the other day a leading English newspaper came out with a report quoting a data
released by the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB). It said that road crashes
in India claimed 426 lives per day or 18 every hour in 2021, making it the
highest ever in a calendar year. Close
to 1.56 lakh road fatalities were recorded during the year.
the release, no influential CEO or word savvy twitter account holders with
their prestigious blue tick mark, took any pledge to wear seat belts in their
cars, or drive within the speed limits, or simply follow the traffic norms of
the country to a T. I wondered at that time why all the big ‘blue tick’ account
holders and their battery of social media advisors did not announce a “pledge”
of sorts to get the hundreds and thousands of “likes” they all love so much?
pledges on social media are just some fancy words, a vogue of sorts, especially
when someone really big is involved in a tragic situation.
September 4, 2022, industrialist Cyrus Mistry, 54 years old, died in a car
accident. He was the former chairman of Tata Sons. He was travelling in a
Mercedes GLC sport utility vehicle sitting in the rear seat. This Mercedes
vehicle is considered to be a relatively safe car with a solid build quality. Mistry
and three others were travelling from Gujarat's Udwada to Mumbai.
Pandole, a Mumbai-based gynecologist, was driving the Mercedes SUV and seated
next to her was her husband Darius Pandole. Both of them were seriously
Pandole, the younger brother of Darius, who was sitting next to Mistry in the
rear seat, also died in the accident. Apparently, the car tried to overtake
another vehicle from the wrong side when it hit a road divider on a bridge,
police officials said. Both the rear seat passengers were not wearking a seat
belt, sources confirmed.
Could they have
Mercedes GLC SUV is not by far the safest of vehicles on Indian roads. The
engine delivers massive power and torque and the top speed is a notch above
200kmph. Of course, one can limit the speed with a speed limitor button. It is reliably learnt that the passengers seated
in the rear were not wearing seat belts and the car was being driven at high
speeds before it crashed.
Mistry and Pandole been wearing a seat belt, they he could perhaps have escaped
with some injuries. Post crash, the Mercedes SUV’s cabin looked intact,
therefore implying that the crash had impacted the front portion only. But when
a passenger sitting at the rear does not wear a seat belt, the consequences can
be disastrous post a crash.
People may not be
aware but there is a rule which says that seat belts are mandatory for all those
seated in front facing seats in a car. Rule 138 (3) of the Central Motor
Vehicle Rules (CMVR) clearly states that persons “seated in the front seat or
the persons occupying front facing rear seats” must wear seat belts while the
vehicle is in motion.
rule is seldom enforced in our land and even the educated among those driving
cars or travelling in a car don’t bother to buckle up when they are seated
inside a moving a car. At Motown India we have run several
videos on YouTube explaining the need for wearing seat belts in a moving car.
Without seat belts on, the deployment of airbags if at all in a crash becomes
In the year 2012, satirist and comedian Jaspal Bhatti died in a road accident
near Jalandhar when the Honda City car in which he was travelling hit a
roadside tree near Shahkot in Nakodar area of the district. He was seated at
the rear seat and was not wearing his seat belt.
Similarly, in 2014 Rural Development Minister Gopinath Munde, who made his entry into the Union Cabinet for the first time after the Lok Sabha polls, died apparently of shock and cardiac arrest suffered during a road accident in New Delhi. He was on his way to catch a flight to Mumbai. He was travelling by a Maruti Suzuki SX4 and was seated at the rear seat without wearing his seat belt.
Ever heard of ‘Velocitation’?
Those of you have travelled by car on long stretches of road, especially on highways, you would have experienced a feeling that your car is going slow despite the fact that it is travelling at high speeds like 80kmph or beyond 100kmph. For the last few years, it is mandatory for cars manufactured in India to have a warning sound like a ring or beep when the vehicle exceeds 80kph speed, and a continuous ring or beep when the vehicle exceeds 120kph. But the bitter fact is that in many of the cars it is easy to deactivate the warning sound.
That brings us back to velocitation. It is a tendency to gradually accelerate without noticing or perceiving the actual speed you are driving, because you are adjusting to the other vehicles around you instead of actually monitoring your speedometer.
It’s only when you roll down the window and hear the harsh sound of wind or if you glance at the speedometer, that you realise the very high speed you are driving your car.
The velocitation effect is something that usually leads to accidents on highways. Apparently in the case of the ill fated Mercedes GLC, it was being driven at speeds above 130kmph (as per the police statement based on cctv footage). At that speed, controlling the vehicle becomes a lot tougher and mistakes made by the driver can prove to be fatal.
Thus to keep the velocitation effect in check when you are driving your car on highways, it is important to pull over for several minutes to let your eyes rest and readjust your senses. A pit stop can be a very good thing. One can also roll down the window to get some fresh air. The driver can also wash his or her face to freshen up a bit. But more important, seat belts need to be worn by every passenger travelling in a car. Watch our videos to understand the significance of wearing seat belts in a car while travelling.
Not just speed, a lot of issues need to be addressed
It’s not just the issue relating to wearing seat belts that needs to be addressed among car users in India. Over speeding can be dangerous, rash driving can be dangerous and disobeying traffic norms can be dangerous. Also, in case of an accident, it is important how the crash victims are handled. We have never been taught in our schools and colleges as to how accidents victims are to be handled in case you are the only at the site who is in a position to help a victim.
The extent of injuries is a major factor in deciding how to handle a crash victim. You cannot simply pick up an injured person carelessly and put him or her to one side. There are ways to deal with injured people. Ordinary citizens of the country are not taught anything about this in their younger days.
I remember several decades back my close friend fell from a motorcycle when he suddenly braked. He fell on the pavement and hit his spinal cord just behind his neck. Immediately out of nowhere good Samaritans came and picked him up and put him in an auto rickshaw to be transported to a hospital. While doing so, none of them realised that the injury that he had received by hitting his spine against the pavement, just got worse with the rough handling of the person. Clumsy handling of the victim resulted in my friend having to live the rest of his life as a paraplegic; He could not move his body below his neck because of the spinal injury that got aggravated when some people tried to help him. The help proved fatal for him.
What is the need to make such powerful cars and bikes?
I have often asked people around me as to why vehicle manufacturers make cars and bikes that can reach insane speeds. When speed limits in our country are at the most 120kmph on some highways, then why is there a need to make vehicles that can surpass speeds of 300 kmph? Or even 200kmph? Why have an insane power output of 240hp and more and insane torque levels of 300NM and more? I have never understood that. If people want to race on tracks at such maniacal speeds, go ahead and be my guest. Powerful cars and bikes should only be allowed on race tracks in a controlled atmosphere, and not be made road legal.
Indian highways cannot be autobahns of Germany. We are too many people, too many stray animals, too many nut cases and too many untrained drivers and riders. We cannot afford to drive fast on Indian roads. To put matters in the right perspective, the government has to rethink on ways to curtail road accidents. A challan here or there by a traffic cop is not the answer, neither a pledge through a tweet by some influential person through his twitter handle. If we do not take these issues seriously, the NCRB will record a new high every year when it comes to road accidents and fatalities in the country.
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