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Highway Complacency – Malaise of Urban India

“I can still “see” the Scorpio veer towards the median at full speed, crash into the barrier and fly into the air, flip and then land upside down – with the occupants being thrown around…Scary! Aria and I are still shaken up, thinking of what that family in the Scorpio must have gone through.”

Suicide, as defined by psychologists is the act of killing yourself. So is it not an attempt to suicide or murder (depending on who is hurt in the process) when cars speed up, overtake and don’t follow basic rules of driving while on a highway?

This week started on a rather bad note. Early Sunday morning, the Mumbai-Pune Expressway witnessed yet another major accident, courtesy an errant driver in an Ertiga trying to speed up (it was already driving at 80 km/h), coming dangerously close to vehicles in other lanes, all in his bid to outrun others and steer clear of “hindrances” on the road.

Image Courtesy: Sandeep Ohri/Facebook

This Ertiga driver was in the middle lane while there were two other cars on the extreme right and left lane – all driving at the speed of 80 km/h. The car on the right was wary of Ertiga’s rash movements and so when it changed lanes to overtake the trailer in front while coming dangerously close to the car in the right, the latter gave way and let it move ahead.

However, his rash driving first threw the Scorpio (in the left lane) a little off the road and led to a horrific accident – in its attempt at getting back on the road, the Scorpio lost control, swung towards the right near the median, heading straight towards the car on the right. Fortunately, the latter sped up in their lane and avoided a crash even though the wheels skid. In his struggle to straighten the Scorpio, the driver further hit into the median headlong and rose up high in the air before flipping twice and tumbling over upside down on the median.

What was even more horrendous was that the kids sitting in the Scorpio flung out of the car and were thrown about.

The entire episode was being witnessed by a couple of other car passengers on the highway that fateful morning, one of them being the car on the right that could have easily been the victim’s vehicle, had the driver not given way to the Ertiga or sped past the Scorpio when it was about to hit it.

It was this driver’s presence of mind and commendable courage again that led him to chase the Ertiga at a breakneck speed, click pictures of the number plate, pull up alongside the car, signal him to slow down and then park his car across the Ertiga to force stop the driver from moving ahead.

Image Courtesy: Sandeep Ohri/Facebook

After taking photos of the wayward driver’s licence, the Good Samaritan, Sandeep Ohri informed the cops who had then appeared at the spot of the driver’s ill-doing, leading to his detention and eventual booking on charges of rash driving.

Thankfully, in this melee, the family in the Scorpio wasn’t hurt, especially because it had crashed at the median and few of the cars behind it had stopped.

But everybody is not as lucky as the passengers in the Scorpio.

Currently, news reports are abound with how an engaged couple and their relatives were toppled over in their Maruti Swift on Tuesday by an overloaded truck while on their way to Nahargarh, Jaipur travelling through a highway in the wee hours of morning.

The incident could have been avoided if the car driver would have been wary of the loaded truck, maintained a safe distance, driven away from it or allowed it to pass and not overtaken or impeded its passage anyhow. It also would have helped to keep a track of vehicles on the highway that are not following the road signs or driving rules. The car was parallel to the truck when the latter made a sharp turn, lost balance, overturned and fell flat on the car, killing all its five passengers on the spot.

Such incidents, however painful and pathetic are becoming commonplace only because some choose to have their way on the roads bullying others in claiming their right to overtake another vehicle, even if it is illegal or because people just do not put up their defenses high while driving on the scary expressways.

Highways are incidentally becoming the death roads – The Ministry for Road Transport and Highways reports that while National Highways claimed 37.1 percent lives in 2011, State Highways were responsible for about 27.4 percent of people killed in road accidents in the same year. However, in 2015, about 1,46,133 fatalities (the highest since 2010) ensued, marking 382 deaths every day, 15 by the hour and four by the minute, with the report registering Rajasthan and Maharashtra among the thirteen top states playing the culprits for the humongous number of road accidents in India.

Coming to think of it, that one person driving the Ertiga on Sunday morning put so many lives to danger, just because he did not bother respecting basic road rules. But being defensive and keeping safety as your major concern can be a huge remedy when tackling with such ‘idiots’ on the road. One of these major road safety lookout as Ohri puts it, is “for everyone to wear seat belts even in the back seat” while on a highway.

When behind the wheels, your safety is in your hands. Well, quite literally.

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