59-year-old man on the wheels with a difference

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Bhubaneswar: A 59-year-old man on the wheels has set a precedent of sort by maintaining a spotless accident-free career in a job spanning over three decades.

At a time when road accidents claim over 4,000 human lives in Odisha, the track-record of Nityananda Samal, driver in the state-run Odisha State Road Transport Corporation (OSRTC) has drawn appreciation from various quarters.

When the government bus driver was felicitated recently at a ceremony marking launching of Road Drivers’ Behaviourial Training Programme undertaken by Social Association For Everyone (SAFE), a non-government organisation, his impeccable record was appreciated by one and all here.

Samal, who has a year of service left to steer the wheels, pins the hope his track-record remains unblemished.
Samal keeps his fingers crossed that the next one year passes off without any untoward occurrence before his career as a driver in government public transport agency ends.

More than the personal milestone, Samal’s career is likely to set a precedent of sort as no accident has been recorded in his 33-year-long driving stint. It is no mean a feat at a time when rash driving has emerged as the single largest cause behind accidents – around 78% of all causes.

Since 1983, Samal has been driving buses along serpentine forest and hilly roads braving torrential rains and low visibility in dense fog at times, but his adherence to rule book has always kept him away from accident.

“The thumb rule I have followed all in my life is that I have never tried to overtake others at turnings and always kept the speed below 60 km per hour. Of late, I have taken another pledge not to pick up mobile phone while driving. My family has accepted the principle and never bothered me when I am on duty,” said Samal, a native of Tigiria in Cuttack district.

“Throughout my career, I have made it a point to stay away from any form of distraction while I handle the steering wheels. Concentration is crucial to ensure safe driving. I religiously stick to it. My driving route has been mostly to far-off places like Koraput and Bolangir. Serpentine ghat roads never bothered me as I always avoid overtaking and rash driving,” he said.

“In Odisha, almost 4000 persons were killed in about 11000 accidents in 2015. More than 12,000 were injured. There are many causes to the accident, but drivers’ fault has been revealed as the single most responsible factor for road accidents, which is 78% of total road accidents,” said Kamal Lochan Sarangi, General Secretary of SAFE.

“Almost 50% accidents occurred on National Highways are due to driving error,” Sarangi pointed out.

Analysis of SAFE says a driver’s behaviour changes depending on ownership of the vehicle and his status of employment.

“We have designed a Road Safety Campaign named RSDAS- Road Safety Drivers Accreditation System- focusing only on behavioural aspect of driving training. If behavioural aspect of the driver is addressed properly, it has the potential to bring down accidents significantly,” said SAFE General Secretary.

“We train the drivers on behavioural aspects of safe driving, importance of customer etiquette, women and passenger safety,” he added.

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