Traffic getting worse

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As everywhere else in the country, the increase in the number of vehicles on Imphal roads has been phenomenal in the past one or two decades. This increase has been in direct proportion to the growth of the Indian economy and with it the quantum leaps government salaries have taken in the last two decadal pay hikes. This led to easing up of bank loans for salaried government employees, increasing the market liquidity for high end consumer products. The middle class symbols of affluent living, the most prized of which are cars, is where this liquidity has had the most profound affect. The incremental congestion on our roads, especially those in the capital city of Imphal, where most government offices are concentrated, is the consequence. Sadly, there has been no commensurate increase in the length or breath of our roads. Taking the situation to breaking point is the road indiscipline of vehicle users. A good majority of them are wont to breaking traffic rules as if this were all part of the game, but it also seems few or nobody believes in the virtues of traffic etiquettes, which like all other forms of civilizational etiquettes are unwritten norms. They come naturally to people as part of the instinct that makes them distinguish rightness and wrongness of things – a vital instinct which is evidence that the human spirit abhors chaos. Civilisation’s eternal principles has indeed been to ensure that raw and ever present tendencies for chaos do not overtake the needs for order and discipline.

This innate civilizational instinct for order and of acknowledging the beauty of this order is waning fast and dangerously in the case of the Imphal traffic. For instance there is no respect left for queues and everybody seems to think jumping queues and pushing the car ahead one back is a big triumph. Nobody cares about jumping lane either just to be ahead of those who keep to the queues. Normally, on left hand side driving roads such as ours, at traffic junctions, lanes turning left should be free in most situations, except at multi-junctions where there is more than one radial road that turn left. But even in these situations, turning left should always be far freer than turning right, for to turn right, you have to cut across the reverse traffic. In fact, in the USA, one of the country’s biggest courier services, the United Parcel Service, UPS, did an experiment that all others are emulating now because of its phenomenal result. The company developed a computer programme to chart out city routes so that its delivery trucks are able to avoid to the extent possible all left turns (in the USA it is right side driving system, so in turning left you cut across reverse traffic), and discovered at the end of the year, though their delivery trucks had to travel more distance, they together ended up saving 10 million gallons of fuel. The company also saved time, delivered more parcels as a result of increased staff efficiency. A recent article in The Atlantic said experiments by independent agencies also corroborated the discovery of the UPS. By contrast, in Imphal’s major traffic junctions, it would not matter if you want to turn left or right, for all lanes would be blocked by those scrambling to be in front, in the process making the congestions worse.

There is one more peculiar practice – that of blinking all four signal lights in their cars when a driver wants to indicate he/she wants to go straight and not turn left or right. Any car owner who cared to read the owner’s manual that came along with the new cars they bought would know that 4-blinker signal signifies distress, and is meant to alarm onlookers rather than tell of intent of the direction the driver wished to go. Imphal city road users however have come to normalise this as indeed a signal to indicate intent to go straight. This is all fine for the use of the signal lights thus have come to be a language understood by everybody. However, the tragedy would be when somebody in an actual emergency – say for instance rushing a patient to the hospital – switches on the distress signal to request others in front to give way out of turn to help him meet his emergency. In all likelihood, people would not take him seriously and ignorance thus would come to have the potential for causing inhumanity, even possible personal tragedies. The government must do something about all these and bring back some order in our traffic before it gets worse and beyond easy salvage. Unlike matters of extreme gravity such as ushering back peace and normalcy in this conflict torn state, all this needs would be commitment of the department concerned, supported by other law enforcement agencies.

Source: Imphal Free Press

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