Drive us crazy

On this blog, David has been regularly focusing on the traffic scene in Chennai and the accidents caused by mindless driving. In the past few years the number of vehicles on the roads have quadrupled. A majority of them are two-wheelers who need just over an inch of space to squeeze past, but that is a subject for another day.

What I have been noticing over the past few months is the tremendous increase in driver driven vehicles. Yes there are many many new cars on the road and most of the drivers seem like owners. But do this: at peak hour on any working day, take a look at the driver’s seat of all the cars that bully their way past you. Don’t bother looking at yellow Fast Track cabs, just look at private vehicles. You will find that most of these vehicles are driven by twenty/ thirty-something chaps who are out to win the race. They will necessarily overtake you on the left and you will have to swerve in time or jam the brake to save yourself.

The demand for drivers has definitely gone up – two trends indicate it: one is the salaries that the drivers ask for. Two years ago, Rs.3000 was a high sum for a driver unless he were a corporate employee. Today, the average salary is anywhere between 3500 – 5000 depending upon the area you live in. And this is just the fixed amount. In addition the drivers expect a daily bata of 20 – 30. The second trend is the increasing presence of the new breed of rash drivers I mentioned earlier. A standard profile in this category is previous mechanic shop experience + driving a 420 (the colloquialism for a load vehicle) for n months. These guys typically offer to take a lower salary, say 3000 + bata, which tempts a lot of people to employ them. However their driving skills and road sense are highly questionable. Most professional drivers, I mean the really experienced ones, either drive fancy cabs or freelance. There are agencies these days who send you drivers on demand, you pay anywhere between 100 – 200 for five hours in addition to providing them a vehicle filled with fuel!

The chaotic behaviour of traffic requires that professional drivers be far more skilled than earlier. This is an ideal that is virtually impossible to attain unless licensing tests are tightened. If you pause for a moment to capture the sequence of thoughts triggered by ‘licensing’ it would probably be quite similar to mine, which is

driving skill –> tighter licensing test –> licensing? –> bribe RTO –> corruption –> everywhere –> hopeless –> no control –> tighten laws –> oh these politicians –> life stinks –> forget it

See, how soon one tends to blame every situation as hopeless?

A friend and I were reminiscing about cycle-rickshaws the other day and I asked him what had happened to the rickshaw drivers who were out of a job when rickshaws were banned. He jokingly told me, “don’t you know, they moved to autos.” And you know what happened to the ex-auto drivers? They moved to cars too. Seriously.

5 Comments so far

  1. Nandhu (unregistered) on July 8th, 2006 @ 6:44 pm

    that aint dull.

    u shuld have posted one photo of ur driver. :) may be as an example of a good driver.

  2. Lavanya (unregistered) on July 8th, 2006 @ 6:46 pm

    Nandhu – where do you think all my knowledge comes from? Personal experience!

  3. Nandhu (unregistered) on July 8th, 2006 @ 7:21 pm

    uhuh. when men have personal experiences and write about them, they are asked about the relevance of the post. my first blog here was quite controversial that way.

    with women, it’s a different story. but this was about the city and did have a lot of relevance.

  4. david (unregistered) on July 8th, 2006 @ 8:14 pm

    Hey Lavanya! Way to go! I’m not a lonely voice in the widerness anymore. Had done a post about my experience at the RTO as well. Full of touts and ‘drivers’ who didn’t look like they could drive to save their lives. Probably cleaners who were being graduated. No problem with upward mobility, provided the license tests are stringent and they follow rules.

  5. S (unregistered) on July 10th, 2006 @ 4:42 am

    Yes,as the last part people are graduating to the next levels. Isn’t it quite good?. Eventhough I agree with what you say ,I would like to add a few more stuff. You accept the fact that the number of vehicles have quadrupled. But you forgot to mention the infrastructure is the same as 10 years before. On Mount Road from say Guindy to Santhi theatre can we increase the breadth of the roads? Assume that a project is approved by the goverment(highly unlikely) How may stay orders and how many obstacles should it go through to complete the project in 10 years which is being intented for 6 months to completion. At the end of the day everything boils down to development,rights,corruption, bribes and all the other stuff we can remember.
    One question before I winds up. 5 years back we walked to the bus stop or to the near by shop. Today how many of us bother to walk @least 10 yards get the bus or get the cigar? I have been watching this for the last 2 years @ least.

    We continue to live our lives by blaming the system, establshment and so on. That’s humane.

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