Driving in Sri Lanka is not for the faint hearted – particularly during rush hour. The roads are a battlefield and concepts like honour, chivalry, fairness and patience are all lost in the exhaust fumes. Traffic laws flouted with vengeance, homicidal three-wheel drivers who think they are driving Ferraris on a race track, and bus drivers who think they are driving three-wheelers; it’s the law of the jungle. It’s all about the survival of the fittest.
But of course, it doesn’t have to be all that bleak or dramatic. We could, instead, apply that greatly mythical concept called “driving etiquette” and make everyone’s lives easy, especially yours. What’s driving etiquette, you say? There is such a thing, you ask? Apparently, yes. Here are a few things you might want to keep in mind:
1) Apply the law of moderation to vehicle horns – we know you’re angry. We know you’re frustrated. But a cacophonic horn symphony is not the answer. Don’t be the guy honking furiously when there’s visibly no space for the vehicles in front of you to move. And please don’t be the guy who honks even when stuck at a red light. We even found a few studies about this kind of behaviour.
2) Are you a motorcyclist? Then this one is for you! Often motorcyclists are diagnosed with the mentality of a mouse. Have you ever found yourself creeping and fitting your bike into every minute space available between vehicles at a traffic light? Have you tried to wedge yourself horizontally between two vehicles? Well then, here’s news: according to scientific research, you are definitely not a mouse. Is there are solution for this increasingly disturbing behaviour? Yes! Just. Stop. Doing. It.
3) Turns out, cases of nervous breakdown among pedestrians is on the rise. Doctors around the country are baffled as to why. But we think we know the answer: it’s the fear pedestrians feel while crossing the road. The fear of being run over when you rev your engine menacingly while the poor pedestrians try to get from point A to point B. Do it for the health of pedestrians island-wide. Stop revving your engine in anticipation. We learnt from a reliable source that you are definitely not in a car race.
4) Nothing quite compares to the joy of deserted roads, of zooming down Colombo while its inhabitants are snug and fast asleep. Wait. What was that? Was that a horn… at 12 a.m.? Is there traffic? Is there a roadblock? Then why is this person honking? Turns out, it’s rude to honk in urban areas between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. We’re sure you wouldn’t like to be woken up by some manic honking in the middle of the night, either.
5) Do you see that motorist trying to park in that parking space? Do you feel an urge to steal that parking space, usurp what’s rightly his/hers and park yourself there? Then it’s time to be nice and not steal that space. If someone does it to you, that person needs a lesson in basic niceties. If you do it to someone, you’re in need of that lesson.
6) Oh look! There’s a bit of parking space. Hurray! But wait, this requires some crazy parallel parking skill. You can do it, yes, you can do it! But wait… are you leaving enough space between the vehicles in front of and behind you? If not, if you’re boxing other vehicles in, ensuring that there’s no way in hell they can drive out of their parking space… then you, my friend, should heed the Bard when he says “Methink’st thou art a general offence…” (and maybe look up the rest of the quote to find what the Bard really feels).
7) No parking space available? Aww, that’s too bad. Move along and don’t park across vehicles even if it’s at a wayside shop or supermarket – even if you think you’re going to be quick with your shopping.
8) Picture this: you find yourself on a four-way intersection where there are no traffic lights. The traffic driving against you has come to a halt and a vehicle is making its way across. What do you do in the name of humanity? Don’t be Gandalf and cry: YOU SHALL NOT PASS. That vehicle trying to make its way is actually Frodo screaming “nooooooooooo!” You’re not being chased by a Balrog, so even if you’re in a hurry, don’t try to cut across before the vehicle makes its way to your side of the road. Side-effects of such behavior include: a complete hold up of oncoming traffic. How inconsiderate of your inner Gandalf.
9) Ugh, traffic light turns red. You find your mind wandering. There’s a billboard of a very pretty woman wearing next-to-nothing, selling what little she’s wearing, and you find yourself attracted to her skin tone, the contours of her – stop right there. Is that the traffic light turning orange? Well then, get your car set in 1st gear and be ready to move as soon as it turns green. Why is it important? Because then you won’t be that person dreaming away when the light turns green, and then fumbling and panicking to get ready to move and as a result, holding up traffic.
10) Did you know? Poya is celebrated only once a month and certainly not every day. So while on the fast lane (generally on the right side of a main road), don’t leisurely cruise along like it’s a Poya holiday. As it happens, those vehicles in a hurry behind you will not be able to overtake your vehicle, because, well, duh, they can only overtake a vehicle on the right-side and you’ve blocked that option off for them. Such a sweetheart.
We can, of course, go on and on. But we’re not exactly in the preaching business. We would, however, like to let you know that it’s okay to be nice to people on the road. We’re really not living in some dystopian universe, in case you didn’t get the memo. There are rules and there are basic courtesies. They just need a little application to make all our lives easier. So here’s to order! Here’s to a bright new future of nice motorists! Cheers!
Featured image from infolanka.com