IF Usain Bolt and Michel Phelps had been Indians they would not have got gold medals. They would have been disqualified — in both disciplines, whether on the track or in the water the lanes are clearly marked. Changing lanes invites an immediate disqualification.
The Chandigarh Police has started to do the same. Stick to your lane on Jan Marg or face a challan. But it is easier said than done. Most Indian drivers do not know basic road rules like “keep left, overtake from the right”. And those who do, choose to ignore them.
So the first lesson — Jan Marg has three lanes. The left is for buses, trucks and ambulances. This is a sign well posted. The centre lane is where you should be driving. If you decide to overtake, check your outside rear view mirror, move into the right lane, overtake, and move back into the centre lane.
If you have to turn right, like exiting Sector 9 to enter Sector 10, you may be in the right-hand lane. Also, it’s easy to move at 40-50 km/p.h. At that speed it’s not necessary to overtake. Proceed orderly and you will reach the roundabout or the traffic light without causing chaos.
Another experiment that the Chandigarh Police is trying out is synchronising traffic lights. This system has proved successful in Singapore, Germany and Finland. These counties are the most disciplined in the world. The drivers are educated, have a sense of road etiquette, good manners and national pride. Every single one of these attributes is missing in India. They also do not ‘buy’ their licence.
In addition, a fast moving Mercedes in Germany, Finland or Singapore will never be stuck behind a hand-drawn cart, a cycle rickshaw. Synchronised lights will only work if the roads are exclusively dedicated to motorised traffic that can maintain a minimum speed of 40-50 km/p.h.
In Singapore, smoking, spitting, urinating, defecating and chewing gum is forbidden in public. These laws are strictly enforced. In India there is no such thing as law enforcement of road rules.
Some of the small German towns have no traffic lights. They follow one very basic road rule, “traffic on the right has priority”. They follow this rule almost religious fervour. Their road fatality figures support this.
England is the same. Highly disciplined! Even in a public urinal they stand in a queue.
Finland is a small country and has a population of about five million (1/3 of Delhi). Everybody is educated, disciplined and law abiding.
What works in these countries cannot work in India. The problem being the Indian mindset. Primarily we are not law abiding people, ignorant of road rules and lacking discipline. Strict enforcement of road rules, heavy fines and harsh punishments that act as a deterrent. That is the need of the hour.
A sign at the Air Force Club in New Delhi reads, “Almost as important as knowing the rules, is knowing how to behave on the course”. We should follow this advise on the roads as well.