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Traffic Chaos and Reforms: Analysis and way forward

Sharing with Praja members, two compilations.

Thanks, ASJ

asj's picture

Traffic chaos on Indian roads: A Psychiatrists Perspective

A wise man once said that the character of a nation can be judged by how its people drive on the streets. Road sense on Indian streets is often completely missing. The consequent chaos is on display for the whole world to mock and laugh by way of hundreds of videos on Youtube. Being a psychiatrist, I have always wondered and tried to understand the genesis of the pathology or indiscipline on Indian roads. Over time I have come up with a few theories, some I have discarded myself. I will however present to the interested reader below - Indian masses have been subjugated and ruled over by others ''foreign powers'' for hundreds of years. People were left powerless and enslaved. Could it be that the chronic dis-empowerment of the masses has led to a paradoxical ''abuse of the freedom'' we gained about 60 years ago? Then there is the Maslow's hierarchy of needs. As seen in the diagram below, the basic needs of hunger and safety (security is a better word) need to be fulfilled before being able to move to more civil ways of living, eventually leading to self actualisation. Again, could it be that the since gaining freedom we have struggled with ''poverty'' and hence for huge majority रॊटी, कपडा और मकान is a bigger challenge to think and deal with rather than road safety. (wikipedia image inserted by blr_editor) But then look at the roads in South Africa, despite a similar history to ours and years of subjugation, lack of freedom and economic instability, their roads are far better than those in India with regards discipline and following of the traffic rules. May be then the The Western / UK drivers can follow rules more easily as the roads are bigger and number of vehicles very few. Perhaps they can do so because they do not have multiple modes of transport (rickshaw, motor bikes et al). Or could it be that their road signage is so good that drivers find it easier to follow rules? In realty though, many Western cities have population densities similar to ours. In the Western world 80% use personal vehicles, this means car densities may be even higher than those seen on Indian roads. Most EU cities are historical and do not always have wide roads. Congestion and traffic jams are common, but one hardly ever hears any honking. And rules are followed by all, including those on bikes, cycles, mobility scooters, buses, truck drivers.....the lot. In fact as explained on my FAQ, The videos are even more relevant to 2/3 wheel drivers. Often these vehicles do not have mirrors (definitely there is no rear view). This then makes checking blind spot more important for such drivers. The principle of MSM (video 2), dealing with traffic lights, dealing with junctions (giving way), dealing with roundabouts, speed limits, keeping safe distance (far more important for 2 wheelers which take longer to stop than cars), tailgating and the biggest of all - showing courtesy - everything applies to all types of vehicles, cyclists included. Could it be that the Indian culture and tradition of hospitality was lost by us over centuries? Some of our behaviours like spitting across each others face, littering, honking at each other and lack of consideration for fellow humans on our roads suggests this is a huge problem. But then will this be a reason for our poor record on road safety and indiscipline? Now the Western culture is not any more courteous or better than ours. From mugging to gun crime, all vices are rife in most cities. In fact ethical and moral violations are as common (if not more) in the Western world. I am hence inclined to think this in itself does not completely explain the chaos on Indian roads. The other possible explanation is the ''power equation''. Being a populated country, there is competition right from the word go. We have to struggle to get places in schools, universities and jobs. Its cut throat. Perhaps this habitual competitive streak which we end up with is seen on our roads as well, where every vehicle driver tries to occupy every inch available at the cost of road safety and discipline. The other related thought is the powerlessness one experiences in our lives. My doctor colleagues render patients powerless, as a doctor in a bus, the conductor renders me powerless. The बाबू अ at the window or the telephone company man or the civic official meant to rectify the water supply...... the person in the seat of power constantly leaves the other feeling vulnerable and weak. Almost habitually then, perhaps the driver of a vehicle, suddenly finds himself / herself in the seat of power and ruthlessly deems or makes an effort to deem everyone else, especially the pedestrians completely powerless. However, all the above happens between every interacting humans across the globe and yet traffic discipline in many countries is superior to that in India. One final piece of the jigsaw is ''education and awareness''. Yet, it is not formal education (whether one completed schooling) that matters. What matters is the driver education and training which instils the right road habits at the outset. Britain has one of the toughest driving test which can be taken even by school dropouts, the point is by the time one passes the test, the correct road etiquette is ingrained in to the drivers. I would think that the above covers numerous possibilities. To me its know-how and training at the outset which is useful. This includes know-how which traffic authorities need to have. This very nicely brings me to collating my thoughts on how Indian road traffic can be reformed. To read more on how we could reform India's traffic and road culture, click here. Dr. Adhiraj Joglekar Visit www.driving-india.blogspo... Your one stop resource to video tutorials covering all aspects of defensive driving.
tsubba's picture

soopar doc

very interesting collection of thesis doc. and i am immensely impressed that, like a good teacher, you have resisted the urge to give the "answer". i will attempt to arrive at an answer if you promise not to psychoanalyze me by looking at my "worksheet" :) rofl!!!
idontspam's picture

Part 2 of 2

DrASj you have admirably identified one of the root causes of the problems facing the traffic situation in the country today. This is exactly what is needed and we need to push this to the authorities for enforcement. I feel these suggestions are directly actionable leaving the authorities only the details to be worked out.

At the same time I feel this is only 50% of the story and importantly the 2nd half. The first half is to ensure the right kind of traffic engineering is done on the roads consistently across the city.  You would have noticed the instructions in the training refer to specific signals on the road for which the driver needs to respond to in an appropriate way. Without the right kind of road markings and signboards we will be teaching the driver to look for an respond to non existent signals thus defeating the very purpose of training. A very good example was the non-existent speed limit signboard on NH7. What good will training be if nobody know what is the speed limit to be followed?

I hope if we are following the British system of training at least we can borrow their best practices in traffic engineering along with it.

bialterminal's picture

a few additions

Hi Adhiraj

That's an excellent and interesting writeup. But I would like to add a couple of more things which I have observed

1) excuses and fingerpointing - This happens to an extent in developed countries but to a huge extent in India. Here are some scenarios and these were the answers given to me when I walked up and asked the folks to try and understand their behaviour

   a)scenario 1 - delhi airport, passengers using the water cooler and then depositing the disposable cups there all around the water cooler. Here are the answers I got when I politely asked them why ->

               1. why are you bothered?

               2. there is no waste basket around. (this was correct, but just to demonstrate the fact that it doesn' take much to find one i picked up the cup asked him to follow me, walked around till I found one and threw it there). 

               3. don't worry, the cleaning folks will clean it, why are you asking? It is the airport staff's responsibility to keep it clean anyway.

b) scenario 2 - bangalore, Jayanagar. I saw residents dumping garbage on the street and in an empty abandoned site where no house had been built. I asked several people why and here are the responses (given the fact that there was a garbage disposal bin at the end of the street)

             1. I of course got "who the hell are you" cold silent stares with some asking why are you bothered?

             2. Corporation is not doing it's job, they haven't provided a garbage disposal bin.

             3. The one at the end of the street is too far away.

             4. When I asked a home owner the reply was - my servent does it, I have no control.

             5. Another reply was "the empty site is not being used for many years anyway, why bother?"

c) bangalore airport during checkin - people not following a queue system for checkin and the x-ray machine. Here are the responses I got when asked those who jumped queue -

         1. sorry, i did not know if the person in front was in the queue (all the guy had to do was ask if the guy in front was in the queue)

         2. who can tell where the line is, it is very confusing. (if each person does his job of dutifully forming and following an orderly queue the confusion would not be there in the first place)

The long story short in a nutshell ->

Now, the above 3 scenarios and the replies tell a lot. Please note that the folks I talked to seemed like educated middle class or upper middle class folks. All the points in your post are valid but to me they seem like excuses of a society that complains but does nothing. If we are given a good road with lanes I am sure folks will come up with 100 different reasons why they can't follow lane discipline as opposed to the approach of..hey, we need to follow lane discipline so what does it take to achieve that & let's get it done.

 But when it comes to other (sometimes misplaced) priorities, somehow there is an electric effect and things seem to fall in place such as -

1) When it comes to religion, rituals are somehow dutifully followed down to the last detail. Ashrams and temples are spotlessly clean. People follow queue systems etc. Building a golden temple ( which shows that we actually have the money and will to do anything (please note that I am not trying to hurt anybody's sentiments here).  

2) Displaying loyalty to a language - destinations on local buses in kannada in Bangalore or Tamil in chennai and of course kannada license plates. I noticed that on many buses in the city destinations written in english had just disappeared and been replaced with kannada. Not that I care but goes to show that if there is will anything can be done. 

3) Renaming cities, railway stations, airports etc. to show how Indian or Kannadiga or Tamilian etc. we are

From what I have observed India to a larger extent  has an excuse giving society largely who as a group will complain about everything including garbage and filth etc. but will not take individual responsibility and do something about what we complain. When you extrapolate this attitude and behaviour to the folks who are supposed to build roads and maintain them OR drive on them you will get the same results of badly designed roads, no enforcement, no accountability, confusion & anarchy. Hopefully education right from the school level will solve this fundamental issue.




Functional anarchy

The late US Ambassador to India, John Kennenth Galbraith, an admirer of India in the 1970s, described India as a "Functional Anarchy". The emphasis is on functional, but still even now, India is still the anarchy it was back in the 70s.

Back in ancient times, people in the country had a concept of "rule of law" by adhering to "dharma". But successive waves of colonisation both by Islamic rule and British rule relegated the concept of absolute morality to the dustbin.

In my experience, Bangalore traffic atleast follows *some* rules. When the helmet rule was reintroduced, people have started religiously following it. This is because it is easy for the police to spot people without the helmet.

It is the threat of fines which forces people to follow rules. If at all Bangalore had much more traffic police per capita, then there could have been a force forcing people to follow rules.

Proper signage and simple infrastructure such as cats eyes, barricades, dividers are very essential and infact more required than underpasses and magicboxes. 

Traffic Warden

The state government is within it's power to start a scheme of "Traffic Wardens":

IMO, the following could be implemented:

  • For the nearly 150 wards of BBMP atleast 10 "Traffic Wardens" per ward could be recruited
  • PUC pass candidates with no criminal background and candidates from the wards could be recruited
  • About a total of 1500 - 2000 traffic wardens
  • They can be financed by a cess on Bangalore vehicles. It is estimated that 3.5 crore litres of diesel and 4.5 crore litres of petrol is sold per month in Bangalore
  • A cess of Rs. 2 on diesel and Rs. 3 on petrol would yield about Rs. 20 crores per month and increase in traffic fines will get in more money - enough to fund the salaries of traffic wardens and installing and maintaining simple infrastructure 
idontspam's picture

Warden not required

Wardens are not a solution they are temporary help. developed nations do not even need police manning junctions why? How do we get there? answer is simple just 3 points

1. Gold standard road engineering

2. Gold standard certification process for driving instructors and drivers 

3. Control/Enforcement with strict punishments

 Implement in the same order and see the improvement. All other aspects like curtailing the number of vehicles on the road etc will fall under the broad heading control. Religion, language, not standing in queue, coffee cups etc doesnt fix traffic

Wardens more easier than upgrading infrastructure

Here is a relevant article in todays "The Hindu":

In that the author says, "There is no dearth of rules but utter absence of enforcement. As the statistics show, we are clearly not prepared to follow the rules on our own.

navshot's picture

3Es of traffic

Since we are comparing some of the western countries, we have to see how they look at it too. They have policy of 3Es - Engineering, Education and Enforcement. If I have to rate 1 to 10, with 1 being the lowest, Bangalore scores below 3 on all of them.

-- navshot

-- navshot
silkboard's picture

nice post doc, and great comments

Have been reading so far, but have to jump in now to compliment excellent post and the comments.

Doc asj, your opening line here - a nation can be judged by its drivers - I agree so so much. I have expressed the felt the same to friends several times, and I have tried to analyze this a bit deeper. One theory I have is that a car is like a shell, or a mask. Others can't see you. So you behave your real self (controversial take, you can change that to - you behave worse that when you are not in the shell). How does this apply to the bikes? In my empirical observation, a biker with helmet and dark visor on, is more likely to be rash  than the bikers without helmet or face exposed. Watch and let me know if you agree.

Autos beath this theory to hell though. Autos and cabs are a little different beast. They make a living on the roads. In all our chose field of work, we bend the rules as much as we can without getting punishment. Auto or cabs have the same 'right', they are no better or worse than us in our chosen businesses. 

Beyond all this, there is one important thing that Dr asj says here. Many Bangaloreans think that we don't have enough roads for our cars. One only has to go to european countries to realize that the roads of Bangalore are sufficient to manage the current population of vehicles, and perhaps even more. Sadly enough, there is no reliable data available on road length of Bangalore for us to back that saying with numbers (number of vehicles to population to road surface area compariosn across some euro cities and Bangalore).

It appears to be an unmanageable situation because we don't do enough thinking on enforcement and traffic regulation. The easiest thing that comes to planners mind (and why not, most Bangaloreans too think this way) is that we need more road surface. So we do widening, elevating etc.

  • When adding more road surface area, there should be proportional Investment made on policing and enforcement infrastructure. This doesn't happen. (will get numbers to prove this, wait a month or so). Same point as mcadambi's point about more wardens.
  • When building more road surface, you need proportionate amount of pedestrian pavements, pedestrian fences (or else you will make them walk on the road), traffic markings and signs, and traffic lights. Does this happen? No. Roads are built via one project, pavements are enhanced via another, traffic lights are added via another, and lane markings and signs is painted via yet another. Its like three different cooks adding salt, spices and water to a single dish - output is bound to be bad. Same point as idontpsam, bialterminal's points about traffic engineering.
  • Reason given is lack of structure for coordination amongst various agencies. May be there is truth to that, I am yet to understand and investigate how this coordination happens (in shoddy ways today) and is supposed to happen (if all went by the books).
Speaking of enforcement, look at Airport road for a ready example. It takes us almost the same time to go from Marathahalli to Domlur now as it used to when HAL airport was operational. Why? I am guessing because the Traffic Police has taken out some personnel who used to man this road. Again, can't confirm this, but is based on observation (don't see as many police folks during all hours of the day).
blrpraj's picture

idontspam,Traffic chaos is


Traffic chaos is just a symptom of a larger deep rooted cancer.

Some clarifications (if I may) in response to your observation "Religion, language, not standing in queue, coffee cups etc doesnt fix traffic". In my post I had brought up these issues to illustrate a larger problem which can perhaps help explain the disrepair accross the board be it traffic, corruption, law enforcement, filthy cities etc. You may be surprised how  these are interdependent and can maifest in the traffic chaos seen today because there are streets overflowing with garbage encroaching on precious road space. About those lazy folks not throwing coffe cups in a garbage can a few feet away in Delhi can we expect them to do their part in keeping the roads free from encroachment?  About those not following a queue system, that is prceisely the problem, we want to squeeze into every nook and cranny on the road between vehicles just to get in front of the guy ahead and there goes lane discpline down the drain. If educated middle class folks cannot follow a queue system in an airport what can expect from them behind the wheel of a vehicle?

I perfectly agree about road engineering, enforcement etc. and we have no dearth of experts in these areas. The problem is when we talk about road engineering..various excuses will be given like lack of money, lack of enforcement etc. When we question lack of enforcement there will be other excuses. It is kind of a chicken and egg problem since people at large do not want to do their duty, nor are they held accountable and most often these may not be the priorities. How can we explain the fact then that there is an efficient system in place that works in places of worship like Thirupathi but does not work anywhere else including our roads? How can we explain the fact that a there is money for other activities but no money for basic infrastructure development and enforcement? 

Here is a fact from real life =>

Recently my wife's pregnant cousin was crossing at a pedestrian crossing in a busy Bangalore road (she had the right of way at that time). A motorcycle rider broke a red light and riding on the wrong way bumped into her. He started shouting at her, a traffic constable sees this and came to investigate. In the meantime the motorcycle rider rode off and the constable shouted at her saying she needs to look before crossing and cross fast. When asked why he did not catch the motorcyclist, he said that nothing cannot be done because many motorists do this and the pedestrians need to be careful. Instead of giving excuses the police fellow should have arrrested the motorcycle fellow for riding on the wrong side before uttering a single word. 

In relation to the original post I was analyzing the behaviour of the average educated middle class/upper middle class citizen and illustrating the excuse based behaviour. Extrapolate the behaviour to a larger scale and...there you go...the results are there to be seen. In developed countries if the law enforcement personnel are not doing their job they cannot give excuses and are held accountable. 

How else do developed countries function then? each and every department does it's job be it designing infrastructure or building it and maintaining it or enforcing laws. And, to a larger extent poeple are more disciplined and organized overall. Some of the most beautiful things to observe in the US -

1) If a signal breaks down, the junction automatically becomes a 4 way stop sign and functions with minimum confusion and NO honking other than the odd one irrespective of how busy the junction is. Vehicles stop, allow for the first ones reaching the intersection to go before entering the intersection. No cop watches over anybodies shoulder there. Such a system is virtually impossible in India because the first thing motorists would do is start blaming the faulty signal and then every other driver because each driver thinks he or she owns the road and has the right of way thereby creating a massive gridlock.

2) Public park, pet owners cleanup after their pet. Pckup the droppings and throw it in a trash can. No execuses, it part of the culture here and of course if a cop happens to spot an owner not doing it the owner is ticketed.

Some things to observe in the UK (I am speaking from the experience of what I learnt from my friend in Cardiff when holidaying there) - strict urban planning (yes, this comes out of enforcement no matter how good the design and planning may be)  leading to control in the way traffic gets distributed and flows. He said that he cannot extend his house without approval from the city as well as the neighbhours. Also, neighbourhoods cannot be expanded without strict government scrutiny and approval. Roads & adequate infrastructure are planned in advance before new enghbhourhoods are developed and builders have to confirm to strict regulations.

In the above cases there is a pattern - a) there is a system b) on a large average it is a part of the culture here and people are willing to follow it on their own without excuses. c) hand in hand law enforcement is done to tame those who cross the line.

Ok, now here is a finger pointing example; this is the link from mcadambi's recent post Can anybody point out what is missing in this article other than the usual blame of nobody follows rules? Firstly - what was the child doing jaywalking on the road? People and especially children need to be educated to cross roads in designated places. The motorcyclist in this case needs to be booked for speeding but if it was a busy road then he had the right of way and the irresponsible parent is equally to be blamed. Neighbhourhoods need to proactively work with civic authorities using the RTI act as a tool to get safe road crossing mechanisms like zebra crossings, foot overbridges, etc. implemented as per road design standards. We need to question why residential neighbhourhoods have offices and commercial establishments in gross violation of zoning laws leading to clogged roads. Unless people are willing to be proactive and act responsibly there is only so much that technology and law enforcement can do. We need a grass roots reform in the way we think and our mentality has to change in just about everything from civic sense, to doing our job to following traffic rules.

For somebody landing in the country he need not even see how we drive, it is just enough to see the filth and haphazard development of the cities with crooked roads and streets from the air and the bad airport termnals on landing to get the picture of what the country is like. Delhi was a change though this time because I got to see something that looked like a freeway, an interchange and neat roads. Mumbai definitely not impressive and you get the immediate picture given the Dharavi slums. Bangalore is not impressive either (I haven't landed at the new airport though).  



Vasanth's picture

Warden+Traffic Camera+Tickets for Violation+CongestionCharges

I agree with all that the problem of Bangalore traffic is due to lack of discipline and not due to lack of infrastrucutre. Whatever the infrastructure is put, it will not come to full use since we do not have proper discipline - hence road widening is not a solution. Flyovers and underpasses just can eliminate the delay, but not the chaos.

To eliminate the chaos, we need wardens who can be harsh on the traffic, Cameras using which violators can be traced and a ticket can be sent to them. Major traffic affected roads need to charge congestion charges during peak hours based on the size of the vehicle.

Development of Metro/Mono/BRTS mode of public transit and enforcing people to use this by putting congestion charges is the way forward. We also need good pedestrain walking path and skywalks to cross the roads.

s_yajaman's picture



Your post made my blood pressure shoot up a few notches.  Lawlessness has reached new heights in Bangalore.  I recently read a letter in the paper that someone was actually threatened when he did not "cooperate" in jumping a red light.  I know a couple of people who ended up with fractured arms because someone bumped them riding on a footpath.

Now your cousin's experience and worse the policeman and motorcycle shouting.  I mean how dare he shout at a pregnant lady asking her to walk fast when it was her right of way.  Just shows how indifferent the vast majority of people are to another person's plight.  It is simply about I, me, myself.  If I can gain 10 seconds by running over my grandmother, I will do it. 




Drive safe.  It is not just the car maker which can recall its product.

idontspam's picture

This is a very specific issue

blrpraj, I get your point and understand your broad observations. However much you think this is a broad issue it can be narrowed down to specific actionable items. At the level you have mentioned most people will throw up their hands. You have reiterated what I have said but extended to all walks of life. I suggest reading Tipping point by Malcom Gladwell. He has a "broken window" theory which will explain why the behaviour is contextual and needs to be tackled by taking on focussed steps in a particular area.

You will understand, traffic police, RTO and traffic engineering cell cannot work on fixing peoples mindset outside of the streets. I believe the entire traffic engineering malaise is because of divided responsibility between who actually marks the road vs who puts drivers on the road vs who actually polices them. It requires a change in the way these depts work and how they think. I personally feel the capability does NOT exist in the traffic engineering cell & the RTO to bump it up to gold standards. They may need a generational shift or outside help. While the people who police the streets are left holding the wrong end of the stick.

By disceplining traffic we may be able to tip the culture of the place to be more discplened

PS - I cant spell discepline. I dont think I got it right anywhere

idontspam's picture

No the wardens cant

Really!!! how can the wardens do it when the constables themselves cant? Wardens cannot eliminate chaos and even if they do it is at a particular point and is not a permanent change. Systemic solutions need to be evolved. Which other developed country has cops manning junctions? If this was a solution, why are they not using this method?

Regarding tickets sent home. I know somebody who has 2 tickets sent home. While one of them is valid, the other one is inaccurate he was never where the letter claims to be. What is the dispute mechanism? It may be my ignorance but I dont know because it doesnt say on the ticket how I can dispute it. Now I dont want the cops releasing an ad in the newspaper telling me how to dispute it. It has to be on the ticket. SO what happens if he does not pay the other ticket? He hasnt paid it for over 6 months and is still driving around.

vvr's picture

"We have seen the enemy and he is us"!

Fantastic piece. I have been so obsessed over the past couple of years with this topic that I have been planning to travel to various African and S.American (Since I have seen enough of the other continents) countries to see for myself if the aphorism “a nation can be judged by its drivers” holds any water. I have been mostly doing armchair traveling up to now. Just the other day I was drooling over pictures of downtown Windhoek dreaming of the day Bangalore’s streets will resemble those of the capital of the economic basket case of Namibia. (Hmmm, I wonder if Windhoek blows a hole in this theory)


Let me throw some of my observations into the mix.


1. To quote another great philosopher  (actually this is Pogo, a cartoon character!), “We have met the enemy and he is us”. In other words we, who are recalcitrant and procrastinate in raising our voices against this malady, are the enemy. We who should take a tough stand against the “White Indica with Yellow License Plate” attitude so prevalent in Bangalore, have instead chosen to embrace this attitude. The “we” that I employ is the collective we – drivers of WIWYLP, BMTC drivers, private car drivers, petite software engineers, IISc professors, marketing consultants, Brahmin priests, two wheeler riders etc. (Especially the two wheeler riders. I have a whole movie plot on this last category called “Two-Wheeler Fighter Pilot” at 


The point is --  we the people are breaking the law of the land with impunity and the law enforcers are either too impotent to act or too busy being bought. As bialterminal said we are busy pointing a finger at others not realizing that there are three pointing back at us. This law breaking has become so rampant and widespread that the few law-abiding folks look like fools. 


2. Why is this happening? The good doctor has his theses – all very reasonable. I have my own theories.


o       We as a society behave like we suffer from a great deprivation where there is a shortage of everything. So we have to go grab stuff before the other guy gets it. When I was growing up in the 60s and early 70s this deprivation was widespread – foodstuff, toiletries, automobiles, two wheelers, you name it. So we created a stampede wherever we went. You should have seen the people that mobbed me in my hostel room in Pilani all because I was the proud owner of a medium-size tube of Groom and Clean hair cream that I had somehow managed to get from the US!  

We no longer suffer from such shortages but we seem to carry the institutional memory – it has been coded into our genes it would appear. Only today we do not hanker after a tube of hair cream like we used to. But we still our “shortages” at least in our minds – free space on our roads for example – I have to get there just in case the other guy gets there before me.


o       A sense of entitlement. We believe we own all public property and what we do with is nobody else’s business. This means I can park wherever I want, drive the wrong way on a one-way street, hog two lanes of a road when all I need is one, etc. I do not have a complete grasp of the genesis of this attitude.

o       Driver education. I recently applied for my Karnataka DL. I, who has had a near blemish less driving record of 40 years barely managed to pass my written test where I was stumped by questions like these: what are the dimensions of an “L” board? What do you do if a dog chases you when you are driving a motorbike (my application was for a car license)? How many hand signals are there (not what the hand signal for something is)? There were also some questions on safe overtaking that made no sense at all. The entire learning/testing process for getting a license is antiquated and relies on rote learning. I suppose in one sense it is a reflection of our educational system.


3.      What do we do about this? The idea of traffic wardens have been proposed and thrown out in this thread. I believe that having volunteer traffic wardens that are ordinary citizens (chosen from the citizenry like notary public are chosen in the US and perhaps even in India) to supplement the public servants could be a good start. If there is a volunteer traffic corps made up of incorruptible, law-abiding citizens who keep the wardens on government payroll on check, enforcement will begin to work. I got this idea the other day while I watched a gentleman in a nicely starched shirt and tie (I am acquainted with this gent – very civic minded person) untangle a traffic jam near Ulsoor lake. Singapore used to have this in the early 80s when I lived there.


The idea of a volunteer traffic warden is just an example. What I am proposing is a private-public partnership at the grass roots level not at a policy making level to attack the problem.


I for one will be happy to volunteer 4 days a week enforcing parking.



narayan82's picture

traffic warderns

In UK, I remember students and youth used to be recruited as Part Time Traffic Wardens. They were equipped with the following

  1. A ticketing Machine (That prints out ticket with the car no...etc)
  2. A Digital Camera
  3. A uniform
  4. A Notebook

They never collected money and always had a photograph as proof of the offence. This can be and effective strategy here. The "youth" traffic constables here and merely a show peice. The poor fellows seem to have no obeyers in the traffic. I feel rather sad looking at them (these are the guys with the red sash.) Converting them into more effective wardens using the above technique would be more useful for both.

Considering we have a 1 billion + population with no dirth for manpower we should make use of this and not try and automate everything.

Narayan Gopalan
User Interaction Designer
silkboard's picture

Lets meet DCP Traffic, or similar

I volunteer to organize a meeting with some higher up police folks to hear their opinions, action plans and compulsions (remember, we can't go anywhere by merely criticizing them).

Please leave me a private message if you will be interested in joining in or helping organize this.

Personally, I don't like island campaigns like distributing pamphlets or holding banners at couple of intersections. Absolutely no disrespect to those who volunteer for these activities. But we need to understand why police struggles to do their job.

We probably need some creative ways of bringing public shame to the drivers in worst offender category. May be, we do a TV show, a sitcom purely based on our behavior on the roads. May be, we buy time on local radio stations to read out #s of those who we see jumping lights, driving on the wrong side etc. The need is for something creative that can either draw lots of volunteers (mass in) or reach out to a lot of drivers (mass out).

Anyway. Lets kick off our collective thinking activity with a meeting with Traffic Police. Look fwd to the Private Messages.

s_yajaman's picture

My experience in Langkawi (Malaysia)

I usually try not to compare India with Western Europe.  The usual excuses come out - they are rich, better roads, etc.

Don't have to go too far - just 3 hrs on a flight eastward from Bangalore will take you to Bangkok.  Similar demogrpahics, crowded city.  Takes 2 hrs sometimes to cover 4 km on Sukhomvit.  Traffic is stationary sometimes for 45 minutes.  Yet you will never ever find a person who is not in his lane or who honks or who stops his car on an intersection.  Cambodia, even poorer.  The people there have seen even harder days than Indians.  But they don't behave badly on the roads.

The first time I rented a car outside India was in Langkawi, Malaysia.  Comes close to the definition of a tropical paradise.  I started driving.  After some time, we had to check for directions.  So slowed down, the people behind me slowed down.  No one honked.  I got tense - I really did.  I was expecting a barrage of horns.  But not once in the 3 days there did I hear a horn.  It was the best 3 days of driving I ever have done.  You could follow the rules and know that others would not harass you for it.  You could actually enjoy driving!  That was how it was in Bangalore in the late 80s when I got my license and started driving.

I am sure Indian road behaviour can get a person a Nobel Prize in Sociology (when they insititute one in that).


Drive safe.  It is not just the car maker which can recall its product.

kbsyed61's picture

Live Demonstration would be the way to Go !


 As the saying goes, seeing is believing. No amount of commercials/Ads would make any difference. Best thing is to do a live demo. With the help of police and volunteers choose a stretch of busy Road and enforce the traffic rules incluiding lane discipline. Choose some days for this live demo. For this you might need Traffic Police assistance along with help from volunteers. Advertise this campaign in media/radio well in advance. On that anounce day execute your Traffic discipline plan. If all the startup problems are sorted out and things become smooth, traffic enforcement should be permanent. Move onto the next stretch.

 Hope this suggestion is any worth. 


Recruit Ex-Servicemen

Some objections raised in this thread against the idea of Traffic Wardens:

  • There are already some "ECHO" youths but not effective
  • No use of "soft" natured police or para-police

However, some have welcomed the idea since it might ostensibly lead to better enforcement and strictness of law will work wonders. In light of this i suggest this:

  • Recruit Ex-Servicemen as Traffic Wardens. These people know what "toughness" is and even the physical sight of them will make drivers tremble
  • Have high and strict implementation of fines
  • For curbs on bribing ex-servicemen, have a vigilance squad to perform sting operations

Ex-Servicemen recruited by AP and TN

Ex-Servicemen are recruited by AP and TN:



Vasanth's picture

Recently 20 IT guys volunteered on Saturday and worked with cops

I saw this on TV 9 news. 20 Volunteers who listed the common mistake done by most of the drivers caught hold of many violators and they were fined by the cops as well as educated by these 20 IT guys.

Let us go by stick!!! Nothing works otherwise. No soft corner for Government vechicles too.

Vasanth's picture

Driving Discipline Education in Middle/High School

It is the middle / high school time during which boys and girls start driving. Traffic related as well as driving related lessons needs to be formulated by the Regional RTO / Traffic Police and same should be used as a subject in Civics group of Social Studies as well as few case studies of accidents due to violations or carelessness in English/Kannada/any other local language.
narayan82's picture

Tackled it earlier

Srivatsa - your make very good point. We could have tackled this civic sense issue a lot earlier, but our excuse was "We are like this only", which dug us deeper. Though it would be a very long term solution, we have to start educating people on these issues at a much lower level. At the same time, with the influx of drivers from across the country, there has to be some kind of system in place that notifies people of the civic sense to be followed. I dont see this as a Bangalore Problem, and I dont see why the Centre should leave it upto the state! Texas once had this campaign called "Defenseless Driving." It was a campaign that encourage people to not retaliate againt rash driving, but simply pull over and give way!Could be a lesson learnt there.
Narayan Gopalan
User Interaction Designer
Vasanth's picture

Railway gate like structures at Zebra Crossings!!!

After seeing blrpraj's post, I feel Railway Gate like structures are needed at Zebra Crossings as said by TS many times. Even this will be broken, people in Bangalore as well as in other places try to bend their vehicles and bend themselves and cross the railway track. There is no other alternative I believe. I had my soul about to leave me when I was crossing the Mysore road and when I was struck between a bus's backbumper and a trucker who just wanted to jam me with the bus's back.

We have to make our pedestrains safer, then only we get a better Bangalore and more utilization of public transport. As I said in my recent post in why I don't use BMTC, this is the reason. As soon as I get down the bus at Jayadeva, there is no pavement to walk to the next bus stand. Traffic signals for pedestrains just blinks green in Bangalore, it will turn red when the pedestrain is half way. 

Pregnant ladies as well as aged cannot use the skywalks. Atleast for them we should have zebra crossings and the signals should give more time to pedestrains to cross the road.

narayan82's picture

skywalks with escalators/elevators

Vasanth, This will slow down traffic and lead to large pile ups. A lot of time is wasted as the gate comes down and goes up. Instead we can develop ergonomical skywalks that have escalators/elevators/ramps (like the Indigo Airline's ramps). The amount of prime time space a skywalk provides for an advertisor is enough money for a construction of a very fancy skywalk!
Narayan Gopalan
User Interaction Designer
blrpraj's picture

moving forward..some solutions to start with

As idontspam pointed out we need some actionable items and as syed pointed out we need to try out solutions first. Now, it is a well known fact that a complex problem can be broken down to easier more manageable portions. The more fundamental problems need to be tackled first, here is what I propose -

Pick relatively calm residential neighbhourhood streets of a few hundred meters in length with minimal traffic in 3 different parts of the city. Then in each of those 3 streets implement the following -
a) build up the sidewalks upto standard specifications, this means the correct ergonomic height, correct width to accomodate pedestrians so as to take them off the road & remove all encroachments. Example of standards - but these should be altered to suit Indian requirements. Residents who want to alter the sidewalks must follow a system to adhere to strict rules before damaging public property i.e roads and sidewalks (example -
Now we have achieved the goal of removing pedestrian traffic off the roadway.
b) Now we can concentrate on the roadway itself and build it to standard specifications along with necessary lane markings.Example of standards, of course we should develop standards that suit our requirements. CRRI ( at least on paper is supposed to be developing all these standards.
c)we need an enforcement mechanism to see a) and b) get done per specifications and ensure regular maintenance. Homeowners violating any building rules and encroaching must be punished stiffly.
d)Having provided a good road with sidewalks we need to turn our attention to the motorists, but before we start enforcing rules we need to setup a system in place first. We need a system like the US where using the license, traffic offences can be tracked. With every offence negative points must be given against the driver's license and the driver must be forced attend 8 hour traffic shool. If there are 3 or 4 violations in a given period (1 year or 6 months ..etc.) driver's license must be suspended and the driver must go through the licensing process from scratch.
e)Now that we have an enforcing system in place we can start an awareness campaign for 2/3 weeks starting with the home owners first because they are going to be the everyday road users of that stretch. We need to make folks aware of using sidewalks for pedestrian traffic only & keeping it free of encroachments, following traffic rules when driving etc. Pamphlets can be handed out to passing motorists.
f)then the actual enforcing should kick in. There should be a no nonsense approach to enforcement. I am not sure how we can ticket jay walkers and get them to pay the fines..any ideas?

The success of this entire prototype is very crucial because it involves all these ascpects - a) interaction between various agencies b) traffic law enforcement c) impelemtation of design standards, enforcing them & maintenance d) and the public themselves willing to take a positive role in change. If this doesn't work with the end results being finger pointing then forget about solving the larger problem and I can guarantee you that nothing can be achieved. If it works, it can be expanded to other areas gradually. Commercial entities can be roped into the program and be made accountable. It is shocking to see apartments and office complexes being built without proper parking and proper development & damaging the what little is left of the sidewalks and roads during construction activities. The reason I am advocating a small scale fully functional trial is because we have nothing short of a jungle type mob mentality on our streets where we literally don't think. At least trying reforms  at the grassroots and bringing the problem to the people's doorsteps might be worth a try.

asj's picture

A jigsaw - but a simple one

Thank you for a huge number of responses. Here is an attempt to summate discussions thus far with some additional observations.

We are united in agreeing we have a puzzle which like a jigsaw has different parts. The main 3 parts as someone has put it are - Education, Engineering and Enforcement (law).

IMO the above in that order are the need of the hour. Its not just public education, its education for authorities. I have had a DCP - traffic (will remain unmaned) writing to me that my blog/videos have information no one knows amongst the authorities.

As I have said, no one knows where to place the zebra or the difference between a solid line and a hatched line. In Pune yellow lines have been painted 4-6 feet away from pavement!! International convention (which is agreed to in India as well as per Delhi Traffic police website) is that a yellow line is inches away from pavement and means parking restrictions are in place for the given road. And red light jumps to green without an amber phase.  

What modus operandi is used (that suggested by blrpraj above or  in my second article Reforming and improving road traffic safety in India: A challenge for Indian Traffic Authorities) is something that needs to be decided locally.

In Pune, recently angular parking on one road was changed to parallel parking - everyone now sees the difference in flow of traffic. The next step would be make it paid parking and so on.

We don't need escalators, subways etc. Many who have travelled West will agree that these facilities are limited even in the richest Nations. 99% of the time a zebra is used and available in UK.

Equally, road dividers are a waste (they are used largely on motorways and carraige ways with speeds in excess of 50 miles per hour - x by 1.5 for kph), even where they exist those who wish to drive on wrong side do it anyway. In contrast a solid line in the middle of the road = divider in Western countries (Delhi traffic police website says this applies to India too). But then how many people know about this fact?

Another simple rule in UK is that unless otherwise specified, any road with street lights has a limit of 30. No erecting poles here and there. Only where road is 20 or 40 for some reason, you will find poles with speed limit. As simple as that.

Thus education followed by simple easy to implement engineering concepts will suffice. Once a huge education campaign is carried out, enforcement should be ruthless. When after education, people behave like inhumans there should be no excuse. For something as blatant and potentially lethal as breaking red light or driving on wrong side, it should be an immediate suspension of licence for 2 years.

In Pune the Save Pune Traffic Movement (now 1000 storng but actually only about 3 dozen active members) is manning signals with police. They are not doing their job, but getting them to do their job. People are not held, numbers are noted and penality notices sent out.

Bu the goal is to actually get to a point where like the West there is no need for police at junctions. I have never seen a policeman at traffic lights in UK. They will laugh this away and will question why we need both traffic lights and police!!

The SPTM in Pune is now pushing for meetings with commissioners, media and PMC (which is responsible for signals, signage, road markings) and come up with a coordinated plan to get in place the 3 big peices of what I feel is a rather simple jigsaw.

Connected with education is the need to get people to refelect on their road behaviour. Ants, shoal of fish and bird formations behave better. Religion cropped up in some conversations. I would ask people what they thought of our behaviour on roads in the context of our non-material culture of yester years. From mokhsa to maya - how have we moved so radically from our value systems? We are so obsessed with speed that we would do well inventing a star trek energiser (because fact is that even a BRT bus in Bogota does 25kph only).

Will end with a link to an mp3 audio file (right click save as to a folder of choice and then listen). Often people find truth very uncomforting. When we highlight how in past 60 years we have failed to live up to our own expectations, many use the psychological process of 'denial'. The painful truth is brushed aside and coated with a thick paint of past glory, many talk of India's great 'Saunskruti and Parampara'. I have struggled to respond to this stance, but now ask people to listen to this audio clip of Shah Rukh Khan in 'Swadesh'. You can download the clip by clicking on link above.



narayan82's picture


I agree with you in many points. A few small points that I may clarify (IMHO)

1. We don't need escalators, subways etc. Many who have travelled West will agree that these facilities are limited even in the richest Nations. 99% of the time a zebra is used and available in UK.

You see, In India compared to Europe and US we have a LOT more pedestrians. For example something like the Ring Road in Europe would hardly have a pavement. Also, people in here are used to running across the road at thier will and wish, hence to encourage them to use a "longer" alternative we have to pamper them with goodies (escalators.) Which leads to me to the second point:

2. We are united in agreeing we have a puzzle which like a jigsaw has different parts. The main 3 parts as someone has put it are - Education, Engineering and Enforcement (law).No Disagreeing on these 3

But, I would prioritize them in the reverse order. Again, we have become so careless and so oblivient of the Law, that we find breaking it wasier than understanding its purpose. Hence however strong the education you will have a lot of "whats it got to do with me" attitude! Hence I say, Enforce first and then people are forced to Educate themselves.

W.r.t Engineering you have me with you. I think we right now follow a Brute Force Method. Demolish, Cut trees, Widen and Magic Boxes! Junctions are looked at individually and not together as a road. This is where we need much better planning. unlocking one jam to further the extent of the next jam isnt much of a solution.

Narayan Gopalan
User Interaction Designer
blrpraj's picture

re: A jigsaw - but a simple one


One sentence in your posting caught my eye -

"Its not just public education, its education for authorities. I have had a DCP - traffic (will remain unmaned) writing to me that my blog/videos have information no one knows amongst the authorities."

I agree that in any society suggestions can come from the public. But this is the first time probably I am coming accross a situation where the authorities that are appointed specifically for certain jobs and being paid salaries give the above lame exuse. What is discussed in the blogs/vidoes are not rocket sience and just talk about enforcing laws & building infrastructure as per standards. If DCP traffic is stating this then he should be fired along with all the authorities and probably all the bloggers in praja bangalore need to assume those positions. The DCP and other authorities I presume are hired based on their skills and after interviews (which apparently doesn't seem to be the case after seeing the state of affairs). This is one more of the excuse based metality among the other things I have pointed out in my previous posts (yes, bialterminal is also my id but I am using that for airport related I opened a new one blrpraj for other issues).   


idontspam's picture

3E is the way to go

My order - Engineering, Education, Enforcement

ASJ's order - Education, Engineering, Enforcement

Blrpraj's order - Enforcement, Engineering, Eucation

Regardless, we agree 3E's need to be the way forward, but not the way it is now, they need to be bumped up qualitatively and benchmarked against world standards.

There needs to be a proposal to the authorities for an audit of the current system of 3E's by a neutral 3rd party comittee consisting of experts with traffic engineering expertise (could bring in experts from outside the country also) who will prioritise the 3E's and suggest the roadmap for implementation with timelines. Can BTRAC do this? Can Praja enable this in anyway? I dont know.

Dr. ASJ has done good ground work on the direction Education side needs to take, it may be inputs for the comittee.

asj's picture

3 Es hand-in-glove

In reality it is too simplistic to separate out the Es and order them. They are all improtant. The problem is at practical level you need to set the ball rolling somewhere.

I have been to public meetings, I have had correspondence from people within police force. The reality is - they will say, how can I enforce something I don't know about. In fact no one knows what a given roads speed limit is? You expect people to stop behhind stop lines, they say, where is the stop line. When you see police asking drivers to take left on a red light, they do this not just for their convinience, its ignorance. In Pune when SPTM engage with police and question them and educate them to create awareness regarding plight of the pedestirans who cannot cross, they understand. In fact they are at signals where SPTM is involved, not allowing left on a red.

The traffic lights sequence - police don't install them, they say corporation does it and corporation has no clue about the correct sequences, different types of sequences not required durations for given road with a certain width.

The lack of know how is so big that without actually creating a education pack - one for citizens, one for corporations staff and one for police one should not expect change.

Its for this reason I emphasise Education first.


asj's picture

Like it or not, that is reality

Like it or not, believe it or not, this is the reality. I will not put the blame entirely on police. In fact in most states, general police force get deputed to traffic duties on rotation. These are not trained traffic inspectors.

This is all pervading. One senior citizen from Pune who has seen my videos went to see the Pune bus Transport official. The senior gentleman said bus drivers are not aware of 'blind spots' and this is potentially fatal. The response was 'blind spot.....what is blind spot'.

Is it rocket science or not? To some extent it is. IRC gives guidelines on most things, if not, I have given links to UK road markings etc - these principles that have to be followed on well laid out protocols. In UK for example for each borough you can make out from design and appreance of each junction that they are all made to measure - like a tailor would for our shirt or trouser.

Yes, we should sack the lot......BUT what will that we have no one to replace the current lot of politicians we have no one else to do the job.

Part of the education is to get people to think differently about the job they do. In Pune, I have been trying to suggest that a bus driver / conductor needs to comprehend how important their role is............... and that its not just a shift job that pays a monthly salary. When people own up to their responsibility things will change. If I can sit and do research from miles away, they can too, but they do not - why they don't and how can we get them to do it is a key issue.

I could go on for ever, but effectively, without education and effort to change our work ethos we won't get far (that is why every successful corporate invests in training cycles for their staff year after year).


PS: Adding a quick note about subways / escalators. Others may differ or share their experiences. But actually I see more people on pavements of London than in Pune. In fact in many cities like Pune it is now a norm to go to corner shops on a scooter!! Even on the most crowded rail stations in Mumbai like Churchgate / VT (CST) where subways are there huge numbers who cross roads at red lights. When you see it, one has to settle down and accept that people in cars have to be secondary and right to walk comes first. A paradigm shift is needed to move away from thinking that we can build our way out of problems (we may be growing at 10% for over a decade, but in a country where 80% live on a dollar, I am very uncomfortable with spending on escalators etc, its too costly for richest of countries).

blrpraj's picture

re: 3E is the way to go

hi idontspam,

Perfectly agree with your analysis. With your question of whether praja can enable this, well...for starters I think praja can enable this in a few ways by -

-adopting a street and partner with authorities to make a functional workable live prototype as I have illustrated in one of my posts earlier.

-filing PILs forcing the necessary authorities to answer why they are not doing their assigned jobs of road design, enforcement etc. and get them to act.

-use RTI 2005 act as a tool to get answers to questions not known - 1)training and education of authorities about their duties they are supposed to do-how much money is spent, why it isn't being done 2) why roads & road signs aren't being maintained, "on paper" how much money is being spent to maintain them and how often (I mention "on paper" because eventhough money somehow magically gets spent on maintenance..actual maintainence seldom takes place)

Regarding which of the Es comes first ...I agree we need to "up" the standards to gold standards and asj's assesment that we need to start with Education. But, question comes back to who will enforce the education and the gold standards development and implementation..kind of a chicken and egg problem :-) which brings us back to the E word of Enforcement :-). My understanding and view of the Enforcement is that it is the driving factor to implement education, good road design and engineering & having motorists follow traffic rules thus Enforcing deadlines, results & quality. I guess it should be a ownership-responsibility-accountability model where the agencies themsleves cannot give the lack of coordination or anything else as an excuse however difficult and true the issues may be.

asj's picture

Interesting conclusion

I like the way this has gone. The question - who will enforce education? is a very good one.

My answer is - the enforcers are the Praja (us the citizens). We need to enforce our rights. Ownership and accountability begins with us.

The word adopt has been used. Incidently its also being used in Pune. SPTM members are invited to adot a 'chowk' - get zebra and stop lines painted and then get police to their bit.

And it works. In Aug 07 when I was in Pune I submitted a CD with over 100 photos of a mile and half long road without footpaths - complete with school kids walking on roads. The commissioner forwarded this for urgent response, by Sept 07 work on footpaths began. The job is still incomplete, not satifactory, but this is one of Pune's busy roads (widened twice in 10 years) and its a start.

The good old saying- one person doing something is = statement, many people doing something = difference.

I think this forum has plenty to offer to our cities (one city setting an example will suffice as others will follow - 100th monkey syndrome).



murali772's picture

Traffic Marshalls

I had come up with this concept way back in '05, following an experience on the road (described below, under 'genesis'). The term 'marshall' was chosen, since the more apt 'warden' was already an established concept in Bangalore. I had once considered enrolling as a 'warden'. But, I saw it as serving a very limited purpose, which wasn't enough of a motivation for me atleast.

Aim / Purpose:
To provide necessary interface between the traffic police and the community, with a view to improving the overall traffic management in the city


  • The initial core team of five members to be nominated by (say) Rtn SN.
  • Another 20 members to be added, proposed by one of the core team members, and seconded by two others, with as wide a geographical spread over the city as possible.
  • Membership to be formally reviewed every year, while also electing the chairman for the year.
  • If a minimum of five members make a written representation at any given time, a member may be removed after giving a chance for a hearing.

Identity Cards:
The members shall be issued identity cards / badges by the Commissioner.


  • On the authority of the ID badges, members may counsel traffic offenders. Where required, they may report the offences to the authorities for further action and records.
  • Members to closely interact with the local traffic authorities in matters of traffic control in their respective areas.
  • A meeting of all members with the traffic authorities to be held once every month for exchange of views, training, etc.

Members to be role models as far as their own driving habits are concerned.
Also, they should be polite, and scrupulously impartial in their handling of traffic offenders.

Muralidhar Rao

The genesis:

One day, a few years back, I was driving past the Catholic Club towards Prof Asirvatham circle, when a bike came in noisily (muffler obviously removed) from behind, overtook from the left, zig-zagged in between my car and a bus in front, forcing me to jam my brakes, and zipped away without a care in the world. I was furious, though all I could do at that stage was mutter a curse. But, as luck would have it, the bike had to stop at the traffic light at Prof Asirvatham circle. I stopped my car right behind, got out, asked my wife who was with me to take over the driving, and went over to the bike. Managing to withhold my anger, I asked the rider (and the pillion rider - both youngsters) rather politely if he realised his riding practices could be hazardous, not to just himself but even to other road users. The two decided to go on the offensive, and rudely questioned my authority. Realising that nothing more could be achieved at that stage, I just noted down the vehicle number, got into my car and went home.

Those days, I used to be interacting quite closely with the then Additional Traffic Commissioner, Bangalore. I sent him a mail giving full details of the incident. He responded stating that he will have the bike traced, and the rider punished suitably, the copy being marked to the then jurisdictional DCP for needful action. Two days later, I was pleasantly surprised to get a mail from the DCP stating that the bike had been traced, and on being accosted, the rider had admitted to the charge of 'rash and negligent riding', and was made to pay the heaviest fine leviable for the charge.

This then gave me the idea of setting up a citizen's team, which I decided to call as 'traffic marshals' (as different from 'traffic wardens'), on the above guidelines.

The Addl Commissioner was quite receptive to the idea, and had stated that he will put it up to Commissioner for approval. But, nothing happened, and a few months later, he was transferred, ending the matter therewith.

Now, apparently if the boys had chosen to contest the charge, there was no way it could have been made to stick, and they would have got away scot free. However, since it will require engaging a lawyer and appearing in court, at tremendous cost of time and money, they would readily prefer to pay up the fine and move along. Even if it is contested, the matter can be brought into the vehicle record for being passed on to insurance companies, who can then raise their premium bills accordingly. As such, enough reasons can be built up for riders/ drivers not to want to be reported by the marshalls. Their anonymous existence amongst the community could act as a deterrent.

I had brought this up briefly once earlier at
I thought it fit to elaborate a bit more here.


Muralidhar Rao
shas3n's picture

We’ve evolved to fear cobras, not traffic lights

That is what the new research says about decision making abilities of people. It does have a direct relevance to why people wont stop at signals.

Some quotes from the article in Mint that mentions this research.

"People are aware of the actual risks when driving through a light at an intersection, but unless they've already had a brush-with-death or a brush-with-a-traffic-cop, the perceived risk remains low. This is because in most cases nothing happens to the risk-taker. You save one minute, but you can lose everything. People don't do the math,"


Over evolutionary time, people have learned to make decisions like other animals. "This tactic worked fine for survival, but did not however evolve to survive the modern world. We've evolved to be afraid of snakes, but not traffic lights,"


Here is the link to the original paper (not available unless you or your institution has a Nature subscription).



asj's picture

Is the West more evolved?

Are we to agree the West is more evolved than us? In the respect of traffic most definitely they have moved from primitive habits to better ones. In a reverse of fortunes (so to say) we have as a society gone from an evolved state of non-materialism to hedonism (pleasure seeking). A minute saved breaking the red light is far more important (at the emotional brain level) than reflecting on consequences of the action meeting with a fatal end (thinking level).

Ability to postpone (gratification) pleasure is unique to humans, on our roads at least we seem to demonstrate no such ability, effectively making us no different from spinal beings (i.e. animals - although when you look at bird formations, you wonder if there was a level below animals, if so, that is where we are).


shas3n's picture

Isnt it more cultural?

Interesting thoughts Doc,

I certainly doubt that the west is 'neurologically' more evolved than east. I guess it is more due to our cultural conditioning that we suppress (or fail to suppress) our instinctive reactions. Most cultures in east do NOT teach us to suppress the instinctive urge of 'my interests come first'. Similarly in west teenage population fails to suppress inherent sexual behaviour. In both cases, these traits once had an evolutionary advantage but are not pertinent to current state of affairs.

We hope to see eastern cultures themselves developing into a more 'advanced' cultures. But it might not be very easy and probably, not possible from the mechanisms that are inherent in our culture.

To draw an analogy, the star fish evolved into 5-sided symmetry because that once had an evolutionary advantage. It is obvious that the starfish could do better by adopting a two-sided symmetry (so that the nervous and biological systems can be better organised) to allow overcoming the limitations of the current template. Unfortunately, it can not do so unless it 'back-evolves' for a while and comes back two-sided. But it can not back-evolve for obvious reasons (a 4-sided star fish will do worse than a 5 sided one with the current template).So basically the starfish are at a evolution dead end.

Similarly, I guess eastern cultures are a bit in star-fish shape. We have done extremely well with where our initial cultural template could take us but that has now reached its limits.I believe that it is very hard for the eastern cultures to evolve into a 'community comes first' type of western culture from internal mechanisms alone. The motivation and initialisation has to come from a process that is alien to the culture. I guess Praja and likes have a good chance of being that spark if it gathers enough momentum.

I do not think this is impossible, just that this has to come from something that is not  in our culture. Singapore is one example I can think of where the limitations of eastern culture was overcome by a 'benevolent-dictatorship' kind of cultural reform. I presume by another generation, Singaporeans would follow the rules themselves without anyone having to fine them. 



asj's picture


You are right. My opening line was a rhetoric question of sorts. If you go back to the original thread, I point out exactly what you say - the western world is not any more law abiding or ethical than us. Similarly we are  not any less evolved neurobiologically. Ultimately what we are is a sum total of choices we make. The choices we make can either be function of spinal habits we developed over time (influenced by culture, education, exposure to alternative models, etc) or well thought out rational processes. As far as traffic is concerned we are very spinal. This is sad given our rich past - Gita and other scripts taught everything opposite to what is on showcase on our roads (and many other aspects of our society - from behaviour of our leaders to the people that elects them). Collectively we have lost a great deal of our best cultural attributes to hedonism.

Going back to the original thread, youy will find I have tried to make sense of this all and hopefully, as a society when we keep rising up Maslow's ladder, we will be able to revive our past glory (on our roads and other aspects of life).


blrpraj's picture

I think the western cultures

I think the western cultures are more evolved as a society. I am basing my views just based on experiences in the US,Canada & England where the overall experiences and general quality in the experience is more or less similar as compared to India where you can term many things as "unique to India". As I have stated many times before, road traffic driver behaviour is only one of the manifestations(symptoms if you would like to call it) of the underlying issues(disease if you would like to call it). When talking of the above countries I just mentioned some common things are clearly visible  giving the picture of an organized,orderly society with a greater semblance of law & order ->  1) be it lane discipline & traffic rules on the road 2) be it straight streets/roads without jutting encroachments 3) clean cities without filth and garbage lying all around 4) abundant greenery & wherever necessary the greenery is neatly cut & trimmed (I am talking about public places like roads etc.) 5) lesser pollution with the government taking active measures and implementing those effectively. 6) Striking factor is that great care is taken & lot of planning is done before growth/development paying a lot of attention to minute details as opposed to Indian cities where buildings seem to have sprouted up on every square inch of land without a thought to anything. Asj & shastri you may be thinking I am going off topic and why I am flooding this post with things irrelevant to driver behaviour. Here is why I am doing it, there is a saying - technology is only as good as the person using it. Even if we take up the issue of driver behaviour and perhaps put in the best technology to educate the drivers and enforce things it is not even going to make a scratch. We have to start even lower and address the root causes first and this comes back to asj's initial post which which gives a A Psychiatrists Perspective. we need to understand why it is difficult(for us Indians)  to come up with a system, follow it & make it work. Once that is understood and corrected at the basic educational level things should be easier.

s_yajaman's picture

Thailand, Cambodia, etc

Having lived in Singapore and been to Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia among others, all I can say is that Indians have to be among the least civic conscious people in the world.

Bangkok has some of the worst traffic jams in the world - but no one misbehaves and horns.  Even in Cambodia, I did not hear honking or the sort of madness that one sees in Bangalore (and other cities).

The root cause I believe is the neglect of civic education in our schools.  These things need to be taught.


Drive safe.  It is not just the car maker which can recall its product.

zenx's picture

Commute Data Collection

Trying to collect some commute data for Bangalore at


This will possibly go towards helping to promote cycling in the city.

- Sameer, Bangalore

- Sameer, Bangalore

asj's picture

Back to one of the Es

Dear Srivathsa,

I agree, in short, we are back to one of the 3Es identified above. I also agree with the views of blrpraj above. Traffic chaos is symptom of generalised disease underneath. All the six points made 1) be it lane discipline & traffic 2) straight streets/roads without jutting encroachments 3) clean cities 4) abundant greenery ........... are pertaining to good governance.

And to me everything connects with Maslow's steps of evolving. For a vast majority of India today, it is still 'pehele pet puja' everything else is secondary - be it rules/regulations/who we elect as leaders, etc.

A vast majority of poorly developed countries have communist rootings - wealth is shared to an extent - it means less of a worry in terms of social security i.e. finding a roof, getting food, etc - basic needs are taken care off and people can move to higher a higher order of functioning - sense of belonging and actualisation.

Take China, their traffic is chaotic, but may not stay so as long. I say this based on what the current context of Olympics. In 1952, they sent 3 athletes to Olympics, today US will have to fight tooth and nail to stop China becoming overall winners. Other Communist regimes always produced fantastic sporting results (former USSR block, east Germany, Romania.....). But a number of these countries, including Cuba also have excellent health care and other social provisions. Education to leisure / sports facilities its all available (despite poor per capita incomes).

The Western democracies too, despite being capaitalists, have strong social welfare and security systems. A UK citizen can retire without savings as everyone above 65 gets state pension. Everyone by law has to be housed, unemployed get job seekers allowances, disabled have disability benefits and so on and healthcare is free for all. In Hounslow where I live, there are 4 libraries, 4-5 sport centres, parks, etc. It costs very little to swim, play tennis, etc.

Contrast this with Mumbai. I whole of South Mumbai there were 2 swimming pools, one run by YMCA, the other exclusive for rich people who could become members by paying lacs (and this is in 70s). This still is the story elsewhere in India.

But then it begs a question, why is that Indian middle class is dormant. The answer is we are all so stuck up with wanting to save for the rainy day, the old age, the bypass operation, kids education fees ........ that we cannot think of  anything but our jobs.

Society, traffic chaos and discipline, social reforms, politics.......we stay away from it all, turn a blind eye, its some body else's problem.Sports we only talk about when a film like Chak De is advertised to a point where we have nothing else to talk about (ironic that we did not qualify for hockey - our National sport), or when cynically we sit in front of TV sets waiting for the one solitary medal at the olympics. And indeed when cricket is in the air (which now a days is 365 days). I remember being at a Pharma companies meeting (I used to advise them). Finance director said, they had made profits, staff felt happy, felt bonuses were due. The CEO ripped apart the papers and said, one product did it for them, 9 others failed. He then asked people if that one product fails in the future? Similarly, its cricket which we seem to use as a walking stick currently.

I am not advocating, communism, but do believe in a capitalist democracy having a social agenda. Unless we collectively as a country move up the Maslow's ladder, real progress is unlikely - be it traffic or anything else.

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