While we certainly don't own the world's best road infrastructure, we must accept that a huge majority of accidents occur because of our own indifference to rules and regulations. While quick and effective action is necessary from the authorities too, we must do our bit too to help bring down the number of grieving families affected by road mishaps.
How are these terrible tragedies going to end otherwise? How long are we going to sit back and do nothing about these precious lives lost every year?
Unless we know the real reasons why people die everyday on our roads, we are not going to be able to do anything about it. So let's change our mindset now.
1. We have the world’s most ridiculous license system
For heaven's sake, when are we going to stop allowing new motorists on public roads just because they successfully complete a figure of eight in some empty field or drive in sparse traffic for five minutes without stalling?
2. We don't fasten our helmet straps
You can only tell people only so many times to wear helmets, so we're not going to lose sweat over that any more. But innumerable deaths over the years can be accounted to not fastening the strap as well, because helmets are the first to fly off during the impact they were supposed to protect us from, because there's nothing to keep them in place.
3. We don't anticipate changing road situations
We drive for ten feet, and for what's directly ahead of us. We don't react early to slowing traffic up ahead, for example, and always brake and steer to avoid obstacles at the very last moment, giving us too little time to manoeuvre out of harm's way in an emergency.
4. We are impatient and aggressive
See you, Sachin, I'm going home. Put on the seatbelt, start the car, and the war begins. Dirty look begin, abuses fly, and we always have to be first through in every situation.
5. We follow vehicles too closely
Trucks and buses used to tell us to ‘Keep Distance'. But we always ignore the print, fine or large, and continue to follow traffic ahead too closely. This becomes extremely dangerous at highway speeds especially, and fatal accidents happen because we have little reaction time for emergency braking.
6. We don’t have ABS and ESP for the most part
The majority of our vehicles on the road still don't have ABS (Anti-lock Braking System) or (Electronic Stability Program) as standard, and since several of our motorists don't deal well with unexpected situations and can't control our cars and bikes during emergencies because we aren't trained how.
7. We constantly switch lanes without warning
We are always trying to get into the other lane, so not only does it slow down all the traffic behind us, it is also very dangerous, since there's always someone coming down the lane much faster than you expect. Again giving rise to a chain reaction of unsafe manoeuvres.
8. We remove rear view mirrors on two wheelers
In the past, we would point the left mirror inwards to make sure the hair and the moustache were in check. But now we remove them entirely, and the law doesn't stop us. When we can't see and are not aware of what's happening behind and to our side, our lives are at great risk.
9. We slow down and stop in moving traffic and on the highway without warning
We see ‘stall' crashes in motorsport, and they are often some of the most horrific. So one can imagine the kind of risk we put ourselves in when we slow or stop without warning in an uncontrolled environment like on the road.
10. We avoid safety riding gear on two-wheelers
Aside from helmets, how many of us bother to even wear shoes on a bike? As a result, what should be minor accidents often become worse incidents unnecessarily. Without protective clothing, our unprotected bodies are what hit the tarmac, and is it ever possible to decide how we fall?
11. We are distracted
But not by mobile phones alone. Several accidents are caused because of uncooperative co-passengers as well. How many times have we driven with the rest of the folks in the car or the pillion rider cackling away at full volume, expecting you to be your chatty self and drive at the same time?
12. We overtake very unsafely
We judge our overtaking manoeuvres right down to the last inch, and constantly. Because there's so little room for error, when a mistake does occur, it's too often a horrific head-on collision. Overtaking needs to be quick, decisive and safely completed by dropping gear(s), completing the move, and getting back to our side of the road.
13. We jump red signals
We know red means stop, but we're always seeing red...
14. We blind oncoming traffic at night
When we can't see ahead clearly, we don't know exactly what's ahead of us. That's the truth, and the unfortunate majority of our driving and riding at night is riddled with high beams of brilliant headlights from all sides. As a result, we are driving blind too often, putting pedestrians at great risk.
15. We don't know how to use gears effectively
We are taught from the beginning that higher speeds mean we should use higher gears, because of better fuel economy. However, it's about time driving schools and people teaching new motorists how to drive begin instructing that lower gears are required around sharp turns, while going downhill, and while overtaking.
16. We don't wear seatbelts as passengers
It's true, we have begun wearing seatbelts as drivers. But as passengers we need to realise it's equally important to buckle up too.
17. We have too many entries and gaps in medians on our highways
So many gaps in the medians mean U-Turns often occur extremely dangerously, often just after a curve with speeding vehicles coming round unisighted, the reason for so many collisions. But median gap and traffic junction reflector strips and blinking orange lights for indicators are good ideas, let's standardise them.
18. We drink and drive
India has taken a commendably strong stand against drink driving in the recent past, so now it's left to us motorists to be responsible and stay away from our vices when we're on the road.
19. We don't turn headlights on until it's fully dark
Dusk and dawn are some of the most dangerous parts of the day to be on the road, since the limited light reduces visibility, and headlights haven't taken full effect as yet. Look around, even when it is practically dark every evening, we don't even have our parking lights on.
20. We don't maintain our vehicles
We will still get on the road in the rain without our wipers working in the rain, or drive and ride at night without the tail lamps working. Worse still, lack of maintenance sees instances of brake failure, tyre failure, and other serious mishaps when we least expect it.
21. If you can drive in India, you can drive anywhere
We need to lose this mindset. Because it is making us ride and drive as we please in our country, and numbing us to the reality that rules exist for our own good. Changing lanes improperly gets one losing points off their license and being slapped with a huge fine in most other countries, so how we can drive everywhere if we drive like this in our own environment?