I love driving. Always have, and I was surprised when I met some people who actually said they didn't enjoy it. I still remember when I turned 18, one of the first things I did was to ask Dad to teach me to drive. Fairy tale that this isn't, he said 'no'.
Needless to say, I was crushed. But soon he relented and sent me for driving lessons, which basically involved cramping myself into the drivers seat of those tiny mini-vans, and cruising around the lake at no greater than 40kmph. It was hopelessly monotonous; I was more likely to die from boredom than anything vehicle related, with the only 'excitement' so to speak coming from reversing into a lane that was wide enough to accommodate a small house.
(Oh did I mention my instructor was a one eyed, one legged man who had driven cabs in Germany? I kid you not; how he managed to convince anyone that he was able to teach people to drive with a wooden leg and a glass eye, God only knows.)
Long story short - I got my license, and soon I was driving. Within minutes, I discovered that nothing I learned during my so-called 'lessons' was of any use to me in the real world! Buses hurtling towards you, reckless overtaking, annoying three-wheelers, psychotic motor bikes - where were they during my tranquil rides around the Kandy lake?! And who is teaching these maniacs to drive??
So , in the interests of keeping our future generations alive just a little longer, I have listed out four things we need to teach all drivers from now on, regardless of vehicle type.
Somehow, bus drivers around the country are under the impression that their extremely large mode of transport is actually a small, sprightly two-seater sports car, complete with sharp cornering and precise steering. This is unfortunate, because you and I know that this is far from the truth. Yet, bus drivers around the country can be seen boldly throwing their vehicles around corners, wrestling them around other vehicles while barrelling down against the oncoming traffic, confident that their bus can somehow zip back in front before destroying the panic stricken driver headed its way.
Clearly, this needs to stop.We can't have these lumbering machines flying along our already too-narrow roads when they should be sanely chugging along in their lanes. The problem is, a bus driver, no matter how delusional and wrong, is still driving a bus! Which means it takes some guts to actually try to start something with a bus that's hurtling towards you like some metal meteor.
My solution consists of two parts. First, we train bus drivers in mini vans, around the Kandy lake, preferably with a one eyed instructor with a wooden leg. Mislead them into thinking that all buses need to be driven like this dinky 800cc Daihatsu. Brain wash them into thinking the speed limit is 39kmph. I guarantee those puppies will not only be more sane, they'll reduce the highway death toll ten fold. Part two, should part one fail? Counselling. Clearly, bus drivers are nothing more than frustrated children in adult bodies, acting out every males youthful fantasy of being able to speed in a high powered vehicle for a living. Heck, if I were a bus driver, I'd probably take refuge in that delusion too. So why not indulge them, and offer a weekly drive in a supercar around a local race track, free of cost, so they can get all their frustration out once and for all.
2. Three wheel drivers - you can't overtake on the left.
What is up with these three-wheelers? Who taught them that overtaking on the left is 'the right thing to do'? It's bad enough that driving in traffic is stressful and dangerous; now we have these multi-coloured fairies trying to mount the pavement and pass us on the left!
|Dear Tuk-tuk - it can only end badly for you|
It can't be just an evolved art though, because these guys have got it down to a science. First, they keep within striking distance of your vehicle, waiting for the next road block, traffic light, or any sort of blockage in the traffic. As soon as the vehicle in front starts slowing down, you can see them slowly creep towards the rear left of the vehicle. Now, given most people's impatience in these situations, the odds are that the vehicle in front will try to inch to the right, to have a peek down the road to see what's the hold up, and whether he/she can overtake. This is the three-wheel drivers moment to strike. They deftly squeeze their little death-trap on wheels into that tiny space you've so generously opened up, and as the traffic starts moving suddenly you find yourself stuck in no man's land. Your only options are to a) let him pass so you can slip behind me or b) be hung out to dry in oncoming traffic. [Option c) is to 'pull a GTA on him and ram the little maggot', but I'd never endorse that.]
Solution? Believe it or not, it's actually 'patience'. Whenever I notice one of these guys trying to pull this stunt I make sure I never give up my position behind the vehicle in front of me. If they do try to squeeze by you, never let them rejoin the line. Just stick bumper-to-bumper with the vehicle in front and watch them spaz out at you for driving legally. Totally worth it.
3. Those white lines on the road mean something.
I cannot count the number of times I have driven down a two- or three-lane road, watching the vehicle in front of me veer between lanes like it's part of some weird form of vehicular 'Pong'. Did they really think the lines painted on the road were for decorative purposes?! The two most annoying instances of this is when you're travelling quickly on the main roads, only to find that the vehicle in front of you on the right-most lane, (which is usually where the quicker vehicles travel,) is crawling. This means either you stick behind it, or switch to the next lane and get stuck behind another slow vehicle. This makes no sense to me; if you're travelling so slowly, why not just move over and let the quicker vehicles pass? But no, we're forced to pretend we're in some sort of moving maze, dodging from lane to lane to get ahead. Then of course there are those that blindly drive between both lanes, which leads drivers behind them to also break out of formation, and soon you have a disorganised mass of vehicles jostling for position on the highway.
Seriously people; the lines on the ground! Look at them!! How hard can it be to figure out what speed you want to travel at, and stick to the appropriate lane? Of course, this is something that isn't really taught in driving school here since instructors rarely, if ever, take their pupils on an actual highway to teach them these simple basics. "The highway?", they tell themselves; "Why would they ever drive on those?".
4. Dip your damn lights!
Driving during the day is dangerous in Sri Lanka. Driving at night is near suicidal.
Thanks to the poorly lit streets and 'highways' in the country, I can understand why people would want to use their head beams to illuminate as much of the road ahead as possible. However, doing so at the cost of the oncoming driver's eyesight is - to put it mildly - a tad insensitive.
It's bad enough that we have to contend with a) near invisible pot holes b) random pedestrians jumping on the road at the last minute and c) black dogs/cows/elephants that are invisible to the human eye at night (I swear, it's almost like they absorb light) while driving; how in the world are we supposed to drive at all when you have your lights in my eyes?? You see me flashing my headlights at you?? That isn't some friendly signal!! Take the hint and dip 'em!
I envy my dad's vehicle; he's installed super powerful fog lights on it expressly for these kind of drivers. Any time he sees an oncoming vehicle that fails to comply to these unwritten courtesies, he 'gives him a dose of his own medicine' and powers them up. Trust me, if you get caught in those you'd probably think it was the second coming and you were being raptured.
So there you have it; the top four that I could come up with. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments. Meanwhile, drive safely!