Time To Wake Cop

“Never drive faster than your guardian angel can fly.” – Unknown

‘Practice what you preach’, something all of us were taught back in school. Going by that, shouldn’t enforcers of laws be practicing much more, of what  they are preaching and enforcing?

I happened to see this police towing van today. It was about 1945 hrs, the van had stopped to pick up a few bikes parked in a no-parking stretch. Look at the lights. Or the place where the lights were. A ‘police’ towing van with the left tail lights not working, and the left tail lights missing/ broken.

Road Safety Training for Cops

And that’s not it. At another part of the same stretch of road, where I was cycling in the last lane, a car that was parked, pulled out a short distance in  front of me without indicating and without the lights on. Just like that. And when I looked to see who the crazy was, the bloke was actually busy on the cell phone. He went a short distance, and turned into a lane at a signal light, and turned on the indicator halfway into the turn (like that would serve any purpose). There was a lady cop right there, who seemed too busy picking her nose to bother with stopping someone who was on the cell phone while driving. As I rode on, I got to a stretch where I had to move into first lane (as all other lanes turned left). There, a police bike overtook right in front of me from the wrong (left) side, and the cop did not have his tail lights on either.

While we were growing up, we were also told that politicians are public servants. But if you look around, the public seems to have become the servants. I have seen tens of kilometres of road being cleared in a flash by the traffic police when a politician’s convey is going to pass through. And I have seen ambulances carrying patients who need to be rushed to the hospital having to wait it out, with the same cops either not bothering to channel traffic or doing it with the least possible sense of urge. The same chaps who are in the most crisp and quickest mode imaginable when a minister’s motorcade is going by. Like corrupt politicians, do you cops also believe the common man is the servant, and is somehow less deserving than the politicians?

I’ll tell you that a major percentage of people in India do not have much road sense as such.

  • So does the traffic police intend to bring about a positive change?
  • If yes, how does the traffic police intend to bring about that change if they themselves are not up to speed on so many traffic related issues?
  • How do you plan to enforce when you yourselves either are not aware, or do not bother or follow or care about rules?

Bikers still continue to ride on the wrong side of the road at several places. That should be made a criminal offense. Most people feel their life is precious and all that, and I don’t think anyone deserves to put their life at risk just because some retard decided to save time and fuel by riding on the wrong side of a road.

Mr. Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic), please wake up.! Make your team capable enough to serve the purpose they have been recruited to serve. I’d be glad to have an opportunity to work with your team to make the Bombay Traffic Police a trendsetter for the rest of the country towards effecting road safety.

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I Need a Light

“Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?” – George Carlin

Have you ever driven at a fairly reasonable speed (how much ever that is 😉 ) toward a crossroad and glanced to check the signal light, but could not see one? And did you then slow down, or maintain speed through the intersection?

Obstructed view of signal lights can be a cause of serious accidents. Because when the lights are not visible for whatever reason, the reaction of the individual driver, then varies from driver to driver. And each driver’s thought process, decision-making ability, speed of reaction, and mere sense of self-preservation can vary significantly.

I need a light #1

Which means you could have bikers coasting across with a blind faith, or a fearless driver of a truck or SUV daring to go through, confident of the strength of his or her ride.

So, to avoid all of that, what is extremely important is:

  • to have strategically placed and properly functioning signal lights
  • to ensure that the view of signals is NEVER obstructed, be it by banners, tree branches, or electric poles
  • to ensure signals at critical intersections are kept on 24/7; it is not so much about saving electricity, as it is about serving the purpose, and usually late nights and early mornings are when they are really important

I need a light #2

Another specific problem that I have noticed at several locations in Bombay is, the presence of either a second signal light, or an electric pole right in front of signal lights. And not at one location, but at a few. It is impossible for me to figure out the thought process that must have gone behind something like that. I’ll leave it to the concerned authorities to do the needful.

I need a light #3

Either way, you MUST ALWAYS remember to be extra-alert when driving through an intersection.

Around the Bend

“A tree never hits an automobile except in self defense.” – American Proverb

The death of the 2 Tandel sisters in a horrific car accident in Palo Alto was extremely tragic. Mr. Tandel was driving his wife and four daughters back home after Black Friday shopping, when his SUV collided with a highway patrol car, flipped over a few times, during which time 2 of the girls were flung out of the car. His wife is critical.

While the reason for the crash is yet to be ascertained, it brings up two critical things we must remember, when on the road.

Firstly, always, always use seat-belts, be it on long journeys, or even while driving to the grocery store a few blocks away. You might be sane, slow and responsible behind the wheel, but there are a good number of crazies who’ve got driving licences as well. And not to forget the average jaywalker and ‘immortal’ pedestrians.

The second, is about anything or anyone stopping in the fast lane (that is the first or extreme right side lane here in India). I’ve seen innumerable instances in various parts of India, where cars that have broken down are being fixed in the first lane, or workers are painting dividers just around a bend in the road, or there are water tankers watering plants along the middle of a highway, just after a bend.

The first and fast lane is named so for a reason. It is the FASTEST lane. While a lot of our fellow drivers on the road seem to have forgotten that today, which is why we often have highways here, on which the first lane would have a car chugging along at 30 km/h, the second and possibly third lanes would be blocked with trucks and trailers going even slower. Leaving the slightly faster drivers like myself the only option of having to zip around from the last or slow lane.

But if we were to still assume and give the first lane the importance it deserves, you would understand the dangers of having an obstruction of any kind in that lane. Any vehicle that breaks down or has a flat tire, must first be moved to the extreme left side of the road before being fixed.

And as for the people painting dividers and tankers watering plants, or whatever else, there must be well-lit hazard signs and traffic cones placed well before where they are. And if work is being done soon after a bend in the road, the hazard signs and other indicators must be placed a reasonable distance before the turn itself.

Because if it is placed after the turn, it gives very little reaction time to the driver when faced suddenly with something blocking their lane. When the signs are placed well before the bend in the road, it gives drivers enough time to slowly change lanes well before they reach such an obstruction.

Be wise on the roads. In this fast-paced world we live in, mistakes tend to produce results way before we realize we’ve made them.

Zig-a-Zig-ah

“It takes 8,460 bolts to assemble an automobile, and one nut to scatter it all over the road.” – Unknown

To begin with, I must apologize for the images below. It almost feels like a mix  of the black & white scenes from Sin City and Kill Bill. Anyway, this post is about a habit some of us have of driving between two lanes, instead of driving inside one.

Many people often find it easier and less stressful to drive straight by driving exactly over the white lane demarcating line, so that the line passes right down the middle of the car.

For a vehicle behind you that’s trying to overtake, this type of driving ends up blocking 2 lanes. I agree this would have been a very comfortable way, if you were driving the only car on the road. Unfortunately that not being so, it helps to drive INSIDE a lane, such that you driving exactly between two white lines on the road.

That way one of those two lanes would be freed up for an overtaking vehicle. This would dramatically reduce the number of cars that have to zig-zag on the road, trying to find a way past you and others like you.

The Chicken Crossing The Road

“Too bad that all the people who know how to run the country are busy driving taxicabs and cutting hair.” – George Burns

Many of us have experienced riding in a car at night, when a random dog decided to give your car a chase, barking menacingly. It is usually quite amusing, especially when you suddenly stop the car when it starts the chase. The moment the car stops, the dog gets really puzzled and usually walks away disinterested. I say usually because sometimes, the moment you move again, the chase starts again.

I believe we all (at least here in India) do something similar while crossing the road. And unfortunately it is not half as amusing as dogs chasing cars, but it certainly is much more dangerous.

I don’t know if you would call it a natural habit of the masses, a cheap thrill, or something else. Our chances of crossing a road when required, become higher when there is a vehicle approaching. Say one were standing on the side, waiting to cross. They would tend to dart just before an approaching car, irrespective of the speed, and even if there is no other car behind that one for a good 2 kilometres.

And it isn’t only youngsters, or adrenaline-seeking college-goers who do it. There are old people who dart across. Some of them, even with a limp, when it would always make more ‘normal’ sense to wait only about 7 seconds for the car to pass. Sometimes the wait might be longer, but it is always less stressful, for the people crossing, as well as for the drivers.

I’ve been guilty of it when I was a college kid. To a point that some relatives and friends would be afraid to cross the road with me. It took a real close shave where I barely managed to cross one speeding car and then had to let my forearms take a massive pounding across the entire length of another car in the next lane, to realize that my timing isn’t always bang-on. Your timing isn’t either.

Guess I’ve gotten a bit wiser now. I hope everyone else would too. After all, those few lost seconds waiting could be made up elsewhere. The thrill of darting across could be sought from a sport instead. And it would also make driving too a lot less stressful in our villages, towns and cities. Cross when it is safe to.!

Are You Kid-in?

“Hugs your kids at home, but belt them in the car.” – Unknown.

I have observed on innumerable occasions elders walking on roads holding kids by the hand. Only problem being, they’re holding the kid with the wrong hand.

Several pedestrians prefer to walk on roads instead of on pavements. For which of course I admit,  there are a good amount of reasons at least in several parts of India. From shrinking pavements to street vendors occupying significant portions of it, to people who suddenly stop in groups to talk thus obstructing the path, to pavements covered with stuff dogs left behind.

And while driving with pedestrians coming uncomfortably close to your car is bad enough, what’s worse is, seeing them walk with a kid alongside, only with the kid walking on the outside, closer to the traffic instead of being closer to the pavement.

Parents and others who walk with kids alongside need to realize that it is hard enough for drivers to spot grownups itself, as they zip in and out between parked cars and walk alongside while they drive. But it is even more difficult to spot a child who’s perhaps one-third your height.

So whatever be your reason for doing it so far, make it a habit to keep that kid safe the next time you decide to go for a walk with it. Keep them on the inside or on the side of the pavement, not on the side of the road.!

Might As Well Jump?

“Google is working on self-driving cars, and they seem to work. People are so bad at driving cars that computers don’t have to be that good to be much better.” – Marc Andreessen

Here’s an extremely common and quite a dangerous mistake some drivers make. Consider the following image, where four cars have stopped at a red signal light.

All of a sudden, the driver of the red car realizes that the second lane has fewer cars, and the driver decides to quickly switch to the next lane. That, is an extremely dangerous thing to do, especially since most often, people do not check their side-view mirrors to ensure that no cars are headed into that lane you plan to jump into.

Here’s how it is dangerous. The driver of approaching yellow car [image below, VW New Beetle] gauges an approximate distance [“A”] between his or her car and the the white car behind which he or she has to stop (in second lane). So, the driver starts breaking accordingly.

Now with the red car suddenly deciding to cut lanes, that distance-to-stop for the yellow car reduces significantly, because the driver of that car is not anticipating someone to suddenly cut into their lane. So, the distance-to-stop is now not between the yellow car and the white car, but between the yellow car and the red one [distance of, say “B”]. That “B” could be less than half or a third the distance of A, which means the driver of the yellow car has that much lesser time to respond to the new stopping point, and the car has to cope with the sudden braking to avoid an accident. And even after that, it would really depend on the two distances (A and B), the driver’s alertness, braking power of the yellow car, condition of the brakes, blah, blah and so on, that will decide if an accident occurs or not.

All of this can easily be avoided by choosing your lane intelligently, and making sure it’s absolutely safe, before changing lanes. So, think about it the next time you’re stuck behind a never ending line of cars, and the next lane looks really tempting.