By Salman Sultan
Though fine for traffic rules violation as per new guidelines have been enhanced manifolds but it must be welcomed by all and sundry as an effective deterrent. It has been observed that our youths on bike don’t care for their lives and feel below their dignity to wear helmet while driving, sometimes at break-neck speed. This misplaced macho feeling does not auger well for their as well as pedestrians lives. These misguided youths have also been observed to perform stunts on public roads and whiz past people with engines making ear-damaging roaring sound.
Following rules which is for one’s own safety is somehow considered unmanly even by grown-ups. Fastening of seat belts is one such example. My friend narrated an incident where he was driving the car with his friend (a government official) seating beside him. While he had his seat belt on, his co-passenger (govt. official) didn’t bother to fasten his seat belt. Though my friend didn’t like it but he was hesitant to remind a supposedly responsible official. However, crossing a river bridge when my friend confronted fog on the road, he politely asked his co-passenger to fasten seat belt and he complied. They have hardly moved a few kilometers when my friend had to apply emergency brakes as he visualized outline (in the hazy vision) of a big object blocking his right of way. It was a huge truck without even the mandatory triangular cautioning sign. The official, well ensconced by his seat belt, in spite of being heavily jolted remained in the car and was not thrown out through the wind screen as might have happened in the absence of seat belt safety. It took a while to regain composure and when the official was at ease, he profusely thanked my friend for the timely advice. My friend used to tell me that just after starting the automobile the first thing to do is “fasten seat belt” and I meticulously follow his sane advice.
Regarding PUC which, of course, is absolute necessity in view of extremely polluted, in particular NCR, environment, one fails to understand the query about make and model of automobile being checked. The only thing required is to check the emitting gases for allowed levels of CO, CO2, particulate matter etc. Prior to checking private vehicles, government is obliged to set its own house in order as many public transport buses, government controlled trucks, etc have been frequently observed to emit obnoxious fumes.
One very important rule, which at least I have not noticed in the recent guidelines, is driving on highways and even in city limits with headlights at full beam. In my humble opinion, this is a major cause of accidents on our roads. Actually, one should lower the beam as soon as he sights on-coming vehicle in night driving but it has been observed that even after repeated indications (switching between low/high beams) drivers don’t bother to lower their headlight beams. This is particularly irksome for those driving low height cars. Sometimes, it becomes extremely difficult to spot cycles or pedestrian moving on the side in the blinding light of oncoming vehicles. Once, while I was driving in the city, I noticed an on-coming vehicle with headlights at full beam. I made up my mind to confront the driver for requesting lowering of beams. Due to pedestrian rush on the road we were driving slowly and as soon as I approached by his side, I stopped my car and addressed the driver of the on-coming vehicle about lowering of beams. It was amusing to see a startled look on the driver’s face. Well! It was a Police Jeep and therefore, reminder from an ordinary civilian was not at all expected.
On one hand justification for such an incredible enhancement in existing penalty rates is debatable while on the other it is highly appreciative if it proves to be an effective deterrent. Drunken driving has been dealt with severe punishment in view of not only its self destructive consequence but grave danger it poses to innocent lives of pedestrians and other road traffic. Gandhi ji wished a liquor free society and was in favour of a total ban on sale of alcohol. However, we are witness to mushrooming wine/country liquor shops not only in city but in rural areas. Our highways are dotted with these shops selling ‘desi’ liquor. It is common knowledge that to ease of strenuous long distance truck driving most drivers takes refuge in these easily available unhealthy alcoholic drinks. It’s not possible to eradicate the menace of alcohol simply through fear of punishment but government should also curb unbridled lure for consumption of alcohol through tantalizing advertisement. Strangely, even eminent Sports personalities looked upon as role model by our youths feel no compunction in appearing in these ads. To relate an anecdote: once in a Christmas Eve party in Europe where alcoholic drinks, Cigars etc were flowing freely on the dining table an Academician after noticing teetotalers like us remarked sarcastically, “why all good things banned by the Prophet(pbuh)”. I politely pointed out to him noticing numerous new ads being put up on the periphery roads ‘sans alcool’ (alcohol-free). It silenced him.
In the state of Karnataka, I personally observed alcohol consumption as a way of life and even public places like trains were not spared by alcohol consuming friendly party. In this way they not only break the law but cause great discomfort to fellow passengers. It is a dilemma that on one hand government seems to care for the health of citizens but on the other it seems being get carried off by the great revenue generating potential of alcoholic drinks. Earlier, State sponsored lotteries ruined lives of scores of citizens and ultimately the good sense prevailed when it was banned, belatedly, by our government.
Another cause of worry is the integrity of law enforcing agencies. Our Traffic Police has not proved to hold a high moral ground and therefore, these newly enhanced fine rates may induce bribery.