Everyone has their own traffic story-the one where they were unnecessarily delayed for hours (Indian film, ‘Delhi 6’ captures an absurd yet relatable moment where the actor at the brink of a terrible crisis is stuck in the jam because a cow is being flocked by crowds), the one where they had a close brush with the death because the signboards where almost invisible to the naked eye and of course, the one where they had an encounter with a seemingly arrogant person, caring little about road safety and traffic regulations-the most unfortunate encounter with a ‘douchebag’.
For Indians who live in metros like Delhi, Mumbai or Bangalore, travelling during peak hours is no less than an ordeal. Increasing urbanisation, greater number of automobiles and the influx of migrant labourers are some of the factors that have contributed to the rising difficulties in commutation. On top of that, people have shown little or no regard to abide by traffic norms leading to a large number of road accidents every year. While the issue of road safety continues to be a grave concern among citizens and the state, a movement started in Russia seeks to confront the issue of flouting traffic rules by careless drivers in their own hands.
Russia is infamous for it notorious drivers-“Cars will double- and triple-park along bus lanes, they regularly drive on sidewalks and footpaths to avoid traffic, and there’s seemingly no police intervention…” With law enforcement taking little action, in May 2010 by Dmitry Chugunov decided to take matters in his hands and founded ‘Stop a Douchebag’ movement. The movement aims to drive a sense of shame in these arrogant drivers by plastering their windshields with massive, round stickers which proclaim, in Russian, “I Spit on Everybody, I Drive/Park However I Want.” Since its beginning five years earlier, the movement has drawn viewers with its humour and bravado.
The Daily Beast reports, “The guys use their bodies to block bad drivers. Often, the young protagonists of the videos will find themselves on top of car hoods. Videos show drivers pushing them along for feet, meters, sometimes even blocks, if their words, or stickers, don’t dissuade them from pushing forth.” The videos have drawn attention internationally because of these unusual antics of Russian drivers-sometimes even fists are drawn, and in an occasion or two, guns.
Despite the risk, Stop A Douchebag continues to carry on its ‘raids’ as they term it with the intention of making roads a lot safer than it is now. The show has also won accolades for its level-headed approach to heated situations, “The program’s non-violence has seemingly added to its legitimacy. A rare few show members getting into altercations with drivers, no matter how belligerent or belittling they are—and the ones that do make it clear that the boys were hit first. There’s no telling, of course, what goes on in the countless hours of archived footage that made it online, but the politeness is overwhelming.”
The movement has received some support in the form of grants-4 million rubles in 2013 and 6 million in 2014 through presidential NGO grants. The money however doesn’t last long as printing the stickers itself forms a huge part of their expenditure. When asked by The Daily Beast if due to such financial crunches and other unforeseeable hindrances they would compromise, one of the directors replied, “If we let one person pass, we’d have to let everyone go.”
Stop A Douchebag movement, bypassing the motif of the nefarious Russian youth gang image and espousing a non violent stance, comes at a time when traffic laws seem to be in a state of flux, not just in Russia or India, but in a good number of countries. However, whether or not youth in other states can adopt and maintain the essence of what this movement propagates remains to be seen.
Watch one of their videos here,