolation and do not see themselves as really being part of the problem, instead they are just saving themselves in time. This brings me to a related point. Are such people really in such a hurry that they think themselves above all others and can do as they like ? I struggle to think of a solution; the only solution that I can think of is more driver education as well as more fines. Driver education sounds difficult, why would somebody who really does not care for even thinking right while driving even attempt to get more educated ? More fines is difficult to enforce on the highway given that I hardly ever see anybody even remotely looking like a traffic policeman on our highways.
The only possible solutions are:
1. Try and make these roads wider with more central dividers so that such driving can be curbed.
2. Be much more strict with respect to traffic violations, in effect turning cities into zero-violation zones. If people see transgressions being fined often enough, they will be more respectful of the law (which is not such a bad thing at all).
I personally don't think that #2 is going to happen, requires too much effort from the police, and that makes it very unlikely.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 1:09 PM