Friday, April 3, 2009

Unsafe Indians Roads: Personal Discipline + Stringent Laws Will Help

See this statistics: India, with just 1 per cent of the world’s vehicles, accounts for 10 per cent of the road fatalities worldwide and has the worst accident record.

Last week, Punjab's Cooperation Minister Capt Kanwaljit Singh died in a road accident. The media reports that his driver was driving the car at 110 KMPH at a bend. A day later, two dozen pilgrims die in a road accident as they were returning from Naina Devi. You might remember the tragic deaths of politicians like Rajesh Pilot who also died in road accidents.

Just some common and day to day observations:

1. Indians roads have become congested with so much trafiic that there is all around noise, pollution and choas.

2. Getting a Driving License is pretty easy: bribe the babu and you get it sitting at home without ever taking a road-test. Little do we realize that I may kill others or the babu realizes that ineligible candidate whom I am issuing this DL (even though my pocket is becoming fatter) may kill someone else!

3. We feel proud when our teenager (for discussion purpose, age 14- 15 years here) brother or child is handed over a scooter or motor-cycle or even a car and he/she takes on the cruise with a beaming face. We feel enormously proud that we have provided to our child what ever as parents we could do to improve his/her life! That false sense of pride! We forget that a teenager without eligibility for DL is not only a danger to himself or herself, more importantly to others: frankly this thought does not come to our mind! We are so much in love with our own kids that basic sense gets lost sometime!

4. We are aping the West as far as life style is concerned, but have we ever thought that western countries have stringent rules regarding issuance of DLs, traffic rules and regulations, pollution control and parking places. When we see the haphazard traffic and ruly driving styles on Indian roads, the question arises in mind: Are we civilized enough? Do we need the government all the time to tell us to obey traffic rules? Do not we have any character?

5. When stopped on a red light for crossing the red-light, why do we always try to influence the cop with our status (like being doctor or bank officer) for waiver? I did that, let me admit that! To save the penalty, we use our status? Is that ethical enough?

6. When driving on roads, our scorn for fellow passengers with less luxuries is many a time very obvious. We yell and shout at cyclists and riksha- wallas ! What kind of respect for fellow individual are we observing!

7. When there is breach of traffic rules, the money collected does not go to the treasury, but goes in the private pockets of
the police and their officers! Think about the money our treasury is losing!

8. Over-speeding is a habit with majority of people. Honk, honk: is an obsession with us!

9. On even the best of highways, people drive on wrong side. I vividly remember my personal incidence! I was driving with my family from Delhi to Jaipur in 1999. The Delhi-Jaipur highway was beautifully constructed (after seeing western countries, I still feel that highway was pretty good). We took a tea-break somewhere and as we got back on the highway, the road ahead was slightly curvy. In clear day light, on a national highway, there came a car dashing towards us from totally opposite direction (the highway was 4 lanes with a clear cemented divider) and in a blink of the eye, zoomed pass us. Since the road was curvy, both cars could not see each other from appreciable distance! It was just plain luck that the two cars were in different lanes! Otherwise there was no way to prevent the head -on collision! Nothing happened, of course but I still remember that incidence and shiver runs down my spine! Where does the government come in picture here? The craziness of people, I would say!

10. We construct roads and they are gone in next few months! Who siphons away the money? the public gets poor quality of roads as the money has gone to the govt officials, contractor and local MLA.

11. The traffic cop is standing on a busy intersection in a major metropolis-where the traffic has created a furnace of toxic gases. Does this traffic cop has any additional health safety measures granted by his employer? What additional insurance the govt has given to him for job-related health risks (occupational risks)?

This negative sounding critique does not mean that we can not improve upon! Our roads can be as safe, our traffic can be regulated. What is required: discipline, stringent laws, and a 'driving-character' that needs to be inculcated!




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