Each day over 3600 people die, 6 crores get injured, and around one and a half crore get disabled. The reason is no calamity as you might have expected. But rather, traffic.
Recently, when the usually three-hour long journey to and from a certain place I frequent was turned into a five-hour one due to traffic congestion caused by three different accidents en route, I began to think where we are going with our roads. The 21st century has seen a histrionic growth in the vehicular sector. Millions and millions of advanced high-speed vehicles get added to the roads each day. This coupled with the preference of private transports over public ones gives rise to the crowded nature of the roads. Besides, unskilled, and immature drivers get added to the driver’s list every new day. As a result, the number of road accidents has risen to an unbelievable extent. 151000 people lost their lives owing to road accidents in 2019 alone, which is almost thrice the number of deaths related to terrorism in a year. Records say that every four minutes, a dream is shattered on roads in India alone. That accounts to almost 400 deaths each day! A disease that would have taken this many lives would have been pronounced a pandemic and all the governments of the globe would have joined hands to save humanity from such a danger. But road safety has not been taken on a war footing yet.
Sure, we have safety rules; rules that are enough to curb such deaths if implemented properly. But whether that happens is the real question. The recent rush at the Regional Transport Offices to avail Driving License and other documents related to vehicles after the government’s mandate speaks volumes about how serious we are regarding road safety. Every one of us knows at least one person who has endured the aftermath of a serious accident and has come to terms with a life which they never expected. Most of us also understand that what happened to them could have happened to us too. But still we do not take road safety with the gravity it deserves.
We put on our helmets at the sight of traffic cops. We forget that the sight of the cop may give us a minute, but an accident will not. We pull off speeds way above the limit, confident of our driving skills. Even if for a minute, it is agreed that we are all very adept in the supposed art of driving superfast, how can we be so sure of the other person’s skills? How do we know that another person, a kid, an animal, or a pothole won’t appear in the way and change our life forever?
Some might say that the newest laws do not give any scope for such offences. But if we are honest, this notion cannot be further from the truth. The strict implementations and stringent actions are things of capital cities and other notable towns only. Beyond these boundaries the scenario is still the same as it always was. Four people riding a single bike, driving against the traffic flow, and helmet-less driving is still an everyday sight in such areas. Cops still let traffic offenders go away for small sums of bribe. Even in the capitals we discussed earlier, minors razing through alleys is still common.
The fear for traffic cops that was seen during the early days of new traffic regulations needs to become an everyday truth. The ones in charge of implementing these laws need to understand their gravity first. Only then will ‘traffic rules’ surpass the boundaries of big towns. Only then will it be a step towards the change in our thought systems. Because as long as that does not change, the situation on our roads is not going to change either.
“If you want to die early, go straight and fast.”
Please don’t. Because those you take down with you, might not have wanted this at all! Also, not all road mishaps end with a clean death; some end with life-long disabilities and other complications too. The fact that this quotation was at the top of my search page when I was looking for quotes related to road and road safety explains a lot about our thought system regarding the roads. No amount of fine and no strict actions can change this condition because like any other value, the value of road safety also needs to be instilled in our minds first. If we follow traffic rules only to avoid being ‘challan-ed’ and not for our own security, the roads will continue to be unsafe. And if you still think safety rules are a pain, try having an accident!
At the end of the day, if I were to suggest some changes to the existing rules, I feel one should not be fined for not wearing a helmet or not fastening the seat belts. Because it is that very individual’s choice to undergo a personal loss. After all, if we put the value of our life so cheap, why should anybody else, including the traffic cops or the government, care for us? I learnt it the hard way. I hope you don’t have to.