Sunday, February 12, 2012

Traffic Ethics are Vanishing in America

February 6, 2012

By Saeed Qureshi

The United States is one of those countries where the laws are duly respected and followed by the citizens. The law enforcing authorities too seldom show any dereliction or negligence to enforce the laws and establish the writ in letter and spirit.

But road traffic system in America is gradually deteriorating. There are traffic laws to be enforced by the traffic police. There is also an unwritten code of conduct that the commuters and drivers have to observe as a matter of courtesy and part of normal social ethics.

It is a common observation on our roads that generally, the motorists are developing a tendency to not switch on indicators to indicate if they were turning left or right. The one, who is trailing behind or is close on the heels, would be unaware of the front runner’s intention to exit or stay on the lane.

In case the front driver exits without indicating, the one coming after him is usually unprepared, and in order to meet the sudden challenge, he applies the brakes to avoid the possible collusion. We have observed that accidents occur because of the front runner suddenly exiting without lighting the indicators.

It is therefore, imperative that a regulation should be strictly enforced for turning on the indicators whether one wants to go right or left. If such rule is already in the statute books that it should be effectively enforced and the violators fined.

If someone is going parallel with another driver and accelerates a little bit, the other driver would make every attempt to beat the other by raising the speed of his vehicle. And if the first one is also egotistic and adamant, he would also increase the speed of his vehicle and thus a race would start occasionally causing fatal accidents.

The right to give way is seldom observed these days. A driver who is exiting or entering a road or a highway, and is indicating to do so, the one who is driving on the extreme right lane would not slow to enable the exiting driver to move on to the exit ramp. Same is the predicament for those entering a road.

The vehicles coming from the main road would strive hard to not let the entering driver join the main traffic lines. In countless cases every day, serious collusions take place because once the entering driver tries to move to the left lane, the one coming on the main road would neither slow down, nor move to another lane in order to accommodate him or her to change the track.

The heavy vehicles and even medium sized trucks would least care if a driver wants to go to the extreme left tracks. They come dashing and invariably pass by like meteorite to block the driver from changing the lane. One has to be very cautious while changing the lanes as those coming from behind would not mind even banging their vehicles with the one ahead of them if it comes in their lane somehow.

It seems that most of the drivers are seized with a pervading stress or pent up tension or even a ting of arrogance or superfluous zeal to remain ahead and adamant while driving on the roads. Or else they would be drunk and in that irrational or unguarded mood they commit traffic violations some times of a very grave nature. A semblance of caution or stable behavior to be observed while driving fast on city roads is generally missing among the commuters.

Everyone appears to be in haste and browbeat the others as if he has to meet a deadline in court or was being chased or seized by some demon or spirit. Such a mindset is certainly perilous for the new drivers who are paranoid while driving for the first time in a maze of fast moving vehicles without letting the other either to turn left or right.

The tailing of the front vehicle that might be going slow for some reason is also an irritating pastime or distasteful behavior of many drivers. Without realizing if the driver ahead is not an expert, could be a fresh license holder, or trying to negotiate an exit or is cautious by habit, they would bring their fast moving vehicle within one or two feet of the front car and would pressurize him or her to clear than lane.

If the front runner is unable to do so and the one coming behind manages to move to the second lane, he would accelerate the engine to an alarming rate and would overtake the slow moving car as a gesture of disgrace and vendetta.

Those drivers that hit someone and are indisputable violators, would stubbornly argue as if they were right and the other who was hit from behind was wrong. Even if finally the violators has to surrender his insurance documents, in most cases it would turn out to be fake or expired or would never be traced despite the address given on the insurance document.

Some rough and uncultured drivers have adopted another demeaning demeanour to force the front slow going driver to clear the lane. They would come very close and turn on and off the headlight lights frequently. That vulgar gesture is otherwise an offence and affront but unmindful of the ethics or good mannerism they would keep doing it.

When they pass by they would give a dirty and scornful gaze as if hell had let loose and they have suffered an irreparable loss or irredeemable disgrace by remaining behind for a few minutes.

Many oncoming drivers turn on their high beam lights causing visibility obstruction to the drivers coming from the opposite side. This practice with such category of drivers is either due to the ignorance of the traffic rulers or because of weak eyesight or deliberate attempt to cause inconvenience to other drivers on the other side of the median. Keeping full lights on for a longer period of time should be checked by the police and the perpetrators fined.

We have heard about the road rage that takes a toll of quite a few precious lives every year in America. The road rage is caused from the syndrome of suffering from a false sense of superiority and hurt ego. The fastidious or extremely self-centered drivers take it as a humiliation if someone else overtakes them or enters into a race or honks for clearance of road to let them move fast.

There is always a situation of mayhem on the roads of large cities like New York and Chicago. Wrong overtaking, finding ways through the jammed traffic and browbeating other drivers are common practices in these cities. In down town sections, the population remains stuck up for hours either waiting for a public transport or private cabs that usually fleece the passengers.

The roads in down town New York cannot be widened because of the sky-scrapers and high rise buildings on both sides. So the traffic mess and road bottlenecks would remain a daily traumatic feature of these big metropolises for a long time to come.

It would certainly be desirable if the applicants for driving license are given orientation lessons before issuing them the license which can also be used as an identity document. The basic lesson of such orientation sessions should be to inculcate forbearance, patience, tolerance, and a willingness to give the right of way to others.

The traffic sergeants apprehend the traffic violators which is good and is helpful in ensuring smooth and hazard-free traffic. But occasionally in their zeal to catch violators and to issue a ticket they themselves overstep their own regulations. In some cases when some driver was charged for over-speeding and the police officers were asked to give a radar proof, the latter did not do so.

Those drivers who travel long distances and are stopped in counties which fall on the main motorways, cannot contest the tickets even if it was wrongly given. The reason is that one has to challenge the decision of the traffic police officer in the same county where he was booked. Now to come there from his own far away city would be a tall order costing money and time. Such a victim prefers to pay the fine and get rid of the headache.

The speed on interstate highways is 60 to 70 miles in United States. This is ridiculously low than what is actually desirable and needed. But what irks one is that while he was driving on the permissible speed, all of sudden the speed would be reduced to 50 miles in the precincts of a certain county that falls on the highway.

That certainly defies the logic as highways should have a uniform speed limit and it would be naturally difficult to discern for a newcomer about the reduced speed especially at night.

The police officers mostly prey upon the speed violators on such sections for raising the revenue of that particular country. This blatant anamoly should be done away with as to drive at 50 miles per hours in a particular section of the highway is not only funny but slows down fast moving vehicles and take more time to reach the destinations.

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