In her book Emile Durkheim and the Collective Consciousness of Society, Kenneth Smith illustrates through examples how traffic is reflective of the collective social consciousness. Road behaviour is perhaps an important indicator to understand the people of any country. Based on this argument what does the road travel in Pakistan tell us about the Pakistani collective consciousness? For anyone out on the road, be it in any capacity — a driver, passenger, cyclist, motorcyclist or a pedestrian — an experience on the road is a test of one’s patience.The apologists of bad road behaviour often argue that the people everywhere are the same; it is the absence of the rule of law that makes drivers exhibit bad behaviours. They further argue that the same Pakistani people abide by all the traffic rules abroad where there is strict enforcement of rule of law. So all we need is the enforcement of existing laws and legislation for areas where new laws are required. Others argue that when the state is absent and the state-citizen relationship is weak, survival dictates the collective consciousness of people and that is also reflected on the road in the shape of road rage and other deviations. Keeping in view the question regarding traffic being reflective of collective social behaviour and the following two hypotheses, let us analyse some of the most-observed trends of Pakistani traffic and see the extent to which we can understand them from the lens of absence of rule of law or a struggle for survival.Our traffic patterns exhibit that people do not believe in waiting for their turn or acknowledging their mistakesOur traffic patterns exhibit that people do not believe in waiting for their turn or acknowledging their mistakes. The behaviour of drivers during traffic jams are very significant here. Everyone thinks and believes that all the drivers of the cars queued up or in our case, dumped awkwardly at some odd angle in an effort to find a way out of the hold-up are fools who are making the situation more difficult for everyone else. U-turns are another good example. They are placed at regular intervals on most roads at points where they would cause the least disturbance to the fast moving traffic and minimise the risk for cars that are to turn. Once again, most drivers are seen driving against the traffic on the wrong side of the road just so that they can avail the nearest u-turn instead of going a few extra meters on the right side of the road. The key to carrying out such a stunt is to ‘avoid eye-contact’ with all who are coming on the right side of the road honking and dipping their lights, making angry hand gestures to express their outrage as they swerve to avoid collisions with the obstinately brazen oncomers.If we are to accept the argument that this behaviour is a result of the two causes identified in the beginning, one would still be at a loss to explain the general behaviour of people towards women on the road. Social Issues Research Centre of Oxford UK conducted a research on the differences between male and female drivers and found out that men and women exhibit different driving behaviours based on their neurochemical structures and hormonal processes shaped by evolution and global socialisation practices. (Peter Marsh, 2004).Bad traffic behaviour reflects a general lack of respect towards others. Sometimes blaming law enforcement can just be an excuse for making an easy choiceAccording to the findings of this research, levels of deviant (rule-breaking) behaviours are significantly higher in men than in women. This manifests itself in the greater frequency of violation of traffic regulations, including speed limits, traffic controls and drunk-driving by male drivers. However, just like the prayer leaders of our mosque who believe and preach that women are the reason behind all that is wrong in the world including natural or human-made disasters, women drivers on the road are generally assumed to be the reason for many traffic issues.A slow moving car in the fast lane that persists despite dippers and honks from cars behind; a sudden emergence from a street or side road onto the main road without paying any heed to the fast oncoming traffic; the blind entrants into round-abouts against the right of way rule, are by default assumed to be ‘an aunty behind the steering wheel’.In many cases, at least enough to create a trend to challenge the popular perception, the assumption is proven wrong and one would find ‘a middle-aged uncle’ with a mobile phone stuck to his ear driving while completely oblivious of his surroundings and the other riders’ rights. Notwithstanding the number of times this assumption is proven wrong with the actual miscreant belonging to the relatively less fairer gender, the assumption and the stereotype regarding women drivers is upheld eliciting the same response from all drivers who have been wronged. This indoctrination runs so deep that even women drivers are often heard attributing their road woes to their fellow women.Women drivers and the mistakes they commit are often characterised by their trait of being cautious. If they drive slow and are reluctant to overtake or over-speed, it is because of their innate psychological attribute of caution. While recklessness of male drivers can endanger not only their own but the lives of others who happen to share the road with them; female trait of caution can only cause irritation and a bit of inconvenience to others. Most people avoid speeding rash drivers but a woman driving slow or carefully would rarely be left alone. Startling a cautious woman driving up really close and honking loudly, nudging them off their lane, cutting in front of them in a queue are some of the stunts many men drivers use to boost their egos or merely for a cheap thrill.But when it comes to a woman walking by the roadside, Pakistani men can hardly be beaten in chivalry. While most pedestrians are actually seen jumping, diving, running to save their lives from oncoming cars, our gallant men are no less than knights in shining armour when it comes to women pedestrians. No woman can walk alone or with a group of other women. They must be in the need of rescue or immediate assistance if they do so, consequently causing all passer-by male drivers to stop and offer their generous help. If she refuses help, she doesn’t know what she wants. So the insistence begins until eventually the poor woman either changes her path where she would encounter more chivalry from other gallant heroes or she would be forced to take a taxi wherein she might encounter a different kind of harassment.Thus if we analyse our traffic trends from the collective consciousness framework, it seems that they are not emerging from either of the categories the apologists of bad traffic behaviour suggest and instead reflect a general lack of respect towards others as people. Policy and legal reforms should definitely be the demand of an aware citizenry. But sometimes blaming law enforcement could just be an excuse to make an easy choice or to avoid a difficult obligation. Only a respectful person could be a responsible citizen so maybe there is also a need to ponder on what we are willing to give when we make demands. The writer is a freelance journalist and teaching as visiting faculty at SPIR, Quaid-e-Azam University Published in Daily Times, October 16th 2017.