Saturday, January 12, 2008

The driving genes?

of late, due to business travel, i have not been driving as much myself, but rather been in chauffeur driven cabs.
in Chennai and noida as well as in bangalore, for the drive to and from the airport

one thing that struck me recently was the whole 'driving culture' that seems to have evolved very distinctly, not only in the context of cities, but also within localities in the same city.

In Bangalore, most junctions have their own implicit conventions. when you are expected to cut the central circle and when not. at some junctions, the conventions vary with the time of the day as well as the presence of a traffic regulator [policeman or a home guard].

irrespective of signals, some junctions have their own right of way conventions - as to which roads get the preference etc. added to this is the 'might of way' conventions, resembling the Darwinian survival of the fittest [genes] theory. the bigger, faster your vehicle is, the mightier and rightier you are considered.

recently, what i noticed - both in chennai and bangalore was that when the culture code of - flashing headlights to signal that you claim the right of way, or honking to indicate that you are unhappy with the world in general - is broken, the affected party, or whoever considers that offensive, starts pumping adrenaline and has to show that the offence is not taken slightly.

on my way home from the airport a couple of days ago, a truck that was also turning right [obviously he was not on the rightmost lane to make the turn] made a deep swerve and was almost cutting my cab off. natural protective instinct led the driver to honk. surely, the truck driver was not amused.

with a wanton swing, he came very close to the cab to threaten and say that he could anytime just touch the cab and not even be affected by it.

this was enough for my driver to literally shift gears in the cold war. normally a very calm and composed driver, he stepped on the pedal, surged ahead, moved swiftly to the left - to get ahead of the truck ... and, slowed down, forcing the truck also to slow down!

having done that, a quick look at the rear view mirror he sped ahead, and resumed his normal, composed driving.

i see similar acts of aggression - the seeds of road rage? - in every city.

when i reflected, i realize that my own driving style has 'evolved' in the 17 years that i have been in Bangalore. i have become more aggressive that what i used to be.

do you think that driving needs a special set of genes and that these have their own social conventions?
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