India's highway to hellish behaviour | Asia Pacific

India's highway to hellish behaviour

India's highway to hellish behaviour

Updated 7 August 2014, 13:16 AEST

India's growing love affair with the car has brought with it a new set of challenges.

Of late, there's been some distinctly un-lovely behaviour among drivers, especially in India's bigger crowded cities.

Some road rage incidents have even ended in death.

Reporter: Murali Krishnan

Speakers: Maxwell Pereira, former traffic police commissioner; Prince Singhal, campaigner against drunk driving; Dipankar Gupta, sociologist and Hiralal, road rage victim.

KRISHNAN: Hiralal Pandey, a driver in the capital has just come out of hospital with a fractured collar bone. He was pulled out of his vehicle he was driving as he accidentally grazed a BMW sports car.

PANDEY: There was no space in the traffic jam. The man just got out and started thumping me. They pinned me down and started hitting me.

KRISHNAN: The growing number of cars and finding a place to park them is one of Delhi's biggest urban nightmares. It has also led to a host of other problems - traffic congestion, encroachments, no walking place, quarrels, road rages and even murders.

KRISHNAN: From nearly 4 million vehicles vehicles in 2002-03, the number has risen to 7.5 million in 2013, an 88 per cent increase in Delhi. And all this just cars. Lack of adequate parking space has led to all kinds of crimes. Last year, parking caused 27 cases of violence, say the police.

Dipankar Gupta, a sociologist has been studying this phenomenon closely.

GUPTA: In India why there are road rages is because there is a lack of laxity in the enforcement of law…people who break the law they are not really held up. There is an unevenness in which the traffic police who haul up those who violate the traffic regulation...which leads to the view that if other s can do it why can't I? That is a major feature in road rage.

KRISHNAN: Behaviours that have been included range from verbal abuse, gestures and horn-honking through aggressive driving practices to threats, assaults and, in extreme cases, murder. With cars and buses grazing fenders with farm tractors, motorbikes and the occasional ox-driven cart, the problems only increase.

KRISHNAN: Many of the deaths that have occurred on the roads involving cars have been for frivolous reasons. A man was beaten to death after upsetting his killer's plate of takeaway chicken tikka when he opened his car door; another was stabbed to death after scraping a car and then a petrol pump attendant was run over and killed in a dispute over correct change.

Prince Singhal, campaigner against drunk driving says a lot of incidents of road rage have been fuelled by alcohol.

SINGHAL: We have involved the police and government departments… we are working with the liquor lobby, the bars, pubs and restaurants. So today there has been a mass awareness on this issue because in the last 2 or 3 years there have been major accidents… a lot of innocent people have lost their lives, a lot of celebrities have got involved in drunk driving… unfortunately in India, they go scot free because there is no law.

KRISHNAN: The increasing number of vehicles, motorists' hurry to reach their destinations, and low tolerance levels are leading to a rise in the number of incidents of road rage in city.

Maxwell Pereira, a former traffic commissioner sounds a dismal warning.

MAXWELL: It is something that we should not be proud of. The infrastructure has not really kept pace with it. The country's infrastructure in terms of roads and other facilities, the road furniture, the kind of safety features for road engineering is not there!

Mr. Gupta has an interesting take on the incidents.

GUPTA: In my view most people own vehicles in our country which are way beyond their actual earning capacity. Therefore when they own a car, they feel this is car is so precious that anybody who slightly nicks it has committed a grievous assault. We do spend more than what we should on vehicles of this kind. We spend way beyond our means and this also creates a certain degree of tension, which is built in the moment we sit into the vehicle!

KRISHNAN: Road accidents have already earned India a dubious distinction. With over 130,000 deaths annually, the country has overtaken China and now has the worst road traffic accident rate worldwide.

Road rage has only added to the disturbing statistics.

Mr Gupta has the last word

GUPTA: I think at the bottom, the real issue is that we really cannot afford to drive the cars we drive.

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