“The 6 o’clock Test” is something that I often flag during my motivational talks. I ask respondents to declare honestly in public whether they would stop their vehicle at a red light at 6 a.m. if no one were watching.
Surprisingly, most of them announce (with full transparency) the fact that they are prone to being dishonest that early in the morning, whether they are headed to the railway station or to a Yoga class!
What exactly happens to perfectly genteel people when they hit the road? Seething bouts of road rage are often the result of the tiniest of scratches, life-long enmities or even loss of life are the outcomes of rashness on the part of perfectly sensible people, who just lose their collective cool on the road for some unfathomable reason.
Statistics tell us that in India’s northern States alone approximately 11,000 people lose their lives every annum in road accidents. These numbers are not as high in other regions of the country, but there is definitely a malaise pan-India that needs to be controlled.
Two-wheelers and make-shift tractor-trolleys account for a large number of these accidents with drivers of cars, buses and trucks being almost equally culpable. One note-worthy aspect of the cause of these mishaps is that many of them are likely to happen at certain black-spots which dot the region. Minor engineering modifications and adjustments can help avoid many of them, and States really need to gear up in this regard.
The couldn’t-care-less attitude which typifies us Indians at times is also a major factor. Vehicle users are willing to dart in from nowhere and risk serious danger in order to save a few minutes along the way, at times with tragic results.
The really shocking aspect is that the race to reach home or wherever is often propelled by a TV serial that one loves, or some equally frivolous aim.
An experiment was carried out in some parts of the country to try and alter the mindsets of the bus drivers a few years ago. A picture of the driver’s family was compulsorily affixed near the dashboard, so that the man would think many a time while overtaking rashly, or speeding up alarmingly. To what extent it worked is not known, but it may be worth trying for some people.
Drunken driving is of course a phenomenon that just has not been curbed. Although the number of challans, fines and even arrests in related matters has gone up appreciably, many fatal accidents are still caused by inebriated drivers.
One way to force people to think a hundred times before driving under the influence of liquor could be to get their children to carry the message home. Some communities have tried this with outstanding results. Parents, particularly fathers who used to risk a drunken drive, have vowed never to do so again, ever since their little ones got after them!
There is also a need to make reflectors compulsory for all bicycles and unmotorised movable objects on our roads. Huge carriers of hay etc. are regularly found impeding traffic on highways and they often prove to be the reasons for mishaps.
Another really serious trend is that road users are increasingly being distracted by their phones and risking lives. Texting has been reported to be even more dangerous than speaking on the cell phone. Many have lost their lives due to the disastrous decision to use their phones while driving.
The question which arises is whether we realise the gravity of our acts when we are on the road; perhaps not. In India it is said that vehicle owners must not only avoid their own mistakes while driving but must earnestly be on the lookout for others who are liable to err.
On a lighter but still alarming note, amorous couples are known to forget road-watching altogether, leading to calamitous situations. According to an internet quote, Albert Einstein of all people said “Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl, is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves!”
But road safety is ultimately a really serious matter and we may shrug it off only at our peril!