Breaking the Law
Rule Violations as Social Norms on India’s Roads
This paper adapts existing theoretical frameworks of social norms and their interactions with laws to study the case of rule violations in Indian road traffic. Specifically, we look at the case where existing laws and rules are violated with such regularity that breaking the law becomes the social norm. We investigate this framework in the case of road user behaviour in (urban) India, where road safety and traffic violations have been the focus of recent policy changes. We propose that a lack of road discipline and traffic violations have an impact on road safety, as well as on congestion. These, in turn, have implications for the economic productivity and development of a country, as well as the well-being of its citizens. Our application of the framework suggests conditions of enforcement under which such harmful social norms can be reversed. Policy interventions and scope for behaviorally-informed policies targeted at improving road user behaviour are discussed.