Road Rage ? A Silent Killer

By Samyak Purkait

Edited by Namitha Sadanand, Associate Editor, The Indian Economist

“BMW mows down 4 pavement dewellers” or “SUV mounts pavement, kills road side stall workers”

Once again the road rage has claimed its victims but news items, such as above, do not merit more than a cursory glance from us. However, if we read beyond the head lines, we will hear the cries of the mothers who lost their sons, the wives who lost their husbands and witness the death of the dreams that they carried from their villages to the roads of the ruthless cities.

Some things in life are loud and boisterous. Some are quiet and stealthy. Often the impact caused by both are equally severe and everlasting. Road rage is a deep rooted social problem that belongs to the latter.

Every year thousands of people die on the streets of India because of road rage and probably Delhi and the places around Delhi (NCR Region) present the worst case scenario in this regard. One does not need to be a “Delhiwalla” to understand the extent the malaise has spread to and even a short visit to the city will re-affirm the terrible statistics of Delhi road mishaps. In a recent report by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) it was revealed that Delhi tops the list among cities in the country in terms of fatal road accidents with five people – four of whom are pedestrians and two-wheeler riders — losing their lives every day. According to CSE About 16 people die and 58 are injured every hour in India due to road accidents – the death rate, in fact, is equivalent to wiping out about 40 per cent of the population of a small nation like Maldives in a year. And Delhi has the highest number of fatal accidents among all cities, with five deaths per day (Source: Delhi tops the country in fatal road accidents and pedestrians and cyclists falling victim .) While it is nobody’s case to argue that the other cities or metros of India are immune from this but surely Delhi’s case needs a special mention and, therefore, a closer examination.

Theoretically, road rage is aggressive or angry behaviour of a driver of an automobile and such behaviour might include rude gestures, verbal insults, deliberately driving in an unsafe or threatening manner or making threats. However, this deep rooted problem is much more than that. In our cities road rage is associated with DEATHS OF FELLOW HUMAN BEINGS……not just the banging of cars and rude verbal/physical gestures.

The more we delve into the causes of road rage the more we realise about the social and emotional problems we all go through in our everyday lives which, in turn, manifest itself into road rage.

Road rage is an outward display of pent up frustration caused due to a lack of emotional balance. This frustration can be caused by anything, a bad day in office, family fights and may, even be, a result of societal injustice. The result of this frustration is that people (usually men) often get aggressive and vent their misplaced anger on someone on the road causing grievous harm to other persons without even realising the ever lasting damage their actions can have on the other persons and their family.

Another cause of road rage is the showing off of the male machismo. It is often seen that there are instances of more road rage incidents in the so called power centric societies than the societies which are not so powerful . This probably is the cause of so many road rage incidents in the North of the country, viz. Delhi, Punjab, Haryana etc. Political power leads to wealth creation and the deadly mixture of the two make the younger generation believe that they are above the law. This is true in all parts of the country in general and the NCR region in particular, for obvious reasons. Also a rampant gun culture does nothing other than to aggravate an already bad situation. The guns give the holders the false sense of power and worse, the holders of these guns are not shy to use them on the fellow human beings on the slightest of pretext. Hence road rage turns deadly and is not limited to exchange of angry words and gestures only( A recent example of this would be the instance where a toll plaza employee was shot down for doing his duty and asking for a toll).

It is not an easy task to stop these incidents. We need to rework on our legal system so that criminal cases arising out of such incidents can be tried in the fast track courts and meaningful reliefs are meted out to the victims or their families while the culprits are handed out exemplary punishments. We need to have stricter policing in accident prone areas and better surveillance systems. Our road network and traffic systems lack proper planning and it is time they are overhauled. Our Public Vehicle Departments should ensure stricter controls on the issue of new as well as renewal of old driving licences. Licenses should under no circumstances be issued to people having any form of criminal past.

Exemplary punishments to the errant drivers can surely be a deterrent but, for a holistic solution, we need to introspect further. We need to look back and think about the values we and our society stand for – values that, over the centuries, have made India a great social and cultural society. Caught in the high tide of consumerism, we have, probably, forgotten the social and family values and we may have to go back to the drawing board. We should have special classes for our children to instil in them the values that teach us to be compassionate to other human beings and to treat everyone equally.

Although we do have such classes in most schools, they need to be meaningful and these should be backed up with workshops where the children can learn through play acting. Parents should not shower their kids with unnecessary expensive gift items. Though all parents provide their children with such expensive gifts to make them happy, it often has the unintended impact of making the children believe that they can have whatever they want to in life…whether they deserve it or not. Gun licenses should be strictly regulated and people who are offenders in any way whatsoever should be punished, irrespective of their social position. For the grown ups, proper counselling at various stages and places, including at even the work places, be conducted to teach our youth to treat women with respect This will stop road rage incidents involving women as it is often noted that male drivers tend to bully female ones without any legitimate reason.

Surely the measures, suggested above, can, at least, mitigate the problem to some extent. On our part we should try and be responsible citizens of this great country the age old adage, “Live and Let Live” with a view to making our roads better and safer.

Samyak is someone with wide variety of interests from social work to politics to sports etc. A fun loving extrovert sort of person, he is always willing to participate in constructive forums which help hone his soft as well as hard skills. A keen observer of political events and always willing to scratch the surface and go deeper into the political actions of politicians.