Why So Many Rear-End Collisions in India
Last month, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways released a report on 'Road Accidents in India 2018', which says that over 1.51 lakh people died in road accidents, about 3,500 more than the preceding year! This report also reveals that 24 people (total 8,760) died everyday in 2018, due to driving on the wrong side of the road. And that death due to collisions with parked vehicles was double of that in 2017!
Driving on the wrong side happens in almost every city and street of India. And ever since the introduction of divided highways in our country, it has become an even bigger menace. But what is it that makes people drive or ride on the wrong side? For some crazy reason that I am simply not able to fathom, everyone is in a tearing hurry in our great country. Old or young, educated or illiterate, rich or poor, employed or unemployed, everyone is in a rush to get someplace, even if it's nowhere. They take any and every shortcut possible, and if it means going on the wrong side of the road, so be it. On our highways you have people driving on the wrong side not only in the left and middle lane, but they even come head-on at you in the right lane! The common excuse they cite is "going further to find an exit to turn, means burning more fuel". And no true Indian brought up with the mantra 'saving is earning', sees any sort of justification for that. Resolving this and changing the attitude of the people will not be easy. We need serious and sustained education on road safety along with strict penalties and enforcement. The Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill holds out a flicker of hope, but without the full commitment of all the state governments and concerned authorities, change is unlikely to happen anytime soon.
And what about deaths due to collisions with parked vehicles. This again is a completely avoidable tragedy. As a matter of fact I would not even term it as an accident, but sheer negligence. The fact is we park badly and without a care in the world. On the highway, nobody even gives a thought about the path of other vehicles. If you have a flat tyre while driving in the right lane, then you stop in the right lane itself to change the wheel. Nobody bothers going to the left and parking as far away as possible from the moving traffic. The excuse - if I move, the punctured tyre will get damaged or cut. Due to this slight possibility of damaging the tyre further, they park and change the wheel right in the middle of the road. And then cause needless accidents in which they or some other unfortunate road user lose their lives.
A report released sometime back says that in the last two years, over 100 people have lost their lives on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, due to their vehicle crashing into the back of stationary vehicles. This again is wholly preventable. Many on the Expressway overtake from the left because the right and centre lane are occupied by slow-moving trucks. While overtaking from the left, sometimes they suddenly come across a vehicle parked in the left lane or on the shoulder, and this leads to a crash and fatalities. While the drivers should not be overtaking from the left, stopping on the expressway is also not permitted. But if it becomes extremely necessary to stop, then the motorist should chose the spot carefully and avoid stopping on any turns and go as far off the road as possible. They should keep the vehicle's hazard flasher lights on and take out the reflective safety triangle (it's mandatory that all vehicles come with them), and place it at least 100 to 150 metres behind the car in a location where it can easily be seen by vehicles approaching from the rear.
Actually, this lack of visibility of vehicles on our highways is a very important issue. One that nobody has paid any real attention to. There is no rule relating to the size of tail lights, their brightness or of them being proportionate to the size of a vehicle. So you have massive trucks with tail lights that are smaller than those found on some small cars! Even these small tail lights are normally covered by some protective railing or body panel fitted by the truck owner, further reducing their visibility and effectiveness. And in case a tail light gets damaged or the bulb burns out, it is rarely repaired. And though we have a law about driving with working tail lights, I have never seen it being enforced. So we have these massive trucks and buses being driven or parked on our highways, with ineffective or non-functional tail lights. Another sad thing is that very few people use the safety triangle or hazard lights when they stop. Hazard lights are meant to be switched on when a vehicle stops on a road. Instead you find our stupid drivers using the hazard lights while driving through tunnels or in low visibility conditions! A lot of this visibility problem could be resolved by simply making it mandatory for all commercial vehicles to have prominent reflectors and reflective strips on the rear. But knowing the way we work, it's unlikely we will go in for such simple solutions. Because Oh Darling, Yeh Hai India...