My good friend Chitta Ranjan recently landed in hospital and had a steel rod inserted into his left leg. Doctors treating him say he may never be able to drive a bike again. He will walk with difficulty – and that too only after a year of painstaking exercises and physiotherapy.

"My good friend Chitta Ranjan recently landed in hospital and had a steel rod inserted into his left leg. Doctors treating him say he may never be able to drive…"

Chitta had done everything that a responsible and law-abiding commuter is expected to do while driving when he met with an accident. He was wearing a proper, ISI marked helmet (and not an apology of a helmet as most people do). Rather than take a short cut and drive against the flow of traffic for quite some distance, he had chosen to take a much longer detour to be on the right side of the road – and, of course, the law. What, however, he had not bargained for was that not everyone is a law-abiding commuter and that there are many who would drive long distances on the wrong side – and at full speed! One such person dashed his car against Chitta’s bike full throttle. Chitta was first airborne for some time and then fell to the ground with a thud, only to discover later that he had lost use of one leg for quite some time. Since he is on the wrong side of 60, getting back full use of the leg is asking for the moon. At best, he may regain only partial use of the left leg.

Come to think of it! All this because one person chose to drive on the wrong side of the road!!

The state government has done well to remind the people of its resolve to enforce the amended Motor Vehicles Act in letter and spirit from the New Year. Cops have indeed been cracking down hard on those who violate traffic rules.

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Couple found violating traffic rules, intercepted by cops (File Pic)

But look closer and you will find that the crackdown has been focused almost entirely on helmetless driving. When was the last time you saw someone being fined for driving full throttle, horns blaring, on footpaths? Or breaking the speed limits? Or changing lanes at will? Or honking incessantly? Or waiting on the extreme left at traffic junctions and speeding away to the extreme right just as the signal turns green, leaving those on the first row and waiting to go straight looking rather foolish! And wrong side driving doesn’t seem to be in the list of traffic offences at all! It is accepted by everyone, including the traffic cops, as a ‘fact of life’ and allowed to go on unhindered.

When people have been fined for other offences like driving without a license/proper papers for the vehicle or drunken driving, these offences have invariably been add-ons found only after they were first hauled up for driving without wearing a helmet. If you are wearing a helmet, the chances of getting intercepted by the police are next to negligible. Most commuters know it and take full advantage of it.

It is true that a majority of road fatalities occur because of head injuries caused by helmetless driving. But it does not necessarily follow that other traffic violations don’t cause death. Hence, there is a crying need to focus on other kinds of traffic violations if we want to bring down the number of accidents and prevent the loss of lives and limbs.

 

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Traffic personnel trying to stop a traffic violator in Bhubaneswar (File Pic)

This columnist sees two major reasons for the traffic cops’ attention staying focused solely on those who drive without hearing a helmet. First, there are simply not enough personnel to ensure that commuters obey all traffic rules. Second, helmetless driving is easier to spot – and hence easier to haul up – while a commuter needs to be stopped – and checked – to find if s/he is violating other traffic rules.

But the state government is duty-bound to recruit the required number of personnel to ensure strict adherence to ALL traffic rules, regardless of the money needed. Simultaneously, it must also launch a high pitched awareness campaign to sensitize commuters of the dangers of violating traffic rules. After all, Odisha has been recording a disproportionately high number of road fatalities over the last few years. Despite the restrictions on movement during the lockdown lasting for the better part of the year, there were no less than 4738 road fatalities in 2020, a fall of just 11% over the number of deaths the year before (5333)!!

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)

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