when we hear statistics like that the danger of using a cell phone while driving is 27 times more dangerous than being drunk and driving. These statistics are from countries where road traffic is disciplined, quite unlike India, where every second driver has a cell phone glued to his ear, is cutting lanes, overtaking from the left and in all probability will jump the first red light he comes to.
It is only a "guesstimate", but it would be safe to assume that using a cell phone and driving on Indian roads is about 100 times more dangerous than drunken driving. The reason is the diversity of traffic on our roads.
From two-wheelers, three-wheelers to 18-wheelers, we have a traffic that crawls, hand-pushed carts, to super cars that can zoom into three-digit figures in seconds. Chalk and cheese do not mix.
The rickshawwala may be a fresh migrant to the city and has no knowledge of road rules. This ignorance he has may be in common with a lot of drivers who have bought their licences and can't comprehend road signs, nor are they familiar with road rules. Those who can read road signs and know road rules lack the common decency and courtesy that one motorist must extend to another. Add to this fact, the mayhem created by over loading. The accompanying photograph shows a cycle-rickshaw carrying 8-10, 10-metre-long GI pipes. The man is trying to make an honest living but is endangering lives of road users. There are no flags to warn people of impending danger.
In days gone by, the days of the bullock-cart, they had a red flag at the rear end, at night a lantern hung at the rear with a red covering. No such common sense prevails today, in spite of the fact that we have various reflective items. Circular plastic discs and reflective tape are the most common.
The Traffic Safety Week is not too far away. The Chandigarh Police should insist that all vehicles plying on the road should have reflectors, fore and aft. Could we find a responsible and concerned corporate house to fund these reflectors? A small red tape or circular disc at the rear and a white one in front for all cycles and rickshaws.
Cycles present a unique danger. There are no reflectors and to ward off the cold the cyclist drapes a blanket, (normally of a dark colour) around himself. This makes him almost invisible on a dark night. Little wonder that cyclists account for the largest number of fatalities on Indian roads.
Overloading is not the prerogative of commercial vehicles. The rear seat of a sedan is usually a 3-seater. It is common to see four to five passengers in the rear seat, may be with a child in the lap. The seating capacity of the car is mentioned on the R.C. Does anyone read it? Of course not! Do the police check it? Not likely. They have more serious offences to worry about.
Once upon a time, our roads were teeming with bullock carts. Slow, huge lumbering vehicles. They went the way of the Dodo bird. The Dodo was a large bird that could not fly so became extinct, a natural process.
The three-wheeler cycle rickshaw is headed the same way, slowly but surely. Maybe the process should be hastened. Nothing disrupts traffic on the road as much as a cyclerickshaw since they are always overloaded and always in the wrong lane, always parked dangerously. At a red light, they crawl to the front and hold up the free and smooth flow of traffic. They donít fit into the scheme of 21st-century traffic.
Happy Motoring !