Saturday, April 9, 2005

On road to safety
H. Kishie Singh

Killer tyre: Bald and flawed
Killer tyre: Bald and flawed

THE accompanying photograph shows a worn-out tyre. Its useful life was over thousands of kilometres ago. It cannot provide the car any traction while braking, cornering or even on a straight line. On a wet road, this vehicle could be a murderous missile and it is my life that is in danger and yours as a road user.

With tyres like that the driver has no control over the braking and steering of the car. Tests have shown that in the final moments of an accident, the driver, instinctively, tries to save himself. This means he will not think twice about hitting a pedestrian, cyclist or whosoever. This can cause immense damage, perhaps even fatal, to the other party. And all because the car did not stop due to bald tyres. It happens all the time. There is hardly a day when newspapers are not reporting such accidents.

The reason is simple. Cars are not roadworthy, they are unsafe and dangerous.

Every tyre has a marker —TWI (Tyre Wear Indicator). It is a visual check that tells the state of wear of a tyre. Every manufacturer is obliged to have this. In India no one pays any attention to it even if they are aware of it. Irrespective of the size, make or type of tyre, the TWI shows that the depth of the tread is 1.6mm. This is measured from where the tread starts. Anything less than 1.6mm and the tyre is considered dead. To drive with unsafe tyres is a serious infringement of the law in many countries.

With our improved roads and cars that can offer very high speeds, good tyres are a must. Good quality tyres matched with first-rate shock absorbers make sure the car stays glued to the road. In order to make our roads safer, the police should pay special attention to this aspect of road safety.

Public vehicles — trucks, buses and taxis — run on tyres that are more often than not in a poor condition. They endanger everyone’s lives. Last year, 90,000 people died in road accidents in India. We have 60 million cars. Germany too has 60 million cars on its roads but they had 8700 accident-related deaths last year.

Despite the fact that India has the lowest car-to-human ratio, the country has the highest fatality rate in the world.

There are a few other factors that can lead to unsafe driving. It is noticed that many buses have only one wiper, which too may or may not be working efficiently. By removing one wiper, you reduce at least 50 per cent of the visibility if not more. The manufacturers have taken great pains to ensure maximum visibility for safety. The sweep and the size of the wipers ensure this.

Again, most people in India drive with rear-view mirrors closed. Abroad, this would get you a challan. It is a tremendous safety fitment in your car. Most drivers abroad reverse without looking back. They use their mirrors. Try it.

Happy motoring.

This feature was published on 2 April, 2005