10 Things I would like to see before Seat-Belts are made Mandatory in Pune
I have been hearing that Pune is planning to make wearing car seat-belts mandatory. This is a good development, and hopefully an indication that the authorities are increasingly worrying about the safety of drivers.
The fact that seat-belts are a useful safety measure – no one would ever argue against. But why stop at seatbelts?! Why not a driver-side airbag? Why not dual airbags? Why not side-restraint airbags? Why not collision warning sensors? Why not mandatory front and real crumple zones?
Ok, I think I might have already made my point…But to elucidate it further – While all safety equipments are useful, prioritizing simple (and often times more effective) ones over more complicated expensive ones, is critical. Just think of how many injuries can be prevented by simply enforcing existing traffic rules, instead of creating new ones?
Typical Pune City traffic moves (‘crawls’ is probably a more appropriate description) at an average speed of 20 km/hr or less. At that speed, one wonders to what extent seatbelts would be really effective. Seatbelts become life-savers at highway speeds. In case of accidents, they help in restraining the driver and the passengers, as the vehicle comes to an abrupt standstill.
Here is a list of 10 basic things that I think can make a greater impact on road safety on Pune City Roads. I am sure there are many more that can be added to this list. Note – I am not commentating on how and when these issues can be implemented / addressed. That’s for the various authorities/agencies to decide. I am simply pointing these generic issues out to highlight their priorities versus additional and newer safety regulations.
1. Road Dividers
Wherever feasible, road dividers need to be put in place where none exist. Many accidents happen due to head-on collisions, and these can be prevented by segmenting traffic by dividers.
Existing dividers need to be fixed with proper barriers, so that pedestrians can cross only at pre-designated points.
2. Better Traffic Planning (One-Ways, etc.)
This is a broad point, but I will add some specifics. Effective one-way planning helps a great deal in streamlining traffic and preventing traffic chaos. Many times though, citizens end up being big opponents of one-way plans, since everyone in Pune wants to go to where they want to, by the shortest direct route!
3. ‘Road ownership’ – Construction Sites
There is no clear ownership of ‘roads’ near a road-construction site. Hence there is no proper demarcation of where the construction ends, and where the proper road starts. Many months after the construction is supposedly over, one finds debris lying nearby. This creates major traffic hazards.
4. Improper lanes/absence of any lanes
Lane traffic is virtually non-existent in Pune. Most roads are too narrow; however that should not be an excuse for not having lanes in the first place. Drivers have no concept (and training) of lanes and drive in a ‘crisscross’ manner. Here again, there is a need to demarcate clear lanes, and then enforce lane discipline (they do it very well in Mumbai).
5. Enforce Signals
This sounds so basic; yet a critical need. The number of drivers who jump signals or utterly disregard them is increasing. Enforcing signals through the use of technology (cameras, etc.) is something that can be looked at.
6. Mobile phone users
A scary sight in Pune is a 2-Wheeler Driver having an animated conversation on his/her cell-phone! This is serious. In some ways, this can be as dangerous as drunken driving! (A little exaggeration may be…but the most important thing in driving on these busy roads is focused attention!)
7. Rash Drivers (all vehicles)
Rash driving is rampant in Pune. This is applicable across all categories of vehicles. Not sure how each and every rash driver can be disciplined, but this is one of the biggest risk areas as far as Pune traffic is concerned.
8. Pedestrian pathways, crossings
Some blame (and corresponding corrections) should also go the way of pedestrians. Understand that many places there are no good crossings/foot-paths. But even if they are there, pedestrians routinely don’t use them and literally walk in the middle of the road. School zones are scary with children running all over the place in a busy intersection.
9. Parking Rules
Parking rules are very important. Improper parking creates traffic chaos and leads to other traffic problems, including accidents.
10. Highways Rules
For highways, I do agree that making seatbelts mandatory would be very useful. However, as discussed earlier – implementing the basic traffic rules is also critical. Two fundamental problems that cause many highway accidents are: a) Overcrowding of vehicles, b) Drowsy Drivers. These need to be checked as well.