Are accidents really just ‘accidents’?

I read the post of a mother who lost her 23-year daughter in a road accident.  The girl was riding pillion wearing a helmet.  There was a pothole.  She fell, got hit by a truck.  The truck driver never got punished. Though there was an FIR, nothing much happened. It was an ‘accident’ after all.

Another post was of a woman who lost her 32-year-old brother in a hit and run case by a speeding Mercedes driven by a ‘juvenile’.  The man was simply crossing the road near his house, carefully when an over speeding car driven by a ‘minor’ hit him.  There is a video of the incident caught on CCTV. The case is going on.

These families are now crusaders for road safety.  They try to create more awareness about poor habits such drunk driving, texting while driving, not following traffic signals as well as take measures to fix bad roads.

You could read more about them if you follow the links. Needless to say, it is extremely disturbing and unfair.

How would  it feel to lose a loved one, because some idiot decided to be on the road?

I had started driving two years back.  I was a slow and careful driver to begin with.

I remember the day I had got a tiny, first scratch in my brand new car. As I touched the scratch, it broke my heart. My perfect little car had to suffer because of somebody else’s stupidity.

Since then, I have had two accidents. Nobody got hurt, thankfully. I was alone both times, and it was not my fault.  The first time, it was with a cab. I don’t think the driver had any license, or registration.  He had snatched my phone and had bullied me into giving him lots of money. Remember the movie ‘Hindi Medium’, where the ‘poor guy’ extracts money out of the guy who was driving the car, even though he had deliberately got himself hit? The scene was meant to evoke sympathy, as the guy had put his life on risk for money for his friend.  I thought it was a horribly wrong message in an otherwise good movie.

The second accident was when a minibus hit my car and another two wheeler. I have blogged about it here. This time, I was smarter and called the police. It was still a lot of hassle.

Two accidents, major repairs, and money extraction by a callous driver later, I have become EXTRA careful.

My ‘grandma driving’ has been subject of ridicule. The jokes come from all kinds of people. Even the ones who do not know how to drive. Or the ones who may know theoretically? but have never driven:

  • I insisted that my friend  who sat in my car on the front seat must wear a seat-belt.  His response: ‘You drive like a bullock cart. I don’t need a seat-belt!’ I wanted to reason that the seat-belt would protect if somebody hits us from behind because no, not all drivers on the road drive like me.  Never mind!
  • Near my office, there is an empty, broken road, with dogs and pigeons resting during the day time. Now, pigeons are supposed to fly when you come near them. But on that quiet day, and quieter street, there was this one pigeon that was refusing to move. I stopped and honked.  There were some guys nearby who motioned me to keep driving, and it would eventually fly. I thought it was cruel to take a chance with hurting the poor bird. I reversed my car a little, and then drove a distance away from it. The guys laughed at me.
  • I was waiting to take a right turn at an intersection where there are no signals. It was not a one way, and there was traffic from both sides. One of my office cabs came after me, took a quick turn in high speed, while I continued to wait. The next day, one of the colleagues who was in that cab, asked me why I was so scared to take a turn. I told him that I was not scared. I was just waiting for the traffic to slow down.  ‘Traffic will be there! In that only you have to go inside! Otherwise you will keep waiting!’ he said with a wise, broad smile. ‘No I will not keep waiting. Every day, I manage to reach home! Maybe I have to wait an extra minute,’ I replied politely.
  • A neighbor was talking to another one about how she was anxious that her 18-year-old son had just started riding a motorcycle. She felt that two wheelers are unsafe and that her son was young. The other woman laughed at her ‘unreasonable fear’. She said that he is starting out late as 15, 16-year-old kids manage to drive.

I know of friends who drive recklessly. Are they ever shamed for their driving skills? No. In fact, they are considered cool and confident. One friend proudly told me how she had driven her team to an event within 20 minutes on a road that takes an hour, saving them from the disaster of being late.

We all know of people who drink and drive, and manage to get away with it. We know of teenagers, and adults who do not know how to drive, yet learn on the roads. We know of people who jump traffic lights. ‘Itna to chalta hai’ is the attitude.

Why do we take pride in putting our lives and more importantly other people’s lives at risk? Is it really something to be proud of? This must be the attitude behind the juvenile who ended up killing the man I was referring to. His parents must have thought it is not a big deal to give the keys to their minor son.

Underage drivers, drunk drivers, bus drivers, cab drivers or heavy vehicle drivers who callously drive on the roads probably may not be following my blog. But someone like the lady who trivialized driving by teenagers might be reading this. Or the colleague who believes waiting for two more minutes is a waste of time.

Is it worth it?

It is time we stopped shaming people who are doing the right thing. Let us pass on the shame to the ones who think they can get away with anything.  This kind of attitude that we have is more damaging that we think.

Next time we hear of someone bragging about their son / daughter who is driving without a valid license, let us shame them for being irresponsible parents. When we are in the car with that friend who breaks all rules, cuts into lines and has no respect for speed limits, let us not encourage him / her.

Let us ask these daredevils to join the circus. Or apply for positions of stunt artists.  The road is not the right place for them to showcase their skills.

Our roads, our legal system, other drivers on the road are all factors beyond our control. But our attitude is.

© 2017, Tanvi Sinha. All rights reserved.

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