Unwelcome company on the road

Avoidable Danger

Unwelcome company  on the road

You are at a signal in an auto and suddenly, a stranger jumps in next to the driver and asks for a lift for a short distance. Without asking for your permission or even thinking twice about it, the driver agrees.

As a passenger, you don’t know how to react. This is not an uncommon scene in the City. Many a time, it’s a policeman asking for a drop to the next signal. But even then, it is not justified.

“There needs to be a law against this. Even if nothing goes wrong, the passenger should take down the auto number and any other detail he or she can get and file a complaint,” suggests Sunanda, a student, who was understandably disturbed when this happened to her.

Her concern is legitimate, especially because the dangers of sharing an auto with
a stranger aren’t restricted to just women. Anything can go wrong — one could
be robbed at gunpoint or physically assaulted for showing retaliation.

Hers is not an insolated incident either. Men have also faced this, but are relatively tolerant compared to the opposite sex. “Once, a few of my friends and I were travelling back home in an auto from Brigade Road. Near Forum Mall, Koramangala, a guy put his hand out. We thought he must be waiting for an auto and we didn’t think our auto driver would stop. But to our surprise, he stopped, kept chatting with the stranger and even let him in.

We enquired and the driver claimed that he was his friend. We were definitely scared for a while, but our destination was coming up in a few minutes and so, we didn’t ask him again,” recalls Adarsh Upadhya, a software engineer.

“These things happen a lot, especially on HAL Road. Thankfully, a few auto drivers don’t pick up strangers. But it’s a growing menace in the City,” he adds.
This problem sometimes happens in hired cabs as well. One of the biggest mistakes anyone can make is to get into a cab or auto which has a stranger along with the
driver.

This is something that must be avoided under any circumstance, especially if you are a woman travelling alone. Even for those who are not from India, this is quite
a hassling and common occurrence.

“I have experienced the ‘friend of the driver’ situation several times. The first few times, I was quite alarmed, but told by Indians who were with me that this was normal. When I’m alone, I do let people rushing to work get in, but only in my neighbourhood, where I know the roads and feel safe as I’m known by many shopkeepers.

Once it happened despite my objection and feeling unsafe, I screamed at him to pull over and jumped out into a crowded area with many bystanders,” shares Marielle, an American expat in the City, adding that blowing a whistle and using a pepper spray are other ways to stay safe when such a situation arises.

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