• Mohana Prabhakar

Too cool to tell you where I'm headed

Updated: Apr 22, 2019

In 2010, in the December 22nd issue of TheWeek, my column was in the form of a letter to Santa with ten things on my wish list. Number ten went thus: ‘And finally, my dear Santa, could you please promote the use of sleighs in Oman, especially since they don’t have indicators.’ Fast forward to 2016 and I still think it would make for a great gift.

Reading the results of the ‘first-ever Oman indicator-use research’ that came out last month was frankly petrifying. By the way it’s worrying that of all the things that an institution could do research on, they chose indicator-usage as a topic relevant for the GCC. So we knew it was a problem but we had to have statistical evidence to prove it to ourselves.

Just nine per cent of the people in Oman, according to the GCC-wide survey carried out by Qatar Insurance Company, are seen to use their indicators. To hammer it home, that means 91 drivers out of a 100 do not feel it’s necessary to inform others whether they are going left or right. Or whether they are just going to swerve right in front of you and make you slam on your brakes, so that the chap tailgating can ram straight into your car, causing you to ram into the car in front of you, and so on.

I am a bit overwhelmed by another statistic in this survey. Twenty per cent of all respondents actually said that it is a ‘sign of inexperience or weakness’ to indicate. Now you might assume, based on certain stereotypes, that this opinion would be largely attributable to men with rippling muscles whose sheer masculinity overwhelms the need to use indicators whilst driving at over 100km/hr. You would be wrong, and perhaps slightly sexist. The unfortunate fact is that on both those statements, the percentage of women who felt that way far outweighed the men.

As proud as I am to be a woman, it was not so in the case of this survey. Nineteen per cent of the women, that is one out of every five women on the roads, felt that it is ‘not important to use indicators’, as compared to nine per cent of the men.

Of all respondents that took part in the survey that included Omanis and expatriates, 19 per cent freely said that ‘in my home country, it is not usual to indicate’. The latter holds so true of my home country, but the only difference is that when six cars are jammed in a three-lane carriageway and all are traveling at 20-30km/hr, indicating is hardly of any use. You could just reach out and tap the guy in the next car to tell him you are going to turn left. In Muscat though, not using indicators can decide whether you are going home or to the hospital.

I am not suggesting that the multiple accidents we all see on the roads are due to people not using indicators. However, it would certainly help in a scenario where people feel free to suddenly turn from the farthest left lane to take a right turn in front of you.

The good news, though, is that it seems that with the right threat, you can cure some bad habits. You no longer need to pray that the chap behind you will not slam into your car when you slow down for a red light. For a long time, the light going from green to amber was interpreted as ‘speed up…now!’ With the possibility of a RO500 fine and up to one year in prison, people are actually slowing down when the green starts flashing.

I don’t know how to get people to use indicators, but we need a fit punishment for people on their mobiles while driving. This survey had nine per cent of their participants confess that they had ‘no hand free to use the indicator – for example because of using my phone’. Have you ever wondered why the car in front is weaving erratically, speeding up, crawling and then you see he is on the phone? Or you see someone waiting patiently to join the road at a busy crossing and you stop to give them way, only to realise she is not even looking; she is busy on her phone.

Please, someone take their phones and their cars away for 24 hours – if, and it’s a big if, they survive the trauma, they may just be more careful next time.


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