Many Traffic Signs Installed by Cops, but NOT Many Motorists Follow Them?

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Many Traffic Signs Installed by Cops, but NOT Many Motorists Follow Them?

Mangaluru: If you are just wondering why is traffic in Mangaluru so bad? Because everybody wants to reach their workplace or their some kind of appointment on time. Nobody wants to start early. Because everybody wants to reach first. Nobody wants to follow the rules. What will you get when lakhs of people trying to overtake each other in a race to reach their destination on time with little or absolutely no regards to the traffic rules AND violating absolutely every traffic rule that’s ever been made?.

And now to ease out some of the traffic chaos City Traffic police have installed quite a few brand new traffic signs at every nook and corner of the City, like ‘No Honking Horn’; ‘No Overtaking Zone’; ‘ No Parking’; No Left Turn/No Entry’; ‘One Way Traffic Only’; etc. But my one hour survey this morning showed that about 75%, or could be more don’t obey none of these traffic signs- and drive or ride as they like. I bet many of you on your way to work or other errands find yourselves in a spat with fellow commuters. Why? “Obviously, he could have been a rash driver and must have irked some poor motorist,” you’re probably saying. Well, he most definitely did annoy somebody, but not because he is a bad driver. You may say to your self “It has become difficult for me to follow traffic rules,” and then ask the policeman: “Should I follow traffic rules or not?”

Does the problem in India, and for that matter, Mangaluru City lie in the absence of enough traffic regulations or in our ignorance or disrespect of them? A look at the penalties under the Motor Vehicles Act (1988) indicates that the former is unlikely. When people take their cues from looking at each other rather than from an overload of traffic signs, traffic moves slowly and smoothly, accidents decline significantly and roads become safer. In this humanized, deregulated haven, motorists and pedestrians are encouraged to interact in a more humane manner. And when there are Traffic Signs and Traffic Rules, then ‘Why don’t motorists here follow them’? A need to get ahead of everybody else, all the time, I guess!. Motorists probably take few quotes literally. Time is precious! Urgh, why the hell are you making me wait? I have to get back to my classroom or office room to invent the next sensation even better than Facebook.

Just by installing traffic signs is not enough, they need to be monitored and strictly enforced by the Cops, which is totally lacking here. For a large population like Mangaluru, where traffic increases day by day, but there is absolutely no increase in full-fledged traffic cops-instead we have guards to control traffic, which the motorists give a damn respect to them. Just recently the entire stretch of Kadri Kambla Road had been painted with a broad white line in the middle so that no vehicle should overtake- and few days ago even though new traffic signs of no overtaking had been placed, but still vehicles zoom by overtaking each other {See pics}. So why even bother to put up these signs?

Parking in a ‘NO PARKING ZONE SIGN’

Why don’t we respect cops? Is it their notoriety as a corrupt, incompetent, insensitive lot or a sense that cops are rude blue collar workers? And then, the all-too-familiar refrain of the urban motorist, “When the government can’t even give us proper roads, why should I follow rules?” Poor infrastructure, even poorer rules! Neither carrot nor stick! No penalties for rash driving. No license suspension (No license necessary in many cases). No imprisonment (at least not for many years till the case gets to the courts). No mechanisms to identify traffic offenders (License plate recognition or CCTV’s). No standardized tests for obtaining a driving license. The ability to pay your way out of trouble or in some cases, the ability to silence the victims.

The reason most often cited for motorists’ callousness towards traffic norms is the absence of any strict, substantial, immediate and consistent penalties for traffic violations. Fines, if any are not of an amount high enough to serve as deterrents, police control is lax, infrequent and can often be worked around. Some offences like jumping signals, driving on the wrong side of the road and using phones while driving have become so commonplace, they are overlooked. As motorists, we leave home, confident in the knowledge that no matter what our offence, we will be let off the hook, that there is a way around the system. Like the fine for breaking traffic codes is equal to a Masala Dosa and a Coffee at Taj Mahal Cafe, or the price of pint beer at a bar, one that he/she doesn’t mind giving up.

Overtaking on a ‘NO PASSING ZONE’ (Kadri Kambla Road)

The Punishment and fine are so less, that even a burger and a soft drink at McDonald’s at City Centre Mall, sometime cost higher than riding without a helmet or jumping a red light. Unless and until, the traffic fines are jacked up, there will be no end for traffic violations in the City, no matter how many traffic signs you install or how many CCTV’s you put up? For the average motorist, there are neither penalties to deter bad driving nor rewards to motivate and reward consistently safe driving behaviour, care for other commuters or obedience of traffic rules. It is so difficult to be a good driver! We’ve all surely been through a mental debate with ourselves as soon as we come face to face with a red signal – the question of whether to stop or not, how to fend off the screaming, honking commuters behind us and how to deal with the guilt of giving in. It’s like “When in Rome, act like you’re in Rome”, as it describes the conflict faced by the responsible driver as he/she navigates the melee at the traffic light: Red or green? Both means go!

Why is the traffic on Mangaluru roads so unorganized? Have you ever thought about it? I am sure, each one of you would have taken a moment some or the other time to blame the *bad* drivers or infrastructure or may be even the traffic cops! If you think you are a perfect driver, think over again. The chances are more that your driving skills might have been Mangalured to an unknown devil within you! It just doesn’t end there, many drivers cross the line into opposite lane and cause traffic jam at signals. Why would you want to do that? There is no respect/safety for the pedestrians either! People still tend to jump the signal even before the red goes green. I am glad that the Mangaluru Traffic police have installed the tracking cameras across various junctions to capture traffic violations.

Making a U-Turn at ‘NO U-TURN SIGN’

And also since here driving is often picked up by informally from parents, older siblings or friends, the ignorance of traffic rules gets passed on. Moreover, driving schools have very a minimal focus on traffic norms and road rules. Underage driving is common and driving licenses are often procured through illegal means. When one has beaten the system once, obeying of traffic rules becomes an unnecessary burden. As a highly religious and largely superstitious people, we are prone to an optimism and fatalism that leaves us putting the onus of our well-being on others or on divine intervention rather than on ourselves. There is a general complacence that ‘everyone else is doing it, nothing will happen to me’ or the more dangerous ‘he has eyes, he will look out.’

But you can’t blame a motorist all the time, because many a times the traffic cops are at fault too. You would think that the primary job of the Mangaluru Traffic Police is to ‘Regulate Traffic’. But, most of the times, you will not find a single traffic police manning some of the congested roads, during peak hours. I have seen many a times near Bunts Hostel Circle/Jyothi Circle/PVS Junction-the routes that I often take- I see the cops either chatting on their mobiles or hiding behind a petty shop nearby, while we have to wade through the traffic ourselves. I wonder – shouldn’t these guys who are ganged up to collect fines, try to regulate traffic?

I have seen multiple times that, whenever there is a VIP visiting, scores of Traffic Police show up and efficiently enable the VIP to zip through while stopping regular commuters. Then they all disappear and let the traffic clog as it was before. Do these Traffic Police serve only these VIPs? Why can’t they show some of this zeal and efficiency while regulating traffic for the common citizens? Another common scene during morning/evening peak hours is that these traffic police at all prime locations waiting for their prey – basically someone not wearing a helmet on the pillion – while just 50 meters away, there is a traffic mess which could have been easily resolved by the intervention of a traffic cop. Traffic police using random rules and shady tactics to generate revenue has gone bad. The intent to actually regulate traffic by the Mangaluru Traffic Police has gone missing to a large extent as well.

Entering a no Left Turn zone/One Way Traffic zone at a ‘NO LEFT TURN/NO ENTRY’ SIGN

In conclusion, it’s okay to have as many Traffic Signs or Traffic Rules, maybe all we need is something that makes us more aware of how we behave in traffic, what triggers a train of abuses, what pushes us to jump that red light, or enter a one way zone or park in a no parking zone or honk our horns loud near a hospital or school, or why we leave home without a helmet. Maybe it will make us think the next time we are about to press down on the horn, inch forward to halt on the pedestrian crossing or switch lanes to save 2-3 minutes. Maybe we will slowly learn to become a caring people, comfortable with sharing spaces and resources. Perhaps our big urban egos could use on respecting our fellow commuters – other motorists, pedestrians, cyclists and animals.


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1 Comment

  1. Dear Alfie, thank you so much for this really timely and requisite article. It is getting more and more impossible to drive in Mangalore owing to the lack of knowledge, adherence, disobedience about road rules, and then the absence of punishment for rule breaking as well.

    Would like to add two more problems – people driving the OPPOSITE way on one-way streets and lanes; and jaywalkers who jump in front of vehicles to cross, just showing up their palms for the (running) vehicles to stop! Two wheelers, autos and private buses – the less said about the way they “drive,” the better!

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