Driving to death

Why lose lives as recklessly as this

Javaid Iqbal Bhat
Srinagar, Publish Date: Nov 22 2017 11:14PM | Updated Date: Nov 22 2017 11:14PM
Driving to deathFile Photo

Two boys/men

The annual day function of a school was underway the past week, and a loud noise came from outside. From the sound it seemed that a vehicle had unloaded stones. With that assumption, the function continued, with students performing to their best in the presence of guests, teachers and parents. A moment later the Principal broke in to confirm that two men are down on the road, bleeding to death. An accident had occurred; the tipper had not unloaded but crushed two men on bike just meters away from the school. While he looked for water to drink, the function stopped and we went toward the site. A woman from a neighboring house was washing the blood off the road. One had died on the spot and the other one, semi-dead, was taken to the hospital. The woman, with a broom in hand and looking at no one in particular, rued the fact that accidents happened so often next to her home. The tipper had veered off into a ploughed field, with the bike broken to pieces underneath the vehicle. The helmet had come off the biker, but not a chink in its surface. The tipper driver had run away, with the key still placed there inside the key-hole. As people broke into separate knots speculating about cause and thinking of a speed-breaker, two more souls had fallen victim on the road.

Disturbing Report 

In the first week of this month Maruti Suzuki India published a report under the title “Seat-belt use in India.” The survey was conducted over 17 different cities of India, and around 2500 people questioned. The results reveal a shocking facet of drivers and their co-passengers. The use of seat-belt is extremely poor. The fact that the absence of a seat-belt in both the driver and the co-passengers significantly increases the chances of fatal injury is scarcely paid attention to, with the result that deaths on roads have become so frequent. According to global studies, wearing of seatbelts reduces risk of death by 45% and cuts risk of serious injury by 50%. Moreover, people not wearing seatbelts are 30 times more likely to be thrown out of a vehicle in a crash. It appears from the report that Kashmir was not on the radar of the survey, otherwise the figures might have increased dramatically for the worse. The use of seat-belt in Kashmir is almost absent. Add on to this the absent helmets, the reckless speed, the narrow roads, mixed driving on roads, and a host of not-so-small issues, and you get a doomsday scenario on the road. On top of that the delay and mishandling of the accident victim between the site of accident and the hospital. The role of the victim in the infliction of lethal wound is no less than that of the asleep law enforcement authorities.

Leaving aside what law enforcement authorities are doing, and they are doing no good by turning a blind eye, why is it that driving precautions are not taken, even after knowing that, for example, not wearing a helmet can be fatal? Perhaps it is a matter of social perception. That nothing is going to happen if the person does not take precautions. Or that it is a matter of fate. One will die where it is fore-written in sky, behind the clouds. Or maybe it is because of the fear of stereotyping. That you will be held as weak and timid if you have covered your head with a ball-like object or tied yourself down to a seat. Some may think that there are air-balloons to take care of (research proves otherwise) or the thread he has tied in some shrine, or the extra prayers he does to pre-empt disasters. However, all of that is useless, unless protection is ensured, with the application of your head. Machines, unless used under the rational command, have a way of turning into perfect enemies. The old Arab saying is trust in God but tie up your camel.

In the case of the accident mentioned at the beginning, only one person was wearing a helmet, and the latter was unharmed under the tipper. It seems that because of the crash, the helmet came off, otherwise the head was safe. We do not exactly know who is to be blamed in the case of the accident but it is certain that one who took precautions is least prone to receiving a fatal injury. Extend the nature of precautions, from helmets to seat-belts to speed, and the same logic of proneness applies.

 

Individual responsibility and Law

Going from individual to individual and hoping for a change in the mindset, you need the patience of a prophet, and the latter to go from one driver to another, pleading for a change of approach on the roads. To convert a mass in the modern times, you need the stick of the law. The latter embodies the sanity of a collective. The threat of effective and impartial punishment carries the potential of seeing roads without unnecessary spillage of blood. The law is the leveler. Its swift and fair execution will rescue individuals from their irrational and fatal whims. But if law has not done anything until now, from the blind issuing of licenses to the crowded vehicles and narrow roads, what hope is there that some miraculous intervention will change the scene now. Practically speaking, law is in slumber but does it really mean that we will play with our lives until the legal machinery wakes up? You are responsible for your actions not for the resuscitation of the life and limbs of the law, so it is understandable that one must rely on one’s own agency, and not make a plaything our lives or convert ourselves into Shakespeare’s “flies” before the wanton boys of the law.