Monday, December 15, 2014

A Happy Journey

With times changing, owning a vehicle has gone from being a luxury to a necessity. The costs of available transports rank way over the long term cost of owning a personal vehicle, and that is just one of the reasons. Next comes the safety angle, and taking into consideration the massive amount of crimes taking place in transport vehicles, I think it’s safer to own a vehicle to reach your destination.

You can travel quicker, in exactly the way you want, and there is also the comfort of having a ride for door-to-door service. But safe? Are we really safe in the vehicles, our own or anyone else’s? Are we safe on the roads- travelling, walking, or even standing? Are we safe riding pillion on bikes, or gliding on the roads on our cycles? If our roads are safe, then why are there so many deaths on roads? Why is the asphalt glistening in colors of red?

There are various ways with which we can curtail these accidents and limit them from occurring on our roads. There are some ways in which the government will have to take the lead and force us to drive safer; and there are those ways in which we shall change for good- for society and for the welfare of the people around us.

Is there anything we don’t blame on the government? Apparently, there isn’t a single point where we say the government is doing well; ranging from inflation to the global market, from cleanliness to safety, from quality of food to even the weather. However farfetched it may seem, that is what we do, and this is what leads our country away from developing at an even faster pace.

In addition to this, we try passing on the blame to every other entity, and at times the car companies face the brunt of people’s rash driving. But have they not performed their job by providing seatbelts, airbags and all of those safety measures which our cars are equipped with? Is it not in our hands to use these to our benefit in order to keep safe our life?

So well, let’s begin with what we should do and not what the government can. In any case, our responsibility ranks higher in the topic of road safety, as we are the ones racing down the narrow streets maniacally, and if we ourselves don’t have the will to stop that, then I guess every law, every rule, and every step taken by the government shall fail miserably.

As I said before, companies provide various safety measures like airbags and seatbelts. Airbags are for the most extreme case in which a crash is inevitable, and they can work only for the safety of the passengers in the car. The same goes for the application of seatbelts, which work for the safety of just the passengers. But, a life is a life, and we should give each life enough importance to continue.

With science taking our vehicles to new highs in terms of speed, we have also developed technologies like driver assistance systems, crash avoidance equipment in the form of reflectors and lights, and car designs which can survive crashes. All of this exists for 4 wheelers, and for bikes, the use of helmets works to save lives to a certain extent.

That’s all vehicle companies can do to work towards the people having a safe driving experience, with no loss or scare of loss of life. I mentioned above that we have taken our vehicles to new limits in terms of speed; but how do we control that? With my mechanics paper not so long in the past, I must digress to the fact that one of the applications of friction is to reduce the speed of vehicles.

Brakes play a large role in applying friction, but there is also a lot that can be done externally. That’s where the government comes in. With our roads immersed in the potholes during the monsoon, and the rest of the year going in filling those holes, speed isn’t quite a concern when driving in a city like Mumbai. That applies only if you care for your personal vehicle, and you have the patience to wait for the safest route to empty for your passage.

The government must work towards bettering these roads, and not just for the sake of creating employment for the unemployed; along with which the signals and lighting conditions must be developed too. This thought would be a bit too farfetched to happen in a city like Mumbai, but the roads must be equipped enough for the police to get hold of even the pettiest offender. More stringent enforcement systems with the coupling of laws would also make a small traffic rule very important for every road user.

Lastly, moving on to some of the practices we must strictly prohibit when travelling. These may be the most basic of inputs, but applying them in real life would surely work very well to implement road safety.

There are those times when a couple of glasses of beer cannot be avoided in the company of friends, or after an accomplishment. It is regular practice to insist that the alcohol didn’t affect the senses, and to then drive home. Is it not unsafe to drive under the influence of alcohol, or any other substance which, if not numb completely, at least slows down the nervous system and thus increases the reaction times of the body? It may not be fatal, but it is indeed a very risky thing to do.

Another of those obnoxious practices that must be abolished at the earliest is the use of mobile phones and the playing of music at volumes which disrupt the sound from the vehicles around, and also interfere with the attention of the driver. Mild music at low volumes such that it does not affect the audibility of the surroundings should be the maximum allowance in every vehicle. Along with this, calls must not be taken when driving as our mind concentrates on the conversation more than on the road, and this could prove harmful.

Running lights and taking shortcuts regardless of ‘No entry’ signs and footpaths are some of the smallest offences which we as riders and drivers wouldn’t consider to be crimes; but these are the things we must curtail in order to avoid large mishaps. It’s not just the responsibility of the drivers to follow rules such that accidents are prohibited, but it is our responsibility as pedestrians as well to follow the rules.

We walk on the roads with our earphones blaring into the ear at deafening volumes, and we cross the road at the last possible moment; the presence of a zebra crossing being irrelevant. Is it not our duty as pedestrians to follow these rules for our safety? Why should the drivers take blame for our mistakes?

Thus to end, I must say that the government, the car company, the passenger, the driver, or even the pedestrian walking across the street must follow the tiniest of rules.

“Tiny drops come together to make an ocean.”

As this saying goes, following the smallest of rules will slowly lead to a reduction in the number of accidents and will make our roads safer for travel.

To sum up, some of the solutions I suggest to make our roads safer for travel are:

As a driver:
  1. Do not drink and drive
  2. Do not use mobile phones while driving
  3. Use seatbelts to great effect
  4. Follow the road signs and speed limits
  5. Hearing loud music while driving must be avoided
  6. Do not ride through ‘No Entry’ signs or on footpaths
As a pedestrian:
  1. Do not listen to loud music when walking
  2. Use foot-over bridges and subways for crossing traffic zones
  3. Follow signals for crossing, and possibly only from zebra crossings
 As suggestions to the government:
  1. Complete removal of potholes from roads
  2. Speed limits to be established for all roads
  3. Strict laws to make the breaking of traffic rules a crime
  4. More emphasis on the safety of road users
  5. Making of freeways for high speed transit
  6. Making separate paths for cyclists and pedestrians
  7. More resources for the enforcement of laws
  8. Establishment of strict lanes for different classes of vehicles
 This post is written for the Nissan Safety Driving Forum Contest on The Nissan Safety Driving Forum is conducted in India by the Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., to reduce fatalities and injuries by traffic incidents. The Forum has led to a reduction in accidents by increase in implementation of seatbelts and the company views to reduce the number of accidents by quite a large number.

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