Why are Indians known to be such bad drivers?
In India, a person dies in a road accident every three minutes or 17 every hour, according to an IndiaSpend report. More than 1.5 million have died over the decade to 2016 and 5.5 million have been seriously injured. India has more crashes than any other country, which ends up tangling the criminal justice system in many cases and causing a loss equivalent to 3% of gross domestic product.
These abysmal statistics bring up a pertinent question – are Indians really just horrible drivers or is there something bigger at play that causes these accidents?
Judging by the daily anarchy that we witness on roads (traffic snarls, road rage, accidents, etc.) it seems like driving in India follows unwritten rules, which more often than not do not comply with the actual rules. A prevailing culture of corruption, coupled a rising disposable income among few individuals who feel they have authority over everyone, make it extremely easy to bend road rules, which more often than not result in tragic accidents.
It’s not that Indians are bad drivers; it’s just that all bad drivers in India have driving licenses. This happens because the Indian government certification is limited to testing a driver’s ability, and not to drive safely. Top that up with the prevalence of rampant corruption in RTOs and our roads become deadlier by the day. In a recent survey of corruption in Delhi, 26% of the households said they had first-hand experience of corrupt practices at the regional transport offices (RTOs). That’s how 16-year-olds are constantly seen whizzing past us in fancy convertibles.
The above statistics are a great example of the direct correlation between corruption and the increase in the number of bad drivers. A lot of individuals tend to hire agents who can expedite the process of obtaining licences. The agents, in collaboration with bureaucrats, are able to simplify the process of getting a licence.
And this phenomenon does not stop at just personal driving, but also extends to the trucking industry. According to a 2007 report from Transparency International India, the trucking industry alone paid nearly Rs. 22,200 crores in bribes every year; more than 43% of these bribes were paid to RTO officers, with the police taking 45% of the share.
What is the solution to repairing our reputation as bad drivers? A major overhaul of the system. Since RTOs are controlled by the states, it should be easier to begin reforms at the state level. Like Western countries, we could be tested in a simulator for a range of driving and safety skills instead of simply driving in a set pattern and proving that we can reverse in a safe compound. But more importantly, we need to take it upon ourselves to make our roads safer and our reputations cleaner again.
Debarati is a perpetual wanderer, a thorough planner and a closet Bollywood lover. She spends her time writing and reading about anything and everything, when not busy fantasizing about a cabin in the mountains and food. Lots of food.