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Old 1st December 2015, 20:10   #1
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Default Automotive Zeitgeist...or how older driving practices have changed today

The automobile has evolved over the last 100+ years - and more so in India over the last 20 years.

And with that has evolved how we drive.

Many years ago, there was a handbook that laid down the rules and techniques of driving. The book was called the Indian Highway Safety Code, and I am grateful to BHPian tilt for creating the thread and showcasing the document.

Much of what has been described in the Indian Highway Safety Code as well as in other drivers' handbooks from across the world, is based on a lot of common sense, and is still relevant to driving today. Yet, certain rules and techniques of driving have changed. This thread will attempt to highlight some of those techniques and rules that have undergone change.

Members' contributions are also welcome.
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Old 1st December 2015, 20:24   #2
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Default re: Automotive Zeitgeist...or how older driving practices have changed today

Hand Signals

The Indian Highway Safety Code Book - January 1950!-scan-9.jpeg

Hand signals are passé. In countries where traffic discipline is good, no driver is ever seen using hand signals. Two good reasons why:
1. It is just plain unsafe to stick your arm out of the window and gesticulate; and
2. With the advent of air conditioning as a standard feature, along with rising pollution, keeping the windows rolled up is the norm.

Turn indicators have been standardized across all cars today, and variations such as semaphore trafficators have ceased to exist. An interesting article on when and how the flashing amber-coloured indicators came into being can be read here.

Yet, in India, many Road Transport Departments insist that a person applying for a driving license must be familiar with and use hand signals. In fact, funnily, it is mentioned that Direction indicators of the vehicle may also be used instead of the hand signals.
Quote:
From http://www.delhi.gov.in/wps/wcm/conn...s+of+the+Road:
Hand Signals are necessary at certain times. When slowing down, extend your right arm palm down and swing it up and down; when stopping, raise your forearm vertically outside the vehicle; when turning right or changing lane to the right hand side, extend your right arm straight out, palm to the front; when turning left or changing lane to the left hand side, extend your right arm and rotate it in an anti-clockwise direction.

Last edited by SS-Traveller : 1st December 2015 at 23:16.
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Old 1st December 2015, 20:51   #3
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Default re: Automotive Zeitgeist...or how older driving practices have changed today

Traffic signals


The Indian Highway Safety Code Book - January 1950!-scan-8.jpeg

Across most of our cities (and across most of the cities across the world), the traffic police constable and his hand signals have been replaced by automated traffic lights. I remember it was almost a choreographed dance, how the traffic constable signalled at crossings to control traffic. There are rare occasions when we still get to see police constables controlling traffic manually in our metropolitan cities, but the art has seemingly disappeared - and the colour-changing red-and-green LED baton has made life easier for the constable too.
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Old 1st December 2015, 21:03   #4
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Default re: Automotive Zeitgeist...or how older driving practices have changed today

How to hold the steering wheel

The standard dictum in the mid-20th century was to hold the steering wheel at the 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock positions, and feed the wheel from hand to hand when making a turn. Then came power steering, followed by airbags, which changed the concepts of how to steer. The topic has been much discussed in this thread (10-2 steering position? Nope, it's 9-3 for Airbag-equipped cars), and here are some excerpts from there:
Quote:
Originally Posted by SS-Traveller
Allow me to put forward some points and thoughts:

1. 10-2, 9-3 and 8-4 are all valid positions to hold the steering wheel. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, but 9-3 has the least disadvantages as compared to the other positions, and therefore wins by a comfortable margin.

2. We started off by holding the steering wheel in the 10-2 position, till the '70s or so. The steering wheel was large diameter to provide mechanical advantage in a non-PS system controlling a heavy car, and trying to hold it in the 9-3 position meant a certain amount of discomfort because the arms were splayed beyond shoulder width. We were also sitting pretty close to the steering, usually with our chest 6"-8" away from the central boss of the wheel - this allowed the torso muscles to come into action to help turn the wheel too.

3. We were also taught to 'feed' the steering wheel from one grip to another while making a turn, releasing the grip on one hand and letting the wheel slide through, reestablishing grip while the other palm was released to slide back to its original position. This was due to the fact that the number of turns required to turn the wheels was large - usually >4 turns from lock to lock. Crossing the arms while turning the steering wheel was a strict no-no.

4. With the advent of power steering, the wheel became smaller in diameter, and lighter to turn. We did not need to sit so close to the wheel (muscle power requirement being minimised with power steering) - but many cabbies still sit up close to the steering due to antiquated training received from old-timers. Also, the 9-3 position became a more natural one because at 10-2 the arms were closer together and caused discomfort while sitting back from the steering wheel.

5. The number of steering wheel turns from lock to lock reduced in new generation cars, to around 2-3 turns. Most range of vehicular movements could be controlled with a maximum of 3/4th turn of the steering in either direction - hence, no more need to slide/'feed' the steering through from palm to palm. The general rule now is to maintain one palm grip all the way through turning the steering through 270 degrees. The left hand is used to steer to the right, and right hand to turn the front wheels left. The 9-3 position (as well as the 8-4 position) allow this, but not the 10-2 position.

6. 10-2 made us sit close to the steering wheel to maintain a comfortable position. Repeated crash tests showed that with airbag-equipped cars, a minimum distance of 10" was required to allow the exploding airbag to deploy fully before the head strikes it. Too close, and the head/chest would be struck by the exploding (rapidly expanding) airbag, causing injury and even death. This, plus the likelihood of injury to forearms being in the way of an exploding airbag, made 10-2 an undesirable position to hold the wheel (though injury to arms is of much lesser concern than injury to head/chest). In a non-airbag-equipped car, 10-2 may be acceptable, except for point #5.

7. 8-4 upends the palms, causing stress to the wrists while maintaining the posture for prolonged periods. By all means, maintain 8-4 if you must for short periods - but over a longer period, some wrist pain can be expected. 9-3 keeps the wrists in a more natural & unstressed position, so less chances of skeletal pain after a long session of driving.

8. 9-3 also allows the steering mounted control stalks to remain within easy reach of the fingers. If you inspect a car from the '70s or '80s, you'll find many of them had the control stalks angled further upwards to allow easy access when holding the wheel at 10-2. Today's cars have the stalks angled to allow easy access when holding the wheel at 9-3.

9. For those who love to drape their left hand over the gear knob and think the position 'looks cool', allow me to remind you of the first rule of being in the driver's seat - both hands on wheel, both eyes on road. Moving the left hand for a second to shift gears is all that is ideally allowed (for your own safety, please park the car to address that inexorable itch in the nether regions ). You don't drape your left leg over the clutch pedal when not using it, so why should you give similar treatment to the gear lever?

10. Those interesting combinations like 9-5, 12-6 and whatever else - please refrain from using them for your own safety.
Some more reading material about how to hold the steering wheel and steer different types of vehicles can be accessed at these two links:
1. The right way to hold a steering wheel
2. How to steer a car – part 2
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Old 1st December 2015, 21:30   #5
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Default re: Automotive Zeitgeist...or how older driving practices have changed today

Traffic Signs

Traffic signage has undergone a sea change over the years. The usual appearance of road signs 50 years ago was like this:

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The Indian Highway Safety Code Book - January 1950!-scan-12.jpeg

Road signs across countries have been standardized based on the Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals, wherein the shapes, sizes and colour schemes of 8 types of traffic signs have been standardized. Though many of the symbols may have been carried over from earlier traffic signs, they look quite different today (and some may even be confusing for those who may have memorized the older signage).

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Old 1st December 2015, 22:01   #6
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Default re: Automotive Zeitgeist...or how older driving practices have changed today

Overtaking

Allowing a following vehicle to overtake was a standard practice in olden days.

Automotive Zeitgeist...or how older driving practices have changed today-scan.jpeg

Some Transport Departments still insist that you do the same.
Quote:
To allow the vehicle behind you to overtake, swing your right arm backward and forward in a semi circular motion.
However, across the world today, the driver of the vehicle being overtaken has no business signalling to the following vehicle to convey the message that you can overtake safely. In fact, that signal has been entirely eliminated, and the onus lies entirely on the overtaking vehicle, whose driver has to judge the risks while performing the manoeuvre.

The British Highway Code has this to say to drivers while they are being overtaken:

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In India, though, we find unique ways to signal to the vehicle behind that it is safe to overtake!

Last edited by SS-Traveller : 1st December 2015 at 22:07.
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Old 1st December 2015, 22:24   #7
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Default re: Automotive Zeitgeist...or how older driving practices have changed today

Shifting gears

There was a time when one had to bring one's vehicle to a complete stop before engaging first gear. Gearboxes thirty or more years ago did not have synchromesh first gears, and gears would clash and be damaged if any attempt was made to engage first gear in a rolling vehicle.

Due to the limited rpm range of engines of yesteryears, gears needed to be shifted sequentially. Today, many drivers shift from third gear directly to fifth (Gear Skipping).

Last edited by SS-Traveller : 1st December 2015 at 22:36.
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Old 1st December 2015, 23:00   #8
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Default re: Automotive Zeitgeist...or how older driving practices have changed today

Reversing

The ideal way to reverse one's vehicle many years ago, was to place one's left arm across the backrest of the passenger seat, and turn one's torso, head and neck around (tough to do for someone suffering from torticollis!), observe through the rear windscreen and left rear window, and then reverse.

With the advent of ORVMs and reversing sensors (and even rear-view cameras) in most of today's vehicles (Reverse camera or Sensor ?), reversing has become so effortless and much less painful. The need to turn back and directly observe the road behind while reversing has been all but eliminated, and (presumably!) one is able to reverse much more safely today than even 10-15 years ago.
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Old 2nd December 2015, 00:40   #9
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Default re: Automotive Zeitgeist...or how older driving practices have changed today

Great topic. We Indians have developed many dangerous techniques that should be really banned. But RTOs don't care, they are more interested in fund raising.

Let me reproduce a discussion from an earlier date:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Samurai View Post
Since we Indians don't have any driver's manual to study before the driving test, none of us really learn the exhaustive set of driving rules usually studied in other countries. We just learn to control the vehicle, get the license and do whatever we feel like on the road.

In fact, that is why we have threads like this where simple driving rules are discussed and debated upon.

Quote:
Flashing is the universal sign in India to demand right of way and not give. So I shall stick to it.
Here in lies the problem.

Driving is a privilege, not a right. It is an act where you share a common resource like road to travel to different places. That act can be safely performed only when you use courtesy as the basic principle.

Therefore, every driving signal is based on the principle of courtesy. Think about it. There is not a single driving signal where you can order others do your bidding. You show the turn signal to warn others about your intention to turn. But you execute the turn only when it is safe to turn. Would you show right turn signal and then turn when there is oncoming traffic? If you do, the oncoming car/bus will pummel into you. Similarly, you can't flash a signal to say "I am coming anyway", and then go head on. How is it different than turning right when there is oncoming traffic?

This is what wrong usage leads to:
Car 1: "Flash" "Flash" "I am coming anyway, get out of my way..."
Car 2: "The hell you are... I won't allow" OR "Oh shit, I can't get out of the way."
[This leads to accidents unless one can yield before it is too late]

You can't have a driving signal that depends on playing chicken.

The correct usage:
Car 1: "Flash" "Flash" "I yield, you go first".
Car 2: "Oh, he is letting me go. Thanks buddy."
[This never leads to an accident]

Quote:
Just because Europeans flash to give right of way does not mean it is the correct way, is it?
Actually, yes. Because it doesn't lead to an accident. Almost all head-on collisions in India happen due to idiots coming on the wrong side flashing their lights and demanding passage. What if the other side doesn't give passage or cannot give passage for lack of room or time? Bang!

This is not about of having different customs. European/American usage of flash is courteous and safe, ours is rude and nearly suicidal. Do you really have to wonder which is correct?

Quote:
confusing behaviour like the right indicator for letting a guy overtake
This is a very dangerous wrong usage. If the same signal is used for right turn as well as to allow overtake, how to know which one is indicated? What if I mistake the right turn indication as overtake indication? The car in front is trying to turn, the rear car will try to pass it. Bang!

Quote:
or using hazard flashers as direction indicators or just illumination.
Have you ever tried staring at blinking lights for couple minutes or more? You will feel dizzy or disoriented. The purpose of blinking lights is to instantly alert you to danger. It should be used only in situations where people will see it for very short duration. When used by a stranded car, or very slow moving car, other cars will be instantly alerted and then pass carefully. However, when used by a fast moving car, the cars in the rear have no escape from the blinking lights for a long time. And you can't signal any turns. Therefore, this is both dangerous and discourteous to the cars behind you.

Last edited by Samurai : 2nd December 2015 at 14:39. Reason: typo
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Old 2nd December 2015, 10:35   #10
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Default re: Automotive Zeitgeist...or how older driving practices have changed today

I got my drivers license in 1991. I was tested for the "give way to traffic from the right" rule. I searched all available literature from the RTO today, did not find any reference to it!!

At a roundabout/circle or junction with no clear precedence marked, the "give way to traffic from the right" rule has been supplanted by "give way or take precedence as convenient, in order to keep moving" kind of rule. It mostly works, sometimes it leads to total gridlock.
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Old 2nd December 2015, 11:24   #11
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Default Re: Automotive Zeitgeist...or how older driving practices have changed today

In a country were 'I want to be first, I am the best' mentality prevails on top of 90% of the road users mind, there is no way any of the older driving practices will exist.

To the overtaking point mentioned;
I remember when I use to do my initial years of driving on Kerala highways, I could hear the air brakes hissing of the heavy vehicles I used to overtake , which means regardless of enough space for me to finish my overtake or not, they slow down so I can get back to my lane as soon as possible.

Now what I notice is, when I start a overtake, the vehicle I overtake speeds up and makes sure I am put on a suicidal mission.
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Old 2nd December 2015, 12:41   #12
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Default Re: Automotive Zeitgeist...or how older driving practices have changed today

Quote:
Originally Posted by Samurai View Post
Great topic. We Indians have developed many dangerous techniques that should be really banned. But RTOs don't care, they are more interested in fund raising.

Let me reproduce a discussion from an earlier date:
You are right.
One of my maniac friend has zero logical sense.
On highways he flashes his light and drives on the wrong side assuming that the person coming WILL yield.

Once a tempo did not yield and my friend was cussing.
I asked him to cool down and told that if I was driving the tempo, not only would I have not yielded, but I would've in fact made sure that I drive on your lane and make you kiss the unpaved shoulder on your left.

Last edited by alpha1 : 2nd December 2015 at 12:44.
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Old 2nd December 2015, 12:49   #13
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Default Re: Automotive Zeitgeist...or how older driving practices have changed today

Excellent thread SS da, kind of nostalgic. How did you manage to get those old traffic manuals? As far as hand signals goes, I still love the way the traffic police used their hand gestures till the 90's. It was quiet an art form. Whereas now a days the gestures are more like the traffic police calling his old school friend.

Driving in the past was a bit laid-back and peaceful. Turning back to the present, its more like a mission and with auto-rickshaws playing havoc, its a race to who takes the empty space in front of the car.

Last edited by himadrimondal : 2nd December 2015 at 12:51.
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Old 2nd December 2015, 14:34   #14
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Default Re: Automotive Zeitgeist...or how older driving practices have changed today

Samurai, spot on, +trillion! You describe the frustration I face every single day after having driven in the US for 22 years. Brinksmanship every step of the way, that is how driving is done here.

My understanding of the rules of driving in India are:

1) Whoever gets there first has right of way
2) Might is right (supplants #1)
3) There are no other rules

I am still surviving in one piece despite all this.
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Old 2nd December 2015, 14:54   #15
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Default Re: Automotive Zeitgeist...or how older driving practices have changed today

Thank you sir for starting a wonderful thread. Really enjoyed reading it.

Regarding your comment on arm signals -

Quote:
Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
Hand signals are passé. Yet, in India, many Road Transport Departments insist that a person applying for a driving license must be familiar with and use hand signals.
You are absolutely right in your observation that mostly no one uses arm signals these days in most countries.

I had the same question for my driving instructor in Singapore (UK curriculum) about 10 years back.

He shared that it is still a part of the licensing curriculum as this knowledge might prove useful in certain specific circumstances, e.g. trafficators broken down, understanding & following a traffic cop's instructions etc. A driver with this knowledge is better off than one without.

However, this topic is not tested or mandatory during the actual driving test.

Indian RTOs surely need to update their view and language on this topic as on several other critical ones.

Here's the latest official guideline on it in UK:

Automotive Zeitgeist...or how older driving practices have changed today-armsignals.png
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