On a January night in 2014, a Noida-based journalist and his colleagues were heading back home in an SUV and they had taken the Delhi-Noida-Delhi (DND) Flyway as usual. Soon they heard a group of bikers honking uncontrollably behind them, desperate to overtake. But due to a little rush on the flyway that night, the driver couldn’t give them an immediate passage to go ahead. However, after a few minutes the bikers succeeded in overtaking the SUV and then they blocked it tactically.
‘There were four of them, who encircled the vehicle and started provoking us. We instructed our driver not to react no matter what and in a few minutes he drifted the car and broke through the encirclement. The fuming bikers did not stop following us until we took several turns and reached a very long distance,’ says Abhishek Kumar, who works for a media house.
However, not everyone in the national capital is fortunate enough to dodge a situation like the one mentioned and many of them end up getting shot, stabbed, or thrashed severely.
In July, a 30-year-old man from Manipur was beaten to death at late night by a group of men after an altercation between the occupants of a car (the accused group) and the occupants of an auto-rickshaw (the victim and his friends) which didn’t let the car overtake even after being honked at repeatedly. The two groups had quite an exchange of profane words in the process. And soon after the passengers of the auto-rickshaw de-boarded, they realised that the car had followed them till that point. Later, the five raging occupants of the car got hold of one of them. When his friend came to his defence, he was strangled and kicked to death. By that time, friends of the deceased- unnerved by the incident- fled from the spot.
So far in 2014, as many as 62 road rage incidents like that have happened in Delhi, for which cases of murder and attempt to murder have been registered, reveal Delhi Police records.
Why road rage?
In this regard, it is very important to understand why road rage incidents have become so rampant. It is largely because general aggression level in Delhiites and also degree of bystander apathy, has both gone up. People have started leading a round-the-clock ill-tempered lifestyle and have also lost the concern for other fellow citizens, turning themselves into non-participating spectators, puts in Dr Samir Parikh, Director of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences at Fortis Healthcare. He further says, ‘Tolerance level among people have dropped. When these factors are combined, it turns into a catalyst which can turn a trivial dispute into a road rage incident and even claim lives.’
In two different incidents on 14 August this year, school buses were stopped- one in Rohini and the other on the Palam-Dwarka stretch during the day and the drivers were beaten up with rods on crowded roads, for not letting the cars behind them overtake. While in the first case the accused were tracked in Haryana and arrested after a fortnight, the accused in the second case are still at large. The accused, arrested from Bahadurgarh in Haryana, in the former case, turned out to be property dealers. They were heading towards their office in outer Delhi and they later told police that they were agitated as they could not overtake the vehicle despite the fact that it was rush hour. They couldn’t even remember any particular reason behind their anger on the 14 August morning.
It has been found that most drivers in Delhi drive under a constant pressure. This pressure can be an outcome of various factors like the very feeling of one getting late, the anticipation of some business loss, in fact, it is an infinite list of things running inside the human mind always pushed beyond its limits, adds Dr Samir Parikh. He further opines that increase in the overall stress level has increased insecurities among us leading to an inadequate support system, which is the backbone of sanity. However, no psychological defence should be used to validate incidents like that. It is something very unacceptable and culprits in road rage should be pulled out of the imaginary bubble that ‘they can get away with it’. They should be subjected to harsh punishment and conviction rate should be higher.
Is it high in bigger cities?
Unless a comparative study is conducted, a general conclusion like road rages are more common in bigger cities cannot be drawn as such, says Anil Shukla, Joint Commissioner of Police (traffic). He further adds, ‘but I can still say, Delhi particularly records high road rage cases because the drivers here lack courtesy, they lack concern for others and there is always this selfish me-first attitude. In Canada, the law is 100 per cent intolerant towards road rage cases. There drivers are severely punished for any provocative gesticulations or aggressive behaviour while driving. But in India, the same thing is not a cognizable offence. Amending the laws in this regard may make a significant difference,’ adds Shukla further.
According to Dr Parikh, a large number of road rage incidents are caused by alcohol or drug influence, usually under peer pressure. ‘If we look into the issue of road rage from a broader perspective, it demands contribution from the entire society. Because the factors are nothing but products of the 21st century society,’ Dr Parikh finally adds.