Earlier this February, my mother met with an accident. She was riding towards the highway on a scooter. As she was riding, a motor bike was trying to overtake a lorry coming from the opposite direction. Meanwhile, a second bike tried to overtake the bike and the lorry recklessly and illegally near a turn of the road.
Seeing the second bike approach her at a very high speed, my mother tried to drive towards a side of the road as quickly as she could. Still the bike hit her on the rear side, and she fell flat on the ground. What’s even worse is that the rider didn’t even stop the bike and fled the scene. Thankfully, people came running and helped her onto her feet and offered some water.
Fortunately, she didn’t suffer injuries apart from bruises, a toe-fracture and chest pain. The scooter however sustained severe damage and the repairs cost a substantial amount of money. The bystanders weren’t able to get the bike’s number. Still we filed a case, and the police assured us that the perpetrators would be caught.
Kochi is infamous for the indiscipline shown by its drivers and its rate of traffic accidents. I have also seen people drive in Mumbai and Coimbatore in a similar manner as well.
How often do we talk about people breaking traffic rules? According to a report in 2016, 400 people die in road accidents daily in India. More people die due to road accidents than by any other means. According to the world index, India has the highest number of recorded deaths on road. In 2015, the death count stood at 1.46 lakhs. According to the statistics, UP recorded the highest number of road deaths, followed by Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Delhi.
It is mainly the pedestrians who are injured or killed. Indian roads kill more people than terrorist attacks.
The reason for this is rash, negligent driving and road rage. We see signs and billboards on roads which clearly state ‘better to be late than to be the Late’. However, road rage is one of the reasons why we ignore such clear messages. Traffic signals are openly flouted. Neither do drivers want to wait for pedestrians to cross the road, nor do pedestrians want to wait till the vehicles have crossed. Road rage also deals ‘property damage’ to people in the form of dents and scratches on vehicles.
Another issue here is that of ‘sudden braking’, which often leads to collisions, especially between four-wheelers, at road-turns.
Over-speeding is yet another menace. According to the traffic police, boys between 18-25 years of age are often gifted with super-bikes and Royal Enfields during road-safety classes. They tend to drive rashly due to the thrill experienced by riding at high speeds. A majority of road accidents in Kochi occur due to motorbikes driven recklessly.
Many truck-drivers and auto-rickshaw drivers have also played their role in road rage and drunk driving. Women driving vehicles are often eve-teased and this can also lead to traffic accidents, according to newspaper reports.
When I was travelling on the Kundanoor bridge, I was followed by a bike. The bike overtook me but then slowed down. From then on, whenever I overtook the bike, it sped up again and passed me. Finally, the bike overtook me by flouting a traffic signal and the riders shouted obscenities as they sped through.
In Kerala, vehicles cannot travel at a speed above 70 kilometres an hour, even on the highways. The roads in the cities are so narrow that the maximum speed of vehicles is ideally 40-45 kilometres an hour. Unless the roads are clear, vehicles cannot go above this speed.
Roads in Mumbai, Delhi and other metropolitan cities might be wider, but the speed should be regulated based on the number of vehicles on the road. The traffic police should also advise citizens on how road rage is to be avoided. Busses and lorries which overtake in crowded stretches of the roads and at road-turns should be booked.
When it comes to controlling the menace of super-bikes and other high-speed motorbikes, strictly restricting their speeds to a maximum of 60-70 kilometres an hour and regulating their presence in crowded roads could be effective measures. Most of the riders here are boys between 18-25 years of age. Bike races and chases are frequently held. In accidents resulting from these events, the victims are either the pillion riders or the pedestrians.
Ever since the wearing of helmets while riding has been made mandatory, the number of deaths has significantly reduced. Simultaneously, strict action needs to be taken against those who violate traffic rules and cause road rage and accidents on purpose. Hit-and-run cases must be taken seriously and ‘repairing damages’ alone should not solve the issue. Driving schools should also focus on ‘safe driving’ while teaching the essentials. Only then can the roads be made safer.
High-speed road pursuits may look cool in films, but they are not so in real life. It is essential to remember that ‘speed thrills but kills’!