Stressed out Delhi, where grazing a car hurts the ego

By Rahul Vaishnavi, IANS
Friday, January 14, 2011

NEW DELHI - Leave your home 15 minutes early for work. If your car is involved in an accident and the other party gets aggressive, apologise. That’s the best way to beat stress and avoid road rage which claims many victims in Delhi, say experts.

It was dj vu for people in Delhi when Rajiv Jolly, a manager at Amici restaurant, lost his life Tuesday. Vikas Agarwal, a Jet Airways pilot, ran over him after their cars grazed each other in the upscale Khan Market in south Delhi.

Last year, the 42-year-old driver of a chartered bus was mercilessly stoned to death because a restless bunch in a Qualis could not overtake the vehicle. Similarly, in April, an engineer was badly beaten up because he refused to make way for a Mercedes in Delhi’s Vasant Kunj area.

A city of 16 million people, where arterial roads are mostly choked with traffic, offers plenty of reasons for road rage.

According to Sandeep Vohra, senior consultant psychiatrist, Apollo hospital, tolerance levels among people have gone down tremendously as pressure related to work and meeting deadlines results in higher levels of frustration.

As leisure activities or simply doing nothing is replaced by board meetings and conferences at work, a person tends to become irritated and aggressive. The victims in road rage cases are soft targets for such stressed out people venting their anger, Vohra told IANS.

Also, as joint families give way to nuclear families, support systems are dwindling.

An irritated person, not in the right frame of mind, loses the ability to think about the ramifications of his actions. Such an emotionally volatile person would perceive a minor graze or scratch on his car from a fellow driver as an intrusion and would attack him, say experts.

Psychiatrists believe a car becomes an extension of one’s persona and the more expensive the vehicle, the more its driver may become aggressive. However, they also agree that the menace of road rage is widespread and not particular to any class of society.

“A person’s ego may be hurt when his car is hit by another driver or if he is overtaken from the wrong side. For him, a scratch on his car may be equivalent to a scratch on his cheek,” Sumit Mittal, director, Delhi Psychiatrists Association, told IANS.

According to doctors, the statement is further cemented by the fact that the number of patients enrolling in anger management classes has gone up drastically in the last couple of years which is a dangerous trend.

The numbers of anger management patients are definitely rising. People are becoming more self-centered and aggressive. The situation is such that if they are ‘provoked’, they do not hesitate in rolling down their windows and abusing a fellow driver or worse, attack him, said Mittal.

“I get patients who confess they cannot control their rage if someone cuts their path or overtakes them and they feel like hitting them. All such patients were under a lot of stress, while some were impulsive and aggressive by nature,” added Vohra.

Doctors believe the chaotic traffic in the city is further aggravating the situation as people are stuck in jams for hours after they have slogged for eight to 10 hours at work or worse, are running late for an important meeting.

Agreed Anish Adhikari, who became a victim of road rage last month when he was on his way to his office in Gurgaon.

“I was stuck in a jam at Dhaula Kuan and a Hyundai Accent behind me was honking continuously. Just as the traffic opened up, his impatience got the better of him and he drove right next to me, abused me and grazed my front bumper deliberately as he passed me,” said Adhikari.

The best thing to do in such a situation is to completely avoid reacting to such a person and remain cool.

“After all, what are car insurances for? Moreover, if I had chased him down and meted out the same treatment to him, god knows what would happen that day,” added Adhikari.

Advised Vohra: “People should learn to adjust and always drive with a cool and calm head. To ensure this, one should plan his trip and leave 15 minutes early to reach their destination.”

There is no point in arguing with strangers. If the other person is becoming aggressive, just swallow your anger and apologise, it is much better than getting shot at or run over, say the experts.

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