Aseem Shaikh got a taste of road rage a month ago when he and his family were on their way to Huma Adlabs, the multiplex on Lal Bahadur Shastri Road in the eastern suburb.
"A Maruti Esteem slid next to us when we had stopped at a red light. When the lights turned green, the car sped and suddenly swerved to the right coming in my way. I did apply the brakes but couldn't avoid bumping into the car resulting in a small dent on its bumper," said Shaikh, who works in a multinational firm.
The Maruti's driver, a heavily built man, stepped out of the vehicle abusing Shaikh. "He didn't hit me but before I could say anything, he kicked the signal light of my car and sped away, leaving me dazed."
Shaikh spent more than Rs 6,500 for a new signal light. This is just one example of the growing incidents of road rage in the city.
"Mumbai traffic still has some discipline, but not in other big cities such as Delhi and Kolkata," said Vishal Rao, a driving enthusiast who recently moved to Mumbai from Delhi.
"There are more cases of mob rage in Mumbai, where drivers are manhandled by passersby and residents if there is an accident," he added.
Scenes of drivers hurling abuses or coming to fisticuffs are becoming a common scene in Mumbai, that is known for its road etiquette.
"It's difficult to monitor road rage cases as there is no comprehensive study done on it as far as Mumbai is concerned," said VS Gosavi, traffic deputy commissioner of police (city).
"The city police handle traffic assault cases. The traffic police usually have nothing to do with it," Gosavi said.
According to mediaperson Pritish Nandy, road rage is a byproduct of frustration, caused by traffic snarls. "Even the most patient driver is going to lose it with our kind of traffic," he said.
"The key lies in effectively managing traffic and roads instead of teaching people how to drive. I am a person who won't get involved in any unruly incidents, but if someone's acting smart with me, I won't hesitate giving that person a piece of my mind," Nandy added.
He narrated an incident when a driver of an embassy car acted smart with his driver. "I got down, stopped the car, took down his name and other details and complained to the consul general. The next day he dropped in to apologise," Nandy recalled.
But why do such cases happen at all? "One feels powerful when he is in charge of the vehicle. But when one sees losing control, there is a tendency to overreact and assert himself," pointed out Pradnya BA, a counseling psychologist from Aavishkar Clinic at Dadar.
Tips to avoid road rage
Don’t cut off other drivers: When you merge, make sure you have enough room and always signal before you merge.
Don’t drive slowly in the fast lane: Avoid using the fast lane except for the brief time it takes to pass another driver. Driving slowly in the fast lane frustrates other drivers.
Don’t tailgate: Many drivers get angry when they are followed too closely. Remember to keep the appropriate following distance between you and the car ahead of you.
Don’t signal gestures to other drivers: Keep your hands on the steering wheel. Making obscene gestures to other drivers may provoke him or her.
Use your horn for emergencies only: Even a polite tap of your horn may be enough to provoke another driver. In India, we are too 'horn happy' and tend to use the horn all the time. It has been medically proven that noise pollution can cause blood pressure to rise. So, use your horn sparingly and enjoy the drive!
You can protect yourself getting involved in a potentially violent incident by following some basic tips:
Avoid eye contact with an angry driver: To some people, eye contact is the same as a challenge. If someone is determined to act out his or her frustrations, even a friendly smile can be misinterpreted.
Give an angry driver plenty of space: If you make a driving error (even accidentally), it is possible the other driver may try and pick a fight with you. Put as much distance between your vehicle and the other car as you can.
(With inputs from Sriram Naryanan)