Killers at the Wheel?

21 Nov

Interesting experience a few weeks ago. Scary as well when you think about it.

Much has been made about the traffic in Bangalore. What seems to be adding to the problem is bad drivers as well especially the taxis, vans, and busses that are ferrying vast number of people to their work at the booming BPO industry in Bangalore.

I had to go to out of town first thing in the morning and had arranged to get dropped off at the airport. The Taxi belonged to an agency that we use regularly at the office. Taxi arrives promptly at 6 am and we set off to the airport. Two minutes into the drive and I am not sure this guy knows how to drive. He’s barreling through the streets, not stopping at junctions, not reducing speeds at turnings. This is turning into one hair rising drive. The guy doesn’t seem to want to get his foot off the accelerator. Finally after a couple of near misses (early morning walkers), I tell him to stop and ask him to sit in the passenger seat and took over the driving myself.

After I have cooled down, I ask him where he learnt driving. He told me that he came to Bangalore a month back from Channapattana and spent a week at a driving school where he got his license (did not take a test). During that week, he drove the car 4 times. That is it !!

After that he was turned loose on the streets of Bangalore. He told me that he has been on duty ferrying people to call centers since he joined this job. According to him most drivers have similar backgrounds. No background check is done on their antecedents. I asked him how many accidents he has been involved in and he said there were two or three. He also mentioned to me that he had been on duty that day for 16 straight hours without sleep.

I know that getting labor is difficult but this is getting ridiculous. We are letting killers loose on the street and the RTO is responsible for it.

Now I can only imagine and shudder when I think of where the busses, lorries, tempos, autos etc are getting their drivers from.

Needless to say the agency services have since been terminated. But I don’t think the owner is fretting about lost business. There is much more business out there and losing ours will not matter.

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19 Responses to “Killers at the Wheel?”

  1. Kishor November 21, 2006 at 12:10 pm #

    Killer roads and senseless drivers…does Bengaluru need a deadlier combo than this?

  2. travel plaza November 21, 2006 at 2:28 pm #

    Wow! That is one scary story. Hair raising read….I’ve been in such taxis countless times in B’lore, little did I know that the reckless driving is not over confidence, but a lack of skills!!!What is B’lore traffic coming to?

  3. Srik November 21, 2006 at 2:45 pm #

    Yeah very much true. I have experienced it as well..And then on, I have been travelling on my own(safer mode), on my bike even if it is mid night or later or early morning. This has to be the heights of corrupt Govt. officials. They’ve sucked every blood out of the common man and they’re thirsty yet.

    Commendable post. I wonder if at all its gonna be changed! Even with automation of the processes, these buggers are out to bug every one.

  4. decemberstud November 21, 2006 at 8:04 pm #

    Phew…this is damn scary. When you started out the post, I was under the impression that the driver was super-duper experienced and thus the reckless driving.

    This is scary dude !!! I hate the ‘giMbaLa’ eating vultures in RTO. That’s the first department we need to target, right after PWD, of course.

    You know what, I do agree that the owner of that taxi service probably didn’t care that you terminated the contract (?), but then, little drops of water make an ocean…way to go….

  5. Vijay November 22, 2006 at 8:39 am #

    Kishor: Only gets worse…
    TP: Hope I didn’t scare you off any more taxi rides in India 🙂
    Srik: How can things change? They cannot because theres “Supply and Demand”… Demand for licenses and Supply of corrupt officials
    DS: Not many drops around 😦

    Heres another story on corruption… theres a family acquaintance who is a clerk at the registrars office… he owns 2 cars, a Honda Civic costing Rs. 12L + and a smaller car… I dont think the Govt pays that kind of salaries. We supposedly have agencies like the Lok Ayuktha who are toothless because they do not have any “enforcement” power..

    Still remember last year when the Chief Secretary to the Karnataka Govt said it would be foolhardy to increase the powers of the Lok Ayuktha.. maybe because he didn’t want to fall into the dragnet? 🙂

  6. Ram November 22, 2006 at 12:59 pm #

    Good Post. There is a site that I have setup hoping to catalyse a change http://www.transportindia.org . Any comments, suggestions, directions, participation in the blogs would be appreciated.

  7. Vijay November 22, 2006 at 1:27 pm #

    Ram: Will definitely check out your site.. thanks for visiting..

  8. some body November 22, 2006 at 2:30 pm #

    ram,

    nice site that! the blog section should become nice. you will definitely have lot more blogs to add if you join the irfca yahoogroup, and check out some of the members’ blogs, such as binai shankar’s.

    – s.b.

  9. prashanth November 23, 2006 at 10:49 am #

    God save the Bangaloreans…

    Last week, since a delivery was due, it was 1AM when I left office. Dropped one of my teammate in Jayanagar and proceeded towards my house. And I observed that the driver was feeling sleepy. Since I don’t know driving, Only option I had was to involve him in a conversation. I started asking him questions about his daily routine and other work, till I reached home.

  10. Vijay November 23, 2006 at 10:51 am #

    Prashanth: These guys are definitely overworked… good tactic though.. to keep him awake

  11. Murali Partha November 23, 2006 at 1:50 pm #

    Vijay,
    This reminds me of 1991, when I and 3 of my colleagues (Srini, Rajeev, Swami) went for our RTO 4-wheeler test way back in 1990! I still laugh my guts out when I recollect that day – but sadly, when you think about it, it really is no laughing matter.

    All four of us had gone through a driving school who had “promised” us our licenses at the end of our 10 day course. On the day of the test, the driving school instructor fore-warned us that only 3 of us would get the license that day. The RTO inspector was “duty-bound” to reject at least one person that day. “But not to worry sir – whoever is rejected, will be passed in the next test” was the assurance.

    Srini and I were super confident; not because we were very good at driving, but because we knew how “well” Swami and Rajeev drove. As expected, Srini and I finished our tests without any undue hitches and the inspector seemed satisfied. Then we retired to back seat when Swami and Rajeev took their turn. The fun began…

    Swami, revved up the engine and stalled promptly. Second attempt, another 10 meters like a Kangaroo hop and a stall. Third attempt – lo and behold – we were off. Some 21 minor incidents and stalls later we returned to the starting point when Swami was asked to stop the car in front of another inspector who was standing on the road side. Swami – poor chap – tried to stop. But by the time he looked down at the pedals to figure out where the brake pedal was (honestly – that was the explanation he gave to the inspector later!!!) he was already bearing down on the other inspector on the road side. Luckily for Swami, our inspector had the presence of mind to apply the brakes on the driving school car and honk to warn the other inspector to get out of the way.

    Swami got his license that day! He was indebted to Rajeev who bested Swami’s efforts when it was Rajeev’s turn to drive.

    Rajeev was one of the most nervous drivers you could imagine. He had a problem in turning the car either right or left, let alone a u-turn. He would always turn the car a few degrees and end up with his hands entangled in a hopeless mess at the end of it. So his strategy that day was to not execute any turns at all during the test. So whenever the inspector asked him to turn right or left, Rajeev ignored him and went straight. After about 3 instructions and 4 pleas to turn right/left that were ignored completely, the inspector gave up and let Rajeev do his thing. Rajeev, doing his 20kmph and many near hits and misses later, finally reached a point where he could not continue this charade any more. We had reached the dead-end of the road. He turned solemnly to the inspector and asked him – “What should I do next? Is that enough?”

    Needless to say, all of us in the back seat were almost in tears. Needless to say, Rajeev did not get his license that day. And needless to say, Rajeev got his license two days later. The story goes that during the second test, the inspector did not want to take a “chance” of going on the test with Rajeev. He just passed him to get rid of his headache.

    Sounds like a good 10min episode for Munnabhai 3, right?

  12. Ram November 23, 2006 at 2:22 pm #

    Vijay, Thanks for checking my site out. Since you have pointed out the problems with some of the drivers servicing the booming BPO industry, do you think you would like to spearhead a program on higlighting the problems, providing solutions and possibly set out a performance matrix to ascertain progress. I could provide some pages/links on my site to track this – let me know if there is any interest?

    some body, thanks for the compliments on the site and the info about irfca and bnai shankar’s blogs, will check them out – have already asked irfca to publicize my site.

  13. Vijay November 24, 2006 at 4:24 am #

    Murali: Too good… this comment deserves to go along with the main post… Hopefully your driving has improved… I should “test” you out when we see each other next time..

    Ram: I’ll be glad to contribute but unfortunately don’t have the bandwidth right now to do any spearheading for at least another 3-4 months…

  14. some body April 10, 2007 at 2:27 am #

    here’s another one for the road, i mean, one off of it!

    – s.b.

  15. silkboard April 19, 2007 at 5:20 am #

    I would have done that too Vijay. Not similar, but this happened to me at Pune once. From airport to my office, this cab was jumping lights. I wanred him once, and when he did it again, I asked him to stop, got off and just walked away. Period, don’t drive safe, no money for you.

  16. Jagadish May 29, 2007 at 1:02 pm #

    It has become a nightmare for me to take my car out of my home.

  17. Jagadish May 29, 2007 at 1:05 pm #

    can someone help in understanding the law of our traffic department.If a biker comes and hit a car and the mistake is of the biker still the car driver is blamed and pusished.What kind of rule is this?Still our traffic police are following the rules constituted by the britishers in the 19th century.

  18. Vijay May 29, 2007 at 1:43 pm #

    Jagadish.. unfortunate but true.. the first thing that happens after an accident is the gathering of curious onlookers and soon each will be interpreting the law as per his whims and fancies… good thought.. I’ll be sure to do a post on this phenomenon…

  19. Aditya May 29, 2007 at 9:15 pm #

    Viji, you understand this better than most people, right? Remember the Peepin incident?
    Hehe.

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