Nonconforming habits

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It is something that is commonly understood, but at times is used to imply an entirely different meaning. It is best understood by observing how vehicles use the side blinkers on roads in Nepal. Conventionally, a blinker is meant to warn traffic behind about its turning intentions. Strangely, drivers here let the blinkers on even when stopping by the kerb. This does not indicate their turning intentions but as a way of informing others, on their right, to move on! The same is practiced by vehicles on the highways as a way of informing vehicles behind to overtake. This is, without doubt, a dangerous and nonconforming practice.

One should not turn on the blinker either too early or too late. If too early, those behind will wonder if you forgot to turn it off. Too late a signal, can even lead to getting bumped from behind. But it is not unusual to see someone deliberately or otherwise turning without signalling. Early cars had small signal arms that physically protruded out of the sides and was called “trafficator” that did not blink. The device got hidden within the body when not in use. In the early days drivers usually indicated the turning direction by show of hand. This would still be ideal as blinkers do not stand out under sun’s glare.

The way helmets are used here offer another glaring example; it is not that bikers do not use them. By not securing properly, quite many are seen using helmets only to fool traffic police than safeguarding one’s head. An unsecured helmet is as bad as riding without one. It becomes a matter of life and death if it results in serious head injuries. Is there any point in lamenting or repenting afterwards? The same is true with the non-use of seat belts in car. But given the slow pace on most urban roads there are far less serious accidents in contrast to two wheelers. The motorbikes, being inherently unstable, are prone to more frequent and serious accidents. A small bump or a little nudge is enough to get it skidding with serious consequences. Impatient mentality and anarchic ways motorbikes get driven are the main factors in the rise of accidents and resulting fatalities.

Pedestrians crossing road haphazardly was much in the news recently. What an irony, the related agency even boasted about having recovered substantial amount as fines in the few days it remained enforced. There is no denying that there exists overall ignorance on the part of all road users. But governmental agencies are even more at fault in placing most zebra crossings at bends. One will find this true at most road junctions especially those without traffic lights. Road bends are places where pedestrians are confronted by fast moving vehicles. This is more likely in an environment where responsible driving is not a part of the driving culture.

But it might take long before such attitude changes, and coercion is certainly not the way to go. It can be done formally at schooling level. It can be done, informally, by following good driving practice, on our part, and explaining its advantages to the accompanying child. This will have a lasting impression and make the child a better driver in future. Other programs could include tailoring sensible driving training to the needy before they get the license. It should not be difficult to identify such people based on the level of education, their age and background. That is not meant to say that all educated drivers are rule abiders. Had it been so, our streets would not be in such a mess. A simple driving etiquette can work miracles. Road safety should be the concern of not just drivers but pedestrians as well. Related departments can help by improving road and footpath geometry where necessary. The focus, so far, has been on improving roads alone, not footpaths. What we need is walkable footpaths that people find no reason to avoid. 

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