The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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At wheel, 90% loose cannons

Lack of policing, no strict measures against road rule violators and poor road condition are the prime causes of traffic chaos.

Around 90 per cent of bus, taxi and autorickshaw drivers in Calcutta cannot control their “impulse” when they take the wheel.

These are findings from a joint survey conducted by the pure psychology department of Calcutta University and Calcutta police.

To understand the triggers behind reckless driving and adopt appropriate measures to reduce the number of accidents, the study was rolled out a year-and-a-half ago.

“It is an ongoing study. We have interacted with 250 offending bus, taxi and auto drivers to gauge their mental state,” said Nilanjana Sanyal, senior teacher of Calcutta University’s pure psychology department, overseeing the research.

Calcutta police had provided the names and addresses of the drivers to the researchers. Interactive sessions, group discussions and one-to-one interviews were used to understand the behavioural pattern of the offenders.

According to Sanyal, the drivers come from the lowest socio-economic strata and lack education.

“Because of their frustration, physical strain, lack of education and enormous sense of inadequacy, once they grasp the steering, they feel the thrill of having an entire vehicle in their control. They honk, overtake and race unnecessarily as such acts give them a sense of relief. All these factors contribute to make them road rogues,” she explained.

But the study has also made it clear that drivers alone cannot be held responsible for the spate of road accidents.

“There is no doubt that administrative failure has contributed to the problem,” added Sanyal.

According to the study, draft findings of which have been shared with Calcutta police, the list of prime problems include a poor traffic controlling system, lack of policing, lack of vigil in accident-prone zones, corruption among cops, poor road conditions, slippery roads in monsoon and jaywalking.

“We are waiting for the research to be complete. As far as the issue of policing is concerned, we will definitely look into the suggestions,” said Ranveer Kumar, the joint commissioner of police (traffic).

The complete report will take another two years to be ready, but the researchers are regularly sharing their findings with traffic department officials.

According to the researchers, the most effective measures for tackling reckless driving are tight policing on streets and severe punishment for offending drivers.

“We have found that the tendency to drive recklessly is less when the drivers realise that they will have to face tough consequences if they commit the slightest offence,” said Sanyal.

In most cases, the owners of the vehicle pay the price if it is impounded for reckless driving. Though driving licences are cancelled after six offences, getting a new licence is not at all difficult in the city.

Besides advocating tough measures, the study has also drawn up a set of soft suggestions for a safer city.

“Motivating drivers against reckless driving through workshops, group discussions and regular counselling is necessary to reduce incidents of road rage. But the benefits will come only in the longer run,” observed Sanyal.

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