In my daily travels to office and back on the same route, I have observed certain traits of people who perplex me. I wonder how one can be so casual about one’s own safety. No, I am not talking about traffic rules violation or dangerous driving. My concern is here about the passengers sitting in any kind of vehicle.
My wife suffered minor bruises few years back in an accident. She was travelling to her office by a cycle rickshaw. At a certain point, a biker hit the rickshaw. My wife fell from the rickshaw and suffered certain injuries in her head, fingers, hips and shoulder. She had to visit a hospital for first aid, got some stitches done and discharged. It took about a month for complete healing of the injuries.
This incident provoked me to think about the passengers who sit in pillion on a two-wheeler, on the back seat of an auto rickshaw or a cycle rickshaw, in car or in buses.
Never have I come across a passenger who is rebuking his rickshaw puller for jumping the red signal at the traffic light. So is the case with the passenger in an auto rickshaw or for that matter in any kind of vehicle. If I jump a red light and if my daughters are with me, I sure get a rebuke from one of them for not obeying the traffic rules. I even get rebuke from them if I drive a little recklessly. The common refrain from them would be ‘Baba. You are driving like an autowala.”
Why is it so? Why I am not concerned about my own safety? Why have I allowed someone to flout traffic senses and thereby jeopardising my safety? Sometime with fatal consequences?!
The other day a lady sitting on a cycle rickshaw got severely injured. The rickshaw puller was pedalling fast and in race with another one. As habituated, he tried to overtake from the left. The road was uneven. The right rear wheel of the rickshaw suddenly hit a higher patch of the road and the rickshaw was tilted on left. The puller could not balance the rickshaw and both the passengers of the rickshaw fell on road. One of them hit the side grills of a traffic island. The sharp edges of the iron grille pierced through her chin and she started bleeding profusely. It is another story how they were taken to nearest hospital. I was behind the rickshaw in my car and observed the whole incident.
The passengers were totally oblivious to the danger of the reckless pedalling by the puller.
I observe such a conduct by the riders most of the time. The passenger is always in a hurry. S/he sometimes hurries up the rickshaw puller or auto driver. The puller or the auto driver is the most law-disobedient person. For him the red light is a great hindrance. He will make all efforts to pass through the light. If he is trying to jump the red light, the passenger should understand that his/her life is in danger. It is a known fact that the pillion riders suffers maximum injury and at times fatal. The biker is holding the handle bars, his feet and hands are on brake and he is aware of the risk he is taking or the impending danger. The pillion rider is mostly ignorant to this. Especially in case of female pillion rider in Indian traditional attire, the risk is extreme. The bikers are, again, the most undisciplined lot. I have observed that 99.99% of the bikers will try to overtake through left side even if there is space on the right (i.e., the correct) side. In the process the bikers brush through the cars or other vehicles. They do not even care about the safety of the pillion rider while overtaking in such a way. Riding with two additional pillion is the norm whereas it is against law. I have seen a whole family (consisting the man, women and minimum two children) is on the bike risking lives of everyone. Sometimes, the woman is sitting holding a baby precariously on pillion. The rider drives the bike dangerously and fast. He is unmindful that a lady is sitting behind him clutching a baby and is in the most vulnerable position in case of any mishap. This is a daily site for me as I spend 3 hours daily on roads commuting to and from my office. I shudder at the sight and plight of the poor woman pillion rider.
Even in cars, the passengers are not very serious as to how its driver is driving the car. They hardly caution the driver. Rather they encourage the driver to drive fast, in zigzag condition and supports him in case of signalled down for rash driving. They even support in case of any brawl involving the driver and others even though they are aware that the driver is at fault. This encourages reckless driving. The road rage incidents happen due to this indifferent attitude of the passengers. Instead of quelling the dispute, they encourage.
As a passenger I should be cautious about the driving discipline of the driver. When we hire a vehicle during odd hours (say late night or very early hours), we take precaution of not only the vehicle we choose but also the route to be taken for safety. The same principle is to be applied on the driving style of my driver. If he is reckless he should be cautioned. Though not much problem is faced with four wheelers, majority of the problem is faced with small vehicles like auto rickshaw, cycle rickshaw and recent addition – e-rickshaw. In Delhi, I have observed that the DTC bus drivers are also drive their monster looking low floor buses irresponsibly causing danger to other vehicles and pedestrians. The public using such transports are to be alert and cautious. We cannot allow someone to put our lives at peril.
I have been driving on these roads for the last 30 years. Such an unbecoming behaviour from people is often seen and it has been continuing. I don’t know how to spread the awareness among the riders to be alert about the driver’s way of handling his vehicle. But this is a necessity. I don’t have data but I am sure that many accidents, at times fatal, are caused by this reckless driving aided by casual approach of the riders.
Road safety is like personal hygiene. One has to be cautious and self-indulgent about it. No one can teach you this trait forcibly. We have observed traffic police extracting fines from the erring driver. This is a daily sight. But has it deterred people from being reckless? I don’t think so. Roads are being developed user-friendly, widened, marked, dotted with various traffic signs to educate drivers, advisories issued by traffic department, timers installed at traffic signals, one way driving introduced, someone tried the odd-even formula, dividers introduced, flyovers constructed and all these to bring safety and comfort in driving on city roads. We have seen tremendous developments in the last decade. But, alas, the number of accidents, mishaps, road-rage incidents etc. also have gone up at a faster pace. All these due to the fact that we as users of these roads both as driver and user refuse to learn from our mistakes.
You are taught to brush your teeth every morning and take bath daily in your childhood. After few days of instruction no one at your home reminds you to do the activity. You get used to it and you become aware that to maintain personal hygiene this is necessary. It becomes your habit. Driving safe and keeping in mind others’ safety is just like that. It is mental hygiene.