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Drive Better

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Accidents of a new kind are taking place in India largely caused by speeding beyond the permitted limits. This is due to the construction of expressways and availability of vehicles that can reach speeds not justified by Indian driving conditions. The UP Government plans to fine those who cover distances in less than stipulated times. This and many other ingenious ways are needed if the problem of losing over 1.5 lakh lives per year to accidents is to be overcome. If the drivers are good, disciplined, strictly follow the rules and are considerate towards others on the roads, even the worst of conditions can be safely negotiated. On the other hand, even the best roads turn into killers when selfishness and stupidity are practiced by drivers. ‘Education, Engineering and Enforcement’ is considered to be the mantra of road safety. It is important, therefore, for the powers that be to focus equally on each of these. In India, the most important is ensuring that only the well trained get behind the wheel. As such, obtaining a license should be at least as difficult as it is in the developed countries. Training should be imparted particularly on the conditions that prevail in the country, as well as the various kinds of traffic. People should be made to spend a minimum number of hours on simulators that contain challenges typical to traffic in their specific areas. As an IT power, India should not have any difficulty in developing the necessary software. Enforcement also needs to be upgraded with the police using psychology and technology to better their act. At present, it seems confined to issuing challans to people on the roads, which experience shows has not changed driving habits in the least. This too is done in a selective way, with the powerful and the privileged getting away with all kinds of transgressions. Cops who do stand up to the privileged face action from their superiors. The laws seem only to be for the very ordinary citizen. Education on road use should begin from the schools. A consistent awareness programme must be conducted for children of all ages through audio-visual aids and films. While the younger lot should be taught the basic rules and the reasons for them, the older ones should be shown the stark reality of bad driving – how even the smallest mistakes can lead to paying a very heavy price, either as fatalities or serious injuries; as also the pain suffered by the parents and the medical costs they have to bear. The most important aspect of these drives is persistence – they have to be continuous till safety becomes unconscious practice on the road.