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Raging menace

india Updated: Jul 19, 2007 01:50 IST

The Delhi motorist who protested when two motorcyclists hit his car could never have imagined the sort of armed response he would face. But face it he did and it cost him his life. The offenders set upon the motorist and brutally beat him to death. This kind of violence is taking place far too often for comfort in metros, especially Delhi and, to a lesser extent, in Mumbai. While this incident had a gory end, every day people are subject to different forms of rage, ranging from verbal abuse to aggressive honking and blinking of lights. Women drivers are often singled out for aggression.

Now many may argue that road rage cases in India are far less than in the US, Britain, South Africa and Brazil. True, but nowhere is getting from one point to the other so taxing as it is here. Many cases of violent road rage are perpetrated by those under the influence of alcohol. The reason is that drunken driving attracts very little attention here except during Christmas and New Year when policemen lie in wait with breathalysers. Given the relatively small number of cases, the road rage phenomenon can still be controlled in India through sensitisation drives.

For this we need to understand why people are so quick to anger on the roads. The main reason, as we all know, is that most think they can get away with it. But there are other factors: there is much greater access to firearms, increased congestion on the roads and people, especially in metros, suffer from greater levels of stress, whether work-related or personal. Psychologists feel that loud music in cars contributes to aggression. A lot also has to do with the anonymity that people face in cities and perceptions that they have been shown disrespect by fellow motorists. The urge to save face by inflicting verbal or physical violence is linked to this. As we see on roads, the misplaced sense of individualism with which we approach all civic matters prevents us from observing rules and giving way to other people. So, before things get out of hand, both the police and citizens must begin to address some of these issues.