Foolishness and Negligence-Cause of Most Road Accident Deaths in India
Recently I came across a report in the Times of India called "Road Accidents in India 2021". While this report has several shocking revelations, there are two that are real eye-openers. Apparently this report is based on the data provided by the police departments of various Indian states and the first shocker is that at least 83 percent of drivers or passengers, killed in car accidents in 2021, were not wearing seat belts! Yes, 8 out of 10 vehicle occupants who died did not deem it necessary to put on their seat belts! Wearing seat belts has been compulsory for quite a long time in our country, and last year it also became mandatory for rear seat passengers to put on seat belts.
In 2021, more than 83 percent who died in road accidents in India were not wearing seat belts.
But quite obviously, a majority of those who died in road accidents involving vehicles in 2021 chose to disregard this rule. Another report also highlights an incident of a truck driver who braked hard while descending a steep hill and as he was not wearing a seat belt, the strong deceleration resulted in him flying out of his seat. That is not all. He hit the windscreen so hard that it broke and the driver fell out of the fast moving truck! And then the completely out of control truck, went and hit the vehicle ahead causing the death of about half a dozen innocent occupants. Ironically, the driver of the truck survived. Even as I write this, I find it difficult to believe such things are happening in our country.
Wearing seat belts has been compulsory in our country for a long time as it can save lives. But the majority still refuses to put them on. Therefore this is a rare but welcome sight.
Sadly this is all true and if you look around while driving on our highways, or even in many of our cities and towns, you will find that most people don't put on seat belts. I know some persons who do wear seat belts at most times. However, if they are going to a wedding or any other such function and are dressed formally for the occasion, then they don't put on seat belts. When I asked why? I was told this was because their freshly pressed formals would get crushed! Is that not way better than them getting crushed? And these are properly educated and well-travelled folk. If they do such silly things, how can one expect better from illiterate people who have never heard of "Newton's Law of Motion".
Now it's also mandatory for rear seat occupants to wear seat belts. But hardly anyone does it.
The second bombshell in the report is that about 67 percent of two-wheeler riders or pillions, who lost their lives in road accidents in 2021, were not wearing helmets! This is colossal negligence and almost like committing suicide. I mean on a two wheeler you are almost completely exposed to the elements and don't have any of the protection a vehicle with a proper body provides. But you still don't want to protect your head, which is the most vulnerable part of your body. Why would you do that?
About 67 percent of those killed on two-wheelers in 2021, were not wearing helmets!
Wearing helmets while commuting on a two-wheeler has been compulsory for a long time and cops also keep fining people for breaking this law. But it's obviously not working because many people still don't wear helmets. And if you look closely at few of the ones that do, you will observe that hardly any of them bother to put on the chin strap! The chin strap secures the helmet to your head and ensures it does not fly off if you fall. So a helmet without a properly fastened chin strap is as good as an empty spectacle frame without lenses to correct vision.
Of the few who do wear helmets, even fewer buckle the chin strap! This is like putting a cap on a bottle, but not fastening it. Obviously it will come off.
Wearing a seat belt or helmet is good for your own personal safety. This is plain common sense. And in my view any and everybody ought to be able to understand something so basic. It's as simple as, if you put your hand in fire, it will get burnt. But unfortunately, common sense is least common in India and as the report reveals, the bulk of vehicle and two-wheeler users, continue to play with fire. And however hard I try, I just don't understand why? It's like people don't value their lives at all. And every time they step out onto our roads, they have a death wish. In my experience, such strange things only happen in India.
Some smart ones do put on the chin strap, but leave it loose to enable them to slide the helmet to the back of their heads. This is the Indian and completely useless style of wearing a helmet.
In almost all other countries, people don't think twice before wearing a seatbelt or helmet. It is second nature to them. You see everyone doing it, even in our neighbouring nations like Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan. I am told people in Bangladesh and Pakistan; also follow such rules far more than we do. I have heard some people making the argument that we still have lots of poor and uneducated people, and that is why there is less compliance with road safety rules.
This is the right way to wear a helmet. Unfortunately, hardly anybody does something that is so simple and crucial for their own safety.
But I don't buy this argument, because even in many African countries that are far less developed than us, people follow traffic rules and drive and ride in a far safer manner than us. And until our approach and mentality does not change, I am afraid we will continue to lose more than 1, 50,000 people every year to road accidents.
Additional photos courtesy Raju Baghdarekar