Much to talk about

Given the traffic snarls, patchy tarring and prominent potholes, one would assume that Bangalore’s roads aren’t the best place to hold a conversation. The surprising thing, though, is that this is exactly what a lot of motorists in the City do.

Having conversations while driving causes problems for other motorists.  DH Photo by S K Dinesh It’s fairly common to see two drivers — particularly in autorickshaws or riding two-wheelers — leaning out of their vehicles and speaking while on the road.

Predictably, this poses a host of problems to other drivers — they tend to slow down, drive erratically and more often than not, swerve between lanes or worse, come to a complete halt in the middle of the road.

This sort of situation sounds familiar to most Bangaloreans. As Amit Kasliwal, a professional, recalls, “I remember once going to work in an autorickshaw — the driver crossed an area where he encountered one of his friends and they began to chat with each other. To keep the conversation going, they drove their autos side-by-side and blocked more than half the road. They also drove slowly, so that the noise of the engine wouldn’t disturb them.”

This is particularly annoying, he adds, to other people on the road.
   “In general, one’s reaction time has to be quick on Bangalore roads — especially during peak hours. When drivers start to chat on the road, their focus shifts from driving to talking. The cops need to be strict with such motorists,” he reasons.

However, M A Saleem, the additional commissioner of police (traffic), admits that this is easier said than done. “There’s no specific law that bans talking on the roads, but we can book such offenders under cases of public nuisance. In such a case, there’s no spot fine — errant drivers are sent to the court. We haven’t received any complaints of this nature yet. But if they are brought to our notice, we will take it up,” he says.

Bindu, a professional, points out that since speaking on mobile phones while driving is illegal, holding conversations on the road should be handled stringently as well. “I’ve seen this happening quite often and believe it’s very risky. It isn’t just up to the police — passengers in autorickshaws or other motorists should also object to such behaviour.

The police, on their part, should impose fines for talking on the road — in the same manner that they fine people talking on cellphones — this is equally dangerous and slows down traffic,” she states. Nandini, an HR professional, agrees with this view; like many others, she feels that autorickshaw drivers are the chief culprits when it comes to chatting on the road. “It’s a huge menace, especially for those driving immediately behind — you can neither overtake not go between the two vehicles. Since it’s mostly autorickshaw drivers who behave in this manner, I feel that having a separate auto lane would take care of this problem. In fact, it would solve several other issues as well — autos are the chief contributors to traffic; in fact, every time there’s an auto strike, traffic moves more smoothly on the roads,” she notes.

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