The tragic deaths in Doon of two class twelve students in a motorcycle accident and serious injuries to two others on Saturday night reveal, once again, the dangers of overlooking basic and necessary precautions when using two-wheelers. It has been repeatedly said that education, engineering and enforcement are the three pillars of road safety and, unfortunately, not enough is done in Indian society to strengthen them. Merely expecting the undermanned and overworked traffic police to ensure road use safety is fundamentally wrong. It spends so much of its time in the capital, Dehradun, just clearing the path for VIP traffic on narrow and congested roads!
The education part is most important because it enables the general populace to adopt practices that make it possible to use the roads safely. From kindergarten age till passing out from school, it is the job of parents to inculcate good traffic sense, particularly on avoiding risk taking behaviour on India’s very complex road use scenario. This begins, of course, with parents leading by example, particularly those who are from the educated and well-aware elite. Instead, one can see parents endangering even tiny-tots by transporting them on two-wheelers, either to school or any place else. Nobody thinks this is stupid and criminal, not even those charged with enforcing the law. Schools ought to have special programmes on a regular basis throughout the year to explain the need to abide by safety rules because these have emerged from long and unfortunate experience. Repetition is bound to make an impact, particularly if it is backed up by the dismal statistics and other hard-hitting information.
One shortcoming that is easily remedied is by ensuring all two-wheeler riders wear helmets, not just because the cops could enforce severe penalties, but out of a sense of basic self preservation. Youth by nature is rebellious, but should have the intelligence to understand that it is much more important to preserve one’s life than one’s hairstyle. In cases where two-wheeler riders are not victims of direct collisions or being run over by heavy vehicles, ninety percent deaths are due to head injuries. And, yet, people, youngsters particularly, are allowed by society to ride around without helmets. In fact, when it comes to this practice, everybody, especially elders, should reprimand defaulters wherever they are seen. The alternative is a lifetime of regret and despair for those who are left behind.