The biggest mistakes that the average Indian motorist make happen even before they set out on the road driving. They get improper training to drive or ride to begin with and are usually stuck with wrong ways that will lead them to trouble at some point of time or the other. Now shall we call this – INDIAN MOTORING SYNDROME!!!!
Then they end up buying vehicles that are not safe or are use vehicles such a way that even a relatively safe vehicle becomes lethal. So next time you are shopping for cars buy one with anti-lock braking system and air-bags than splurging on lakhs on a music system. In this entry we shall concentrate on the six most common mistakes that the average Indian motoring make after they acquire and set forth on wheels – two or four.
Riding without helmets
This got to be the most stupid act of them all. Thanks to an archaic Motor Vehicles Act that is interpreted differently from state to state and city to city the use of helmets varies. It is no rocket science that helmets help save the skull and its innards when you fall from a motorized two-wheeler at any given speed. And anyone with a modicum of sense will ensure that his or her pillion also wears a helmet – whether needed by law or not. I had a friend who never had a motorcycle to himself but had two of the latest helmets – one of which he duly used every time he sat pillion with any one of us. Now, that is superior thinking which I don’t expect from every one – but buying a half decent helmet for your spouse should not take effort, does it? A good helmet with a proper visor will provide head and eye protection and increases the chance of you surviving an accident by a colossal 50 per cent or more. So please!
Sitting side ways and transporting children on two-wheelers
Sure, I have combined two sins here – both equally horrible. Sitting sideways on the back seat of a two-wheeler constitutes to stunt riding in most other countries. If the excuse is the sari, it is time we knew that one should not be wearing the traditional grab in slippery chiffon while riding pillion. And the MV act has unfortunately gone ahead and leaglised sitting sideways by demanding a sari-guard for all motorcycles sold in India. So much for safety.
As far as transporting children on two-wheelers – well, avoid as much as you can. Never let babies stand on the space between the rider and the pillion as it raises the centre of gravity of the two-wheeler and making it imbalanced. If you have to transport children on two-wheels, ensure that they wear a helmet that suits – you can find helmets for children if you look for it.
Never, ever let the child sit on the rear seat facing backwards – the child will not be prepared to take evasive action in the unfortunate case of an accident, hence, allow children to sit in the rear seat of the two-wheeler only when he or she can properly reach the rear foot pegs.
Not using rear view mirrors
This applies to both car and two-wheeler drivers/riders. While most two-wheeler users neglect the mirrors that come with the bikes from the factory, a good per centage are keen on saving them by folding them inwards!! Rear view mirrors are essential tools in safe riding and a glance on one of them before making critical handlebar inputs can make the difference between life and death.
Ditto, the outside rearview mirrors of cars. Again, legislation does not stipulate mirrors on either side of the car and the basic models of cars do not come with them. But these pieces of glass are so useful that once you learn to use the rear view mirrors then you will not be able to drive without them! Folding back life saving accessories rearview mirrors to protect them against possible damage is the limit of silliness and we Indians excel at this.
Not wearing seat belt
‘I don’t drive fast’, ‘I am only going to the town’, ‘I feel knotted down and suffocated’ are all excuses made by those who are not inclined towards wearing seat belts. Statistics prove that modern cars with the primary restraints (seat belts) can reduce serious injury and death by over 50 per cent. If that cannot force people from wearing the belt, what should? Seat belts ensure that you don’t continue to travel at the speed of the vehicle before and impact and there by save you from severe injury that can cause even death. And it is important that passengers also wear seat belts since they can cause harm to those who are belted when the vehicle comes to a sudden halt due to an impact or when a vehicle get into a roll. In short wearing seat belts while driving should become a nation-wide habit.
Children in the back seat
We often spot families with husband driving and wife cradling a baby in the front passenger seat. The result could be serious injuries to the child in the event of an accident – caused by the weight of the mother crushing the child!! So it is advisable to send your spouse to the rear seat with the child next time you are driving out. Better still, the child should be fastened to a proper child seat – not legal in India but strictly followed elsewhere in the world. If you have children in your car, the rear seat is where they are the safest – and ensure that they are belted (the seat belts are also used to fasten the child seats). And yes, never forget to use the child lock facility (which most cars feature) on the doors.
We Indians are always in a hurry
I call it the battling sperm syndrome. Tailgating, changing lanes without proper signaling, overtaking from the left and some how trying to get ahead of the car or bike ahead are some of the common driving errors that we make. A whole lot of accidents and fatal injuries can be avoided if the driver is patient behind the wheel. You don’t have to follow the car ahead of you with just inches separating them – you can avoid a rear-ending collision (very common on Indian roads) and worse still a pile-up that can cause extensive damage. Lately I have noticed that we do this at much higher speeds on expressways and toll-highways (i.e.; following fast moving vehicles without adequate space to brake or avoid an impact).
To sum up, let me emphasise that we are not the only bad drivers in the world. Mexicans are even more rash and fast, Argentines think they are all rally drivers and there are countries in Africa where people drive on both sides of the road (ok, I made the last one up). But we are very good at eliminating a good portion our population on our roads – spread the word!