good motoring
Use the demister for a clear view
H.Kishie Singh

There is no problem driving a car when road conditions are ideal. The road surface is dry, visibility is good. Under these conditions you will get away with wipers that don't function, re-treaded tyres, scratched windscreen, one headlight and no brake lights. This describes the condition of most public transport and quite a few private vehicles. They are not road worthy and, as such, a fatal danger to all road users from pedestrians and cyclists to animal-drawn carts and stray dogs.

Last week on N.H. 1, there was fog and mist on the road. These adverse driving conditions are caused when minute particles of water stay suspended in the air due to prevailing temperature conditions. Constant use of wipers is necessary. A demister inside the car is an added boon. Otherwise you will need to wipe clear the inside of the windscreen with a rag or your hand. Using your hand will only smudge the windscreen and further impair visibility.

A tyre held together with nuts and bolts
Murder weapon: A tyre held together with nuts and bolts

It is a sad statement that the owners of expensive cars like Mercs, Honda, Toyota, Audi and BMW drive around with completely fogged up windows. The rear window heater wires are clearly visible against the condensation on the glass. They have never read the owner’s manual; they have not even studied the controls on the dashboard. Pity. These drivers have taken perfectly safe cars and made these into murderous missiles.

Next problem is the headlights. Drivers are foolish enough to drive on full beam. This strong light hits the fog or mist and scatters, causing an opaque wall, and reducing visibility to 10-12 metres. At 10-12 metres of visibility you may safety drive at 5-6 kmph — that's walking speed. Anything over that would be suicidal for you and murder to the other road user.

Fog lights, always yellow, are required. One very effective, quick and inexpensive way to get fog lights is to cover your headlights with yellow cellophane paper. It is what halwais use to pack methai boxes. Immediately, you have fog lights! Whereas the white light is scattered, the yellow light, because of its different wavelength, is able to penetrate the mist and improve visibility.

In all our hill states fog and mist during the monsoon is a permanent feature as well as during the winter. Fog lights on public transport should be mandatory. As should be wipers. Buses and trucks drive in the snow with the same tyres as for dry tarmac. Snow tyres or chains are a must. This is to ensure public safety. Is there such a thing?

Of the vehicles I have observed on the road, 90 per cent would not be able to get a certificate of road worthiness. A brand new car inducted into a taxi service will have one wiper removed. These cars are simply not road worthy. Indian roads claim about 1,25,000 lives each year. It is a dreadful record. Road worthy vehicles will certainly help bring down this figure.

Other than vehicles that cause accidents, man-made death traps are all over our highways. These include high speedbreakers and rumble strips. The police is particularly responsible for nakas and barriers. They could be wire and G.I. pipe barriers, old tar barrels filled with sand, even huge logs of wood pulled across the road and boulders. There is never any warning, no reflective red tape, no flashing lights. Nothing. Suddenly they are in your path.

If you have to create barriers, why not use old tyres but with adequate warning signals well in advance? You see cars on race tracks crashing into a stack of tyres with no ill- effects. Our police, with sadistic glee, put up barriers to inflict maximum damage to man and machine.

The powers that be will not be able to enforce that only road worthy vehicles ply on our roads. It is for you, in the interest of your family, that you have a road worthy vehicle.

The accompanying photograph of a tyre held together with nuts and bolts! It was on a tractor-trailer which carries up to 40 tonnes of weight. The owner wanted it repaired. It is a murder weapon let loose on the roads.

Happy motoring.