Saturday, December 18, 2004

Don’t kid with safety
H. Kishie Singh

Sketch: Sandeep JoshiONE sees some amazing sights while driving around the city. A common sight is the improper use of seat belts. Often the seat belt is passed under the armpit and then anchored. This serves no purpose. This allows the body above the waist to pitch forward in case of a sudden stop. The chest will hit the steering wheel and possibly the face will smash into the windscreen.

The seat belt from the ‘B’ pillar must pass over the shoulder and then get anchored to the point on the floor board. This is what a 3-point seat belt is meant for. One strap across the shoulder, the other automatically comes across the waist. This holds you surely and securely in your seat. If the shoulder strap is under the arm, both straps will be across the waist. This would be of no use.

Another common sight. Mother sits in the passenger seat, straps herself in and then puts a child in her lap. There’s no restrain for the child. Mothers, please note: at 30 km.p.h., the impact of a child’s face, head and body being smashed into the dashboard would be equivalent to the impact of the child being thrown out of a third floor window and landing on concrete. Mothers, why would you want to do this to your child?

In Europe and North America, children below the age of eight are not allowed to sit in the front seats.

Another, and even more horrifying sight: a proud father with a child sitting in his lap as he drives. A sudden stop and the child’s rib cage could get crushed between the steering wheel and an adult body pushing down on it. Remember, a child’s bones are not fully developed and are very tender.

If you drive by the Punjab Armed Police complex next to the Secretariat, they have a sign board with vital information: "Three enemies on the road. Liquor, speed and overload".

Liquor has some disastrous effects on the body, especially if you are behind the wheel. To begin with it builds false confidence. It is called "Dutch courage". You attempt to do things you would not consider if you were sober. In actual fact, your reflexes are slower, your vision could be impaired or blurred, your judgement fudged. This will cause grievous injury to you, occupants of the car and other road users. It could also be fatal.

All vehicles — passenger or commercial — are designed for a definite usage. For example, a two-wheeler is strictly a two-seater. Yet a family of four can be seen zipping through traffic on a scooter. The registration certificate (RC) of a car mentions the number of passengers it may carry. It is not uncommon to see schoolchildren crammed like sardines in a van or car, sometimes with the rear hatch open. The children can spill out onto the road. They could be your children. A cycle rickshaw meant for two may have a dozen schoolchildren piled onto it. Again a very dangerous situation.

The main reason for trucks overturning is overloading. Overloading a vehicle, changes the centre of gravity of a vehicle. It becomes unstable. It reduces the engine life. It puts extra pressure on the tyres, steering and suspension. It affects the braking. All this means heavy repair and maintenance bills. It kills the fuel average. An overloaded truck may do no more than 3-4 km per litre.

Buses, the most popular method of public transport on our roads, are invariably overloaded. People hanging out of the doors, standing on the rear bumper and, of course, travelling on the roof are a common sight. All this could be a great risk to life and limb. Drivers must avoid doing anything that endangers lives.

Happy motoring.

This feature was published on December 11, 2004