Posted on December 14, 2014. Filed under: SAFE DRIVING, SURFACE TRANSPORT | Tags: , , |

It took the unfortunate death of a Union Minister in a road accident for the revisit of the laws to ensure the safety of road transport in the country.

There are many aspects to sad demise of Mr.Gopinath Munde in an accident. Firstly, there is aspect of us not taking our safety very seriously as it was made clear that Mr.Munde was not wearing any seat belt that could have possibly made a difference. Secondly, there is the fact that the car did not have any safety devices like airbags for the passengers on the rear seat. This is very sad since the car comes from the largest manufacturer in the country. The third aspect concerns the driver of the other car who at an intersection crashed into the car of the Minister. We raise a hue and cry over the deaths of thousands every year while crossing unmanned railway crossings while comfortably glossing over the accidents when there are no traffic lights or when there is no one in uniform near the traffic lights.

So in my humble opinion, these are the things that need to be looked into to ensure safety on the roads. It should not matter whether the traffic lights are manned. The lights should be respected at all times.

Strapping seat belts is mandatory and any disobedience should not be tolerated. In addition to heavy fines, there should be a provision to suspend the licence of the driver for some period, as is the norm in many countries.

Once the possible cause of the accident is established, stringent action needs to be taken which also includes the suspension of the driving licence, even on a permanent basis.

If the car that used to transport a Union Minister did not possess things like airbags for the rear seat passengers, then there is something seriously wrong with the manufacturers as well as with the law. It is true that such safety devices add to the cost but let us not forget the human cost resulting from accidents. If cars become more expensive and there is a possibility of less number of cars on the roads, it should be welcomed since there would be more space for cyclists and pedestrians.

Speaking about the cyclists and pedestrians, they are as a group the worst affected when it comes to fatalities resulting from road accidents. The lack of dedicated lanes for cycling and walking and the total absence of sensibility towards the cyclists and pedestrians either from the makers of the laws nor from the motorists. In fact, it is the poor who walk and use cycles and since the poor are always dispensable, this is the sorry state of affairs. It is ironic since in much of the developed world, cyclists are given due importance. Sometime ago, I was extremely upset to read the rants of a columnist in a leading journal relating to cars on the need to discipline the cyclists. As someone who walks and uses the cycle for fitness reasons, I always worry about my safety.

Till a couple of years, it took me nearly 45 minutes on my motorcycle to cover the short distance of ten kilometres between my town and a nearby industrial township-the reason being the abysmal state of the road. Now the road has improved by several notches not only reducing the travel time but also has increased the number of accidents, mostly involving two wheelers. The driving of motorcycles without any protective gear like helmet and the blatant disregard for others is the primary cause. I was surprised when a senior colleague borrowed my helmet when he went of the town. I was surprised because he owned a two wheeler since two decades. It would not be a surprise to find many who do not possess a valid driving licence.

Speaking about helmet, I must confess to being a habitual law breaker. I can give many excuses about not using this essential protective gear on a regular basis. On excuse that me and many of my friends do offer is the damage to our hairdos. The Union Minister who in the wake of the tragic death of Mr.Munde was spotted driving a two wheeler with no helmet. So I am in good company.

There has to be a change in the mindset of all the stakeholders that is, the people, the manufacturers, the law enforcers and the government to ensure and maintain safety on the roads. Strapping seat belts or wearing helmets is not going to make someone less glamorous and it is certainly not unmanly. Profits should not be at the cost of lives and it is not economic growth but it is definitely the quality of life that what matters the most in the long run. With public transport almost nonexistent there will only be an increase in the number of vehicles on the roads thereby increasing the probability of accidents and fatalities.

Nissan-the Japanese maker of some great cars has initiated the Nissan Safety Driving Forum to ensure responsible driving.

I am thankful to Indiblogger and Nissan for providing me the opportunity to rave and rant and also to have a shot at the great prizes on offer.


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