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My road-rage incidents: What I learned from looking back

With 20+ years of driving & covering approximately 4 lakh km, I have claimed insurance just three times.

BHPian Samba recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Okay, I agree that I am the best driver out on the road, but what do I need to do to improve myself and ensure that even if there are idiots on the road, my driving aces a tricky situation and everyone is safe.

Driving at a safer speed, maintaining proper lanes, following the law, keeping a safe distance, keeping our nerve are a few cliches that all of us would have heard. The majority of us know the basic safety measures that we need to follow on road.

But when there is a mess up on the road, I may be equally affected whether I was driving accurately or not. In every situation, we either already know or we need to reflect on what could have done to avoid the situation. Or how I could have been more prudent in avoiding the situation.

This post is not about teaching safe driving. There are plenty of awesome threads available in this forum & online.

My whole intent for this post is to see, what we do ourselves to implement it while we are driving. Do we confess our own faults & try to rectify it?

If we have the right of way and the other car cut into our lane, we blame the other driver and rightly so. But in this, we have to accept that this sort of driving is a commonplace thing and we have to be prudent enough to ensure that our vehicles - whether 2 wheeler or 4-wheeler - are safe.

Many young guys including Bhpians asked me to teach them how to drive properly or how to drive fast. Did I? No.

That's because I am no expert. I always advise them to get trained by a proper trainer, who has been responsible enough to take driving as a profession. At most I share a few basic driving tips, nothing more than that.

I agree it's not easy to get hold of a professional driver & get trained, but those who are really interested in learning advanced or fast driving should definitely go for it. Tips or coaching from a trained rally driver or a racing driver will always be much more effective than taking tips from an amateur like me.

Who is the judge of their expertise? Themselves? Not good. - BHPian Thad E Ginathom

Nothing can be more apt than the above-quoted line. So let the professionals do their work.

So what I believe is, if one wants to drive fast or want to learn advanced driving, he or she must undergo proper training. A practical one. Online videos or tutorials won't suffice.

Now, lets start with my own experience:

With 20 years + & covering approximately 4L km, I have claimed insurance thrice.

First one, I was overspeeding in an Alto K10, a truck wrongly changed its lane and while trying to avert the collision, the manoeuvre from my part was harsh enough for the skinny rear tyres of the K10 to give up and skid. The car brushed the rear of the truck, damaging the front bumper and denting the bonnet.

The second one was actually not my fault. I was waiting at a red light when a drunk driver without a driving license rear-ended my static car.

The third one happened while performing a stunt on private property. The rear wheels lost traction, the car spun and brushed the median, damaging the front bumper. The front bumper clips broke & it came off.

The first and the third one could have been very well avoided, but the second one was unavoidable.

Paid fine for traffic violations around 10-11 times, which I feel is acceptable in 20 years. Or maybe not. Any feedback is most welcome.

Near miss experiences? Quite a few. This I will state as bad or careless driving from my end. Reflex saved me, but definitely, a few times luck played a major role too.

A couple of incidents where my reflex saved the other person. But in reality, I should have been slower:

We know a lot of things and if we start implementing them impeccably, we will be 99.9% safe. So what stops us from implementing them?

So, what do I do to improve myself?

Team-Bhp threads:

These are few threads, I read thoroughly. They get into our subconscious mind.

Once in Kolkata, we did a safe driving training conducted by DBhpian SS-Traveller: Kolkata enthusiasts attend the Low-Risk Safe Driving course

There are 100's of safe driving tutorials available online. Indeed they teach many things.

The crash video's shared on Facebook or YouTube have a perspective of their own.

I download the dashcam video's from my car and I see them minutely on what manoeuvres could have been averted or where have I gone wrong.

Listen to the feedback's given by others. They can be right or wrong but taking the feedback first is important for me. I analyze later.

For example:

Team-Bhp moderator Blackpearl once told me, not to get carried over and drive fast through crowded places after following my car for quite a distance. This was back in 2014. We all know, it's not safe to drive fast through public places, but the word 'carried over' was the keyword.

My confession:

Getting carried over and drive fast.

Yet to get a proper solution for this. But definitely, I have toned down. Need to tone down further.

Getting impatient in a long traffic jam.

Need a proper solution for this too. I get impatient and I start to find gaps to squeeze further. Good music and some candy calm me down to some extent.

The bragging rights.

I covered point A to point B in 3 hours, which Gmaps showed 4.5 hours. This boosts my ego, and this gives an unsaid target to my friends to drive fast and achieve or beat the same. Earlier I was stupid enough to do this frequently. Thankfully now I try to refrain from this. I realized what is so wrong about that is that people develop an uncanny habit of trying to beat someone else's time. But that may actually be detrimental and fatal because any two drivers will always differ in their skill, reflex, patience and style. If we try to beat someone it sets unrealistic targets that may diffuse safety norms that a driver may have otherwise followed.

Losing my cool:

If someone cut my lane or honks unnecessarily it irks me. Sometimes I let it go by thinking- The road is full of Idiots! This satisfies my ego and I let go!

Over time, a few changes that I have observed in me are:

  • When I lose my cool or drive recklessly, few scary incidents which occurred with others, start popping up in my head. The incidents can be anything, from road rage, to a tyre burst, to harassment by the cops, to get involved in a collision or many others which we definitely do not want.
  • This calms me down. If we can learn from others mistakes, nothing can be better than it!

Accidents may occur with anyone at the wheels, but unfortunately, we don't have ctrl+z in real life. So it's better to be safe than sorry.

It will be interesting to hear from other Bhpians on how they do a self-check on themselves or how they analyze & deal with their weak points.

Here's what BHPian vigsom had to say on the matter:

The first two examples quoted here (Honour the drivers & riders that truly impressed you with their skills) are the way one should drive - allow room for others' errors, and keep one's cool at all times. Sadly, most of us can't be that way.

I, for one, come from a family of irate drivers - not rash drivers but extremely disciplined, expecting discipline from all other road users, and when expectations aren't met, go boiling. Result - always on the boil.

When I saw my uncle in Mumbai drive an Ambassador in 1986, he'd keep saying, "Aare, andhe ho kya?" (are you blind?) or "gadhe" (donkey). I've heard even well-mannered transport corporation drivers lose it. Once, in 2011, a TNSTC Volvo (the low floor intercity bus from Trichy to Chennai) driver called someone near Vilupuram and "erumaimaadu" (Buffalo). Drivers earlier used to be a sporting lot to let these comments pass, not anymore. Try speaking like this today in sober Vadodara, or for that matter anywhere, and one can even get roughed up.

Here are a few tips (have tried these out with success):

  1. Never show ego on the road
  2. Be a little accommodative - drive at no more than 60kmph in the city and allow others to pass (I even keep the windows down and give hand signals to allow others to overtake)
  3. Even if I have the right of way at intersections or on a narrow road, stop, wave to the other driver to pass. It helps.
  4. If you pass another driver from the left and cut back into his/her lane, first show an outstretched palm after passing as a means of saying sorry. If it results in potential conflict with the other driver trying a dangerous cutback, just allow the person to pass. Don't flashlights or honk madly. Never stare at someone once you pass. In a potential road rage situation, tell the other driver that you had no intent to show your superiority but decided to move ahead only because the other vehicle seemed to go slow. Massaging the other driver's ego helps.
  5. Alter the speed based on the road, the number of pedestrians, crossings, etc. I generally don't touch the three-figure mark because I'm always wary of some species crossing the road in surprise.
  6. Before reaching intersections on highways, flashlights to ensure that others at the intersection see your intent to cross. Honking just doesn't help.

Here's what BHPian Bibendum90949 had to say on the matter:

My driving spans two and half decades and close to 6 lakh km. Few things I would like to share which I've learned/realised/changed over the years.

On Indian roads, irrespective of your level of discipline and safe driving one employs, there's always an element of luck. It all depends on the other motorists and road users. No drive is 100% safe. I'm largely a very defensive driver. I cut down as many risks as possible and try to keep it to zero, especially overtaking on single-lane highways. That's one of the rare manoeuvres where we can have total control. Make the mind clear on this aspect with overtaking - when in doubt, always abort. I've heard from my friends saying they never wanted to do that tight overtaking but couldn't perform the decision making in that crucial moment and went ahead. The hunch, more often than not, is to go ahead. But it's much easier to abort the overtaking than to test your luck.

I've had one decent crash for zero faults of mine. I believe this made me an even better driver(assuming I was one in the first place). This was in a TN single-lane highway when a guy in a moped (riding on the left edge of the road) ahead of me decided to take a right turn out of the blue when I've almost started to pass him. I was at 90-100 km/h and had I braked, it would've been curtains for him. So instinct took over and I had to swerve to the right without any braking, lost control as the car got into the loose gravel beside the road, ended up somewhere. My car saved me that day. The biggest learning for me from that mishap was if at 90 km/h I could spin around aimlessly, what it could be like to encounter such a situation at much higher speeds. After that event, I've very rarely touched speeds above legal limits. It's not just in our hands all alone on Indian roads. I've to confess that I used to do pretty high speeds on six lanes before, but never after this incident. "Experience is the best teacher " ~ William Wordsworth

I've always made it a point to interact and give ears to the words of wisdom from more experienced professional drivers - Volvo, truck, cab, rally drivers et al. In this forum, someone said earlier - "It's not about the speed your car can handle, it's about your skill and the speed you can handle".

Coming to losing cool on the actions of morons on the road, what I do is to never make eye contact with them and accept and expect that as part and parcel of driving and living on Indian roads. Absolutely no point cursing or even preaching. It's simply not worth it. Instead, I take pride in myself averting a heated scene of a mishap.

On almost every single long drive(700-800 km a day), there would be one situation/event that can be termed as a close shave, could be minor or major. This is where I feel luck plays a part. I always try and not to be the reason for such close shaves. I've lost count of such close shaves over the years.

I've read about people who keep the pictures of loved ones on the dash. It helps when there's an adrenaline rush. I think about reaching home safely and meeting our loved ones waiting for us back home. We aren't in a race. One who reaches home safely is the winner here.

Having said all this, I still love and enjoy driving and travelling/driving on our roads can still be an enjoyable experience with a bit of patience, skill and most importantly taking things in our stride even when the right is on our side. Happy and safe motoring to all

Here's what BHPian octane1002 had to say on the matter:

Interesting thread.

Having "matured" from an out 'fast' driver to a 'consciously defensive' driver, I can say that the mantra I drive by nowadays is "How safe did I and my vehicle come out of that drive" and NOT "How fast I and my vehicle covered that distance".

P.s.Irony here is that in my fast days, a decade ago, I used to drive a 150 bhp Octy vRS. In my consciously defensive days, I now drive a 450 hp Audi RS5/a 385 bhp V8 Lexus LS460. I don't drive them at snail's pace, yes the temptation is there to give them the beans, but only on stretches, I know like the back of my hand or a road I can see ahead till quite a fair bit ahead.

I recently completed a 2300 km solo trip (no backup car / no backup co-passenger) from Mumbai to Kolkata cross country in my Audi RS5 through NHs/SHs and whatnot. While it wasn't a blistering fast drive, I am happy to brag that I came out with zilch speeding tickets/scratches/bumps/mishaps to the car. No putting petty blames on stray animals/villagers for close calls either. Now that's what I call cool!

Here's what BHPian BlackPearl had to say on the matter:

Excellent thread Samba. We hardly self speculate to understand our mistakes and it is easy to put the blame on others. But at the end of the day, it is me who has to save my car, no matter what others do. Over the years I have learnt that there is nothing better than professional training, be it driving or swimming or any other skill. What I do is attend driver's safety courses every few years. These courses are truly eye-openers. There is a saying that the most dangerous thing we do on a daily basis is driving. No other activity can have so much impact on others as well as the driver. If something goes wrong and there is an accident, everyone in that scene gets affected. The victim can pay with his/her life, get permanently disabled, can lose his/her future if the person is an athlete/dancer or sports person, maybe lose payment for days if the person is a daily wager! Then there is the driver who will have to undergo a lot of questions, trials, insurance claims etc. There are surrounding people who might have to stop doing their work and try to help the victim/s. Finally, the family members of the victim/s and driver are also severely affected. If we take all these into account, it is really a very dangerous thing. But we tend to forget that every time we pick up the keys because we live in a bubble where we think only about ourselves. If we get late to a meeting we drive fast and only think about ourselves - "what will happen if I get late to this meeting?" "What will others think about me if I get late" "How can I drive faster to be on time" "Shall I squeeze through the yellow light as it is not going be illegal" and the list continues, but not for once do we think that what will happen if I am driving 10 mph over the limit and I am not able to stop in time to avoid an accident due to my sheer negligence!

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