There’s probably no Mumbaiite who has not held on to the side rails of an auto for life and prayed at least once as the driver hurtled his rickety three-wheeler down the road. Or hit the brakes and almost caused a pile-up as an auto suddenly tried to overtake your car from the wrong side.
Other than causing traffic congestion through illegal parking, the one big problem with auto drivers is their rash and dangerous driving.
Ashima Kothari, 19, a resident of Kandivli (west) said one of her friends came close to losing his life recently because the auto driver was driving recklessly.
Narrating the incident, Kothari said her friend was going home on a rainy night from his office in Marol to Jogeshwari (east). “The driver was speeding on the Western Express Highway though the road was wet. There is this bump on the highway after the Jogeshwari flyover. When the auto hit the bump, because it was going so fast, the driver could not control it. The vehicle hit the road so hard that my friend was thrown out. Luckily, he was only bruised,” she said.
Arun Agarwal, 50, a businessman from Goregaon (east) who drives to his office in Dadar every day, said rash auto drivers worsen the already bad traffic situation. “They always drive in the wrong lanes and slow down the traffic. They should use the last lane, but you will find most of them in the first two lanes. And no amount of honking will make them give way,” he said.
It’s extremely dangerous the way auto drivers cut lanes and overtake from the wrong side, said Mahesh Sawalka, 48, a businessman who lives in Malad (east). “Without any indication, they switch lanes and overtake you from the left,” he said.
The problem is because of the easy availability of permit to drive public vehicles, said an official from the Regional Transport Office, requesting anonymity. “For this authorisation, all you require is a domicile certificate, character certificate from a police authority, a medical certificate, address proof and driving licence,” the official said. “Also, most of the drivers are immigrants and have not been trained on city roads. It worsens the situation.”
Mote Patil, inspector from the prosecution wing of the traffic police, said: “Traffic officials have been asked to keep a tab on auto drivers who cut lanes, jump signals and drive rashly.”