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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Traffic problems are everybody's problems

Is going after the driver of passenger yellow-plate vehicles incorrect? Should one go after the company admin guys or travel agents instead? Is it a case of treating the symptom rather than the cause? P-e-r-h-a-p-s. I am skeptical about this argument. Here's why:

1. If taxi car drivers are exploited, and perhaps they are, should that be used as an excuse for rash driving on the roads?

2. BPO vehicles are not the only ones who drive rashly. Thats just one class of vehicles. Every passenger vehicle with a yellow plate drives rashly, zipping along with little regard to road sense or safety. What about vehicles employed by non BPO companies, what about private taxis? Is everybody exploited? I take a taxi every time I have to catch a flight, and every time I've had to ask the driver to follow traffic rules.

3. Its easier to catch the drivers and take them to task. If enough people do that, these drivers might just start refusing to work crazy shifts. Though this might be easier said than done.

4. I've seen these drivers break every single rule in the book, from wrong U turns, to weaving in and out of traffic, honking from behind, driving with their headlights on full beam, overtaking from the left, using intimidation tactics to cut into one's lane, etc. I cannot believe all this is because of bad working conditions. I don't buy that argument. And time and time again, I've seen these guys violently arguing with traffic policemen and getting away with it.

5. Do an experiment next time. Drive normally, follow traffic rules, measure how much time it takes. After than, in the same traffic conditions, drive rashly. Do all the things that drivers do. Measure the time. You will take at most 5 mins less in the latter case. Your blood pressure will be higher, you will suffer from road rage, you will be panting and harassed and, of course, you would have caused great annoyance to others. All at the cost of reaching 5 minutes earlier. is it worth it?

6. Why do we have traffic rules? In any civilized country that follows some semblance of traffic rules, the public good is greater than individual good. So while each individual person might take 5 mins more or less, society as a whole will be more productive and efficient. This is well understood by people, or enforced by the police. When will this understanding come to Indians? By following traffic rules, you make traffic flow smoothly, without snarls and thus everybody benefits.

12 comments:

Ashish Gupta said...

"...public good is greater than individual good...". In fact, individual good will be greater too on an average given that everybody else is predictable on road and right-of-way is honored. And that is before we include benefit of less pollution, safety and less stress.

I feel that road discipline is one place where free market mechanism of each to his own fails miserably. Everybody is better off with state regulated rules. But I have a feeling that either my understanding of free market is at fault or I am missing something.

Maverick said...

You know, I believe that cause for rash driving by BPO or IT drivers is to keep up with the time. The corporate admin put undue pressure to carry their flock of sheep to the workplace on time to increase productivity. This trickles down to drivers who despite the poor infrastructure bear the brunt of negotiating it on a daily basis. A driver who earns 5K - 6K month is stressed out. From a macro perspective this is the direct cause of poor infrastructure and lack of ground situation assesment by the Corporate Admin.

praveen said...

Firstly, hats off to hawkeye for your fight against the milkman. I read some of your earlier articles.

I totally agree with maverick. It is the admin who puts pressure on the driver to keep up with the time. I have heard that the driver has to take a salary-cut if he is late on more than 3 occasions a month. Given the poor infrastructure, what can the drivers do? I strongly believe that what your friend has done is wrong. He should have confronted the driver instead of reporting to the admin. There is a bigger issue that needs to be dealt with ...

Hawkeye said...

@praveen and maverick:

1. I agree with both of you to some extent, but look at the reasons I gave you above refuting that argument. Give me meaningful rebuttal on those.

2. Why are you getting fixated on call center vehicles? There are other classes of vehicles on the road.

3. The problem, as I've said earlier, is that we have too many people talking and too few people acting. Everybody keeps saying our problems are too big, there are bigger issues (Praveen, this is not personal), and under that guise even the smaller issues dont get taken care of. Its like the AIDS problem. Suppose doctors said that we wont treat AIDS, the bigger issue is unprotected sex, lets try to get everybody have safe sex.

Templar said...

hawkeye, dont you feel that lack of civic sense is a cultural thing ..... would you attribute this trait to the society as a whole ...

praveen said...

thats my point dude ... we need to solve the bigger issue (in your example, to take care of the bigger issue, let everybody have protected sex). maybe you agreed to my point subconsciously :)

Hawkeye said...

@templar: Yes, definitely a cultural thing, but one that can be corrected by education / upbringing / awareness or by enforcement by authorities. I've traveled extensively around the world and seen Indians behave most admirably everywhere else. Why? How does good civic sense suddenly prevail in foreign countries? How come "bad" ingrained traits suddenly disappear? Thats means people know what constitutes good civic sense and act accordingly.

And if they don't have that awareness, then the authorities force them to act according to rules, a case in point being Singapore and the Gulf countries which strictly levy fines for various petty offenses.

Hawkeye said...

@praveen: No no, I didn't agree to your point :) Doctors can't afford to say that they will not treat the disease (symptom) and let somebody treat the bigger issue (unprotected sex). Both attempts are equally important.

Hawkeye said...

@ashish: Unfortunately you cannot have free market behavior without strong control. Markets are never really free, they may demonstrate such behavior under idealistic conditions, but sooner or later human greed and avarice thwart the free market behaviors (perfect competition, highest efficiency bidder, rationality, information symmetry).

Thats why there are strong controls to try and create the ideal markets: corporate governance, watchdogs like SEBI etc, company acts, rules, regulations and lots of stakeholders like principals / agents / shareholders / employees / society / government all of whom are constantly watching out and fighting for their individual rights.

In case of the roads (or other civic amenities), I believe the relevant stakeholders are not taking enough interest.

poupee97 said...

The main reason is that there are too few people like you who are willing to sit up and take a stand against it, and too many people who not only won't take a stand against it, but are part of the system or the type who want to get maximum benefit from the system.

Hawkeye said...

@poupee97: Yeah, and what I find shocking is that there are people who will themselves do nothing and will actively demotivate or deter you from doing something. Now how weird is that? Which is why I decided that I'm better off without negative people and their comments.

Sunil said...

We need more public spirited citizens like you. While you may be doing this for yourself, by talking about this in your blog you are setting an example for others to follow. Power to you, man! Incidentally I am at DDC from where I came to your blog