Friday, June 29, 2012

Driving : Redmond vs Hyderabad/Delhi

So I am currently in Washington state and things here are so huge (including distances), that one has to invariably drive around to reach any place. Public transport is there but too expensive for rupee to dollar convertors like me :)

I was a little un-nerved about driving here, mainly because they drive on the wrong side of the road in this place and the compacts here are the B and C segment sedans back home. But as it turns out if the traffic signs are good and people are disciplined, driving is easy.

First things 1st, the speed limits here are not assigned on someone's whims and fancies, there is a science behind the speed limit in each zone and the speed limit signs are appropriately posted everywhere. Whether its the freeway, onramps or residential areas. We even have markings before certain curves telling what is a safe speed to attempt that curve.

Lane markings are omnipresent, left-only/right-only lanes are marked nicely and the yellow/white lines are perfect often guiding you on joining a particular lane while taking a left turn.

Contrast that to say Hyd, Delhi still has proper lane markings (although no one even knows what they mean). In Hyderabad, lane markings are non-existent. Anyone can switch lanes anytime without an indicator. There are no fines/fines are too small for any deterrence. Infact the traffic cops are themselves so corrupt that they tell you inflated values for the fines so that they can be bribed instead (not all though, but most).

Put all of that together and a licensing office that does little to test the skills/knowledge and temperament of prospective drivers and voila, you have a recipe for disaster.

Things are changing though, both the Delhi and Hyderabad traffic departments now have social presence and are trying to curb corruption and traffic violations. Delhi Traffic Police is pushing for higher fines and stricter enforcement. But sometimes I wonder if its too little too late.

The licensing offices also need to be brought under strict control. It isn't uncommon to hear folks say they have a license but don't know how to drive. Infact most folks have never driven in their life before but still have a car+bike license. And these aren't folks with questionable backgrounds, these are folks who are educated and are working in top companies. Usually states are the culprits here. Is big cities, still there are tests, but in most small towns and corrupt states, that simply isnt the case.

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