If you care a bit about me (and me being alive), you must thank ‘Vega’ for saving my life (or for at least, saving the aashiq ka thobada from completely deforming). Vega is the helmet manufacturer, and one of their product is taking care of my Einstein brained head for more than two years now.
Some other incidents to jot here, apart from my own last Saturday, about a year and a half back, one fine evening I and Raghu (we all know Raghu very well, don’t we?) were sitting in our hostel-room (probably trying to synchronize some jazz over the network by playing it on two machines simultaneously and trying to create some unusual acoustic effect) when Vaibhav came rushing in. Vaibhav (Puri Goswami) lived just the next door, and he had returned from work (from his MS project-work). Instead of going to his room, he came in to us, and showed us his helmet and its left side. Then he told us the story how he was stuck in the traffic near Pune University circle and was going so slow to the left of the road (parallel to the footpath) and lost his control and fell down to his left. It was such a safe fall that his two-wheeler was all safe, and his entire body was equally fit- apart from the fact that his head had banged onto the edge of the footpath. It was such a hard hit that he actually lost what was happening and had to sit back by the road side for some time and then proceeded and reached hostel to tell us the story. The helmet saved us our precious friend, unlike the case about three and half years back when the same helmet could have saved many other things apart from two important lives.
Newspapers in every metro city in India give a daily report of people killed and injured in traffic accidents. As a response to this heightened awareness NGOs have come up in many cities to deal with this increasing urban epidemic of death and destruction. Police departments also hold road safety weeks, painting competitions, zero tolerance drives and demand greater powers to fine and punish. This has gone on for the last two decades. But, the killing and the maiming continues unabated.
In contrast with developed countries like United States, Europe and Australia, we don’t have many studies done in any city of India in which road accident data have been analysed according to scientific norms in vogue around the world. Not a single city in India has a well formulated scientific process through which data gets analysed according to methods which are likely to be beneficial. No police department in India has a collaboration with road safety experts on a continuing basis.
So, how do we start? First of all, we should select practical measures which are known to work in all situations and apply them locally. Second, we need to set up systems for collection and analysis of road accident data on a scientific basis suited for our socio-economic conditions. Then, these data can be used to fine tune policies and set up long term safety programmes.
Examples of policies which work internationally are, compulsory use of helmets and headlights by two-wheeler riders, making small vehicles like bicycles and carts more conspicuous by use of reflectors on all sides and painting them yellow or orange, use of seatbelts by car occupants, and limiting vehicle speeds below 50 km/h on urban arterial roads. Helmet use is mandated by the Motor Vehicle Act in India. However, each state has to notify it for it to be enforced. Most of the states in India have been criminally negligent in not doing so. Studies done in Delhi, Chennai and Bangalore show that a vast majority of two-wheeler riders and parents of teenagers are in favour of the law. The law is very easily enforceable. This measure alone will reduce deaths by 20-30% among two-wheeler riders.
When two-wheeler riders keep their headlights on during the day time, it does not help them, but it makes them more conspicuous for other vehicle drivers. This measure was found to be effective in Europe almost two decades ago in reducing fatalities by 10%. Malaysia and Singapore have also introduced this law. Studies from Malaysia show a 15% reduction in deaths. The measure does not cost anything and can be implemented tomorrow. Helmet and daytime headlight use by two-wheelers if enforced throughout the country may save 4,000 -5,000 lives and 60,000-100,000 serious injuries annually. If all bicycles in India had reflectors on wheels, in front and the back, and if all of them were painted yellow or orange, they would be much more visible. This measure would save another few thousand lives, would not cost much, and can be implemented easily.
Fifty percent or more of road deaths in cities involve pedestrians. A pedestrian hit by a car at 30 km/h has less than 10% chance of dying, whereas this probability increases to more than 80% at 50 km/h. This is why all European cities are limiting vehicle speeds to less than 30 km/h in residential and shopping areas by use of well designed speed breakers, narrowing streets, and encouraging dead end roads. On arterial roads speeds are limited to 50 km/h with light controlled pedestrian crossings at frequent intervals. We are encouraging speeds by provision of flyovers and increasing distances between traffic lights. This can only result in increase in accidents. Underground and over ground pedestrian facilities do not work unless accompanied by escalators and ensuring safety of women and children.
Seat belt use by car occupants decreases deaths by 20-30%. But no where in the world do a majority of people use seat belts unless the same is made compulsory. However, this measure will help car users only who constitute less than 5 percent of total road deaths in India. It is high time our policy makers and vehicle manufacturers gave more importance to science in road safety rather than PR for road safety. (Source: Last some paragraphs are from an article, the first/best result as per Google’s PageRank™. I gracefully copied and shamelessly pasted some content in here. However, I suggest you to explore your access to the World Wide Web or the local authorities for better, detailed and more statistical information on this. Do share it with me.)
Talking of accidents and fault, it doesn’t necessarily have to be either party’s mistake as the cause of the situation. However, casualties (if any) have certainly to do with someone’s mistake (carelessness). Helmet on two-wheeler (same as seat-belts in car) are as important act as doing any other activity to ride the machine, at all.
My point is to take care of the precautions, since any casualty with your life (or mine, or that of anyone else) may not make the greatest difference to the world, but it may – to the people who are the world to us. Time to tighten up the responsibility checks!
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