As per the ticket sales, about 26 lakh people used Metropolitan Transport Corporation buses on Monday when a flash strike was on. Compared to the usage on a regular day, that was about 30 lakh less.

At the root of the problem, which inconvenienced lakhs of commuters, was an incident of road rage on Sunday night. This year alone, police have registered 12 cases in which an MTC driver or conductor was assaulted.

However, most incidents of road rage involving ordinary citizens go unreported. Additional Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Shakeel Akhter says 90 per cent of the incidents are resolved without involving the police.

With the city expanding rapidly and the average motorist spending more time on the road than before, incidents of road rage are becoming more prevalent. Going by the increase in the number of private vehicles in the city, the number of people driving to work has doubled in the last five years.

Road rage can be defined as acts of aggression which occur on the road. It has become an umbrella term to describe criminal assault on the roads as well as mild levels of frustration.

“The condition of our roads encourages aggressive driving,” says S. Suresh, director of the Accident Research Centre, an NGO. “The number of unwanted speed-breakers and a lack of lane disciple contribute to the problem. There is no use having a six-lane system without knowing how to use it.”

He feels the primary reasons for road rage are bad roads and poor traffic management.

According to a recent survey, covering motorists in several countries, by the Road and Travel Magazine, drivers in the 18-24 age group are the most aggressive. A surprising piece of information is that drivers with children are more likely to respond aggressively than those without children.

Dinesh Mohan, director of the Transportation Research and Injury Prevention Programme (TRIPP) at IIT-Delhi, says most arguments on the road occur because everyone gets to apply road rules according to his or her own convenience.

“There is no round-the-clock enforcement by the traffic police. Scientific studies show that if people realise the chance of them getting caught is less than 30 per cent, they will violate road rules. Such violations lead to confrontation which ends in incidents of assault,” he adds.

A senior officer in the Chennai City Traffic Police said that the police are doing their best by registering nearly 1,500 cases of minor offences such as stop-line violation and traffic signal violation every day. “Road rage incidents are the result of an attitudinal problem. Nobody can prevent them. It comes down to self-disciple and control,” he added.

Saraswathi Bhaskar, a psychologist, says acts of frustration such as honking continuously or getting too close to a vehicle to force the other person to give way eventually escalates into violence.

According to her, the problem is exacerbated because inexperienced drivers manage to get a licence. “Many of them are not aware of road rules. In case of a violation, they attack the other person to cover up their mistake,” she says.

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Roads & RailsSeptember 24, 2010

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