You know what a useful skill is, if you are an Indian driver? Driving blindfolded. Because most of the streets don’t have any streetlamps. And when they do, the idiot on the other side of the road almost certainly doesn’t have the dipper on. Of course, you can’t put up much of a retort really because if you do flash your dipper, the other guy thinks you are waving to him, provoking him to flash you back. Worse, if the guy is behind you, you can only flash your indicators, and that is several notches below farting/belching on the irritating scale.
So, you decide to turn down (or is it turn up?) your dipper as well, thinking why should you be the only one to suffer in road-rage hell.
“Dip Your Lights, Save A Life”
I saw this sign along the NH-47, the national highway that runs parallel to the coast in Kerala. It is one of the first ones I have seen regarding dippers anywhere in India, unless you count the “Please to be use dipper and horn. Ok Tata.” painted behind millions of trucks in India.
But I’d be darned if this actually spurs our errant drivers into changing their ways. The only thing that works in the Indian traffic scenario is a traffic copper; even when you have traffic lights, you need a traffic cop. He needs his beauty sleep too at night, which is when you turn on your headlights, and he is almost never there on the highways, where not turning the dipper on, can be really lethal.
This means, you can’t make people turn on dippers at night, just by increasing the traffic fines for the offence, because there aren’t many cops around to catch them, while they are at it.
So what can you do to stop this thing? Let us see why the average Indian driver resorts to headlight-flashing. In nearly all the cases, he is irritated with something: either the driver in front of him, who isn’t giving way, or the oncoming glare from the traffic on the other side.
So, flashing his headlights/blaring his horn are a way of inflicting his irritation on the people who are irritating him. But when he does flash his headlights, the Indian driver doesn’t feel the pain, and that is why, he doesn’t realise that it bothers other people.
So the idea is to reflect some of the pain onto the driver. To make him stop it, we need something to irritate the hell out of him whenever he flashes his headlight.
In most cars, when you exceed a certain speed, usually 120 kmph, the car starts beeping, just in case you forget that you are travelling at that speed. That is a little scary in the beginning, because it sounds very similar to a ticking time-bomb, and if you are travelling at that speed, the last thing you want to do is start looking for a bomb in your car.
But over time, you learn to ignore it. This idea could have been ramped up to really good speed governors in countries, and I shall borrow it to solve our present problem.
So whenever a driver flashes his headlights for, instead of putting them the dipper on, let the horn of the car sound out, but on the speaker system of the car, as loud as possible, so that the driver won’t dare flash the headlights for more than a second, or even better not at all. I agree it is a novel way of including the total economic costs of externalities, but we are talking about Indian drivers here.
Granted, a loud horn blast may be slightly hazardous to one’s ears; so it may be substituted for an irritating noise, say a nagging wife or mother :P, or nails dragged against a blackboard.
Because I am an aspiring geek, my mind has suddenly gone into a “You know what would be so damn cool!” mode. This beep-when-you-speed system can be set up to be excellent speed-traps if you combine RFIDs with it:
- Set up RFID programmers at roads where a lot of accidents happen and you want everybody to maintain a speed-limit.
- Program RFIDs in cars entering the zone, with the speed limit.
- If you do cross the speed limit, the car should start beeping. If the car beeps for more than 10-15 seconds, send the details to the traffic police data-centre, and set up a ticket to be sent to your residence.