In response to a report in The Times of India, “Police decide to free ‘free lefts,'” Feb. 9, 2016.
Implementing the ‘free lefts’ as suggested in the report is illogical and likely to make the congestion and traffic disputes worse.
If there are dedicated left ‘turn lanes,’ then “enforcing free lefts” could be beneficial. Trying to “enforce free lefts” at any junction without a ‘left turn lane’ would be inviting chaos. This simple question will identify the problems:
How far back from the junction should a motorist stay clear of the ‘free left area’ when there is no left turn lane?
If the traffic authorities are interested in educating motorists better traffic sense, there are other areas that would provide better results. Here are two:
- Make motorists understand and follow the concept of “yielding,” and
- Stop the “bigger vehicles have right-of-way” driving.
Yielding means allowing the opposing traffic pass even when you have the right-of-way so as to avoid blocking traffic or causing accidents. Now, many motorists in Kerala insist on having right-of-way (even when they don’t have the right-of-way, according to commonly accepted traffic rules) causing unnecessary traffic jams and accidents.
Having drivers who understand the concept of “yielding” along with some common sense and civility can help avoid many traffic jams and accidents.
“Bigger vehicles have right-of-way”
Two common paradigms in play in Kerala roads are:
- “Rules of the jungle,” and
- “Road as a racing track.”
“Bigger vehicles have right-of-way” is a manifestation of the “Rules of the jungle.” With this paradigm, pedestrians have to yield for all traffic. Bicycle riders should stay off paved road. Two wheelers should not inconvenience cars and autos. Cars and autos should get out of the way for buses (especially KSRTC buses) and trucks.
With the “road as a racing track” paradigm, the purpose of driving is to find out who gets to the next stop light before others.
A better paradigm for improved traffic flow is: “Safety first for all road users.” In this paradigm, safety of all road users is the first priority. Pedestrians always have right-of-way, subject to prudent behavior. Two wheelers (including bicycles) have the legal right to use the full lane, just like any other motorized vehicles. Two wheelers should not treat roads as a racing track. Lone car drivers should feel guilty driving alone in a vehicle meant to carry 4 or 5 people, and should offer rides for others who also need to travel. Bus and truck drivers should not try to entertain themselves by trying to run over smaller vehicles, or treat roads as a racing track. Government officials and ministries need to remember that their position does not give them additional “road rights,” and should follow “rules of the road.”
If this “Safety first for all road users” paradigm is promoted and Kerala drivers are made aware of it, Kerala will have to live with loosing top spot in lists of “States with most road accidents in India.” [2, 3, 4]