Monday, October 5, 2009

Are most Indian drivers retarded?

I deliberately gave a provocative and non PC title, but do read on...and you can conclude for yourself.

The road I take to office daily is dug up, ostensibly to widen it. Nothing new about that in this city, and that is probably the topic of a future post. But, as a consequence, traffic tends to creep along, sometimes slowing down to a halt altogether. At this point, a bunch of vehicles (they range from MTC buses to autos to fancy shiny cars) decide to make a break for it by getting on to the lane for oncoming traffic in order to beat the jam. Not surprisingly, they immediately block the oncoming traffic and who in turn block these vehicles from going further. The result is a complete grid lock with vehicles unable to proceed in either direction.

Now I am certain that since this happens during rush hour, the people using this stretch are the same people who use it every day to go to work. In other words, the consequences of their actions are there for them to see, day after day after day. And yet, they just don't seem to get the message! Most living creatures, presumably from guinea pigs up, learn, by dint of repetition, to avoid getting involved in an inextricable situation. But clearly not so, Indian drivers.

So what are we to conclude from this?

8 comments:

AmOK said...

Just young and impatient, note demographics. Or old with driver. Retarded? No.

Niket said...

Yes :-)

N. Sukumar said...

The other extreme, prevalent in the US, for instance, where cars will wait almost forever in front of a red light at an empty intersection - is just as retarded.

The optimum situation is one with a small fraction of rule ignorers. See Flow improvement caused by agents who ignore traffic rules: http://arxiv.org/abs/0901.3513

Rahul Basu said...

Sukumar: I am not sure I agree. Yes, it may seem mindless to wait at an empty intersection but remember it is not for long (lights are time limited after all) and occasionally a car will suddenly appear speeding through the junction which you hadn't seen earlier -- in fact the last has happened to me. Better safe than sorry, to use a cliche :)

AmOK said...

Actually OLO, as usual you ask a deep question, I should have known. With humble apologies for my slowness, I now see your meaning.

Indeed, why do we have this evidence of mental apathy and non-learning? Instead of complaining to the local municipality and getting the problem ( traffic control ) addressed, people desperately try the same losing strategy again and again. This displays a deep psychological scar delivered by servility under years of foreign rule, knowing that the only recourse is the act of frustration, seldom successful, and the system cannot be dented, much less changed. Blocking things has been a national means of protest for a long, long time and this is another example, but executed without conscious intent, a deep muscle memory, a programmed response.

Now as you know I am not as wise as thee, so do enlighten us all, expound further and bring it to our level. Hold forth. ( Maybe N. S. can tell us the US programmed response to such a situation.)

அகிலன்(Akilan) said...

They are. almost.

N. Sukumar said...

Rahul, my comment was made at least partly in jest. But sometimes the computer system controlling the light is kaput and there are cultures (not the USA any more) where cars DO wait endlessly... until SOMEONE breaks the mold and leads the way out... hence the Phys. Rev. E 80, 016111 (2009) article I cited. But more than a very small fraction of "rule ignorers" is definitely a recipe for disaster. But I'm not sure if that optimum or limiting fraction is a universal constant or density-dependent.

Rahul Basu said...

Sukumar: In India, since the fraction of rule ignorers is probably somewhere close to 90%, it's definitely a recipe for disaster :-)