Road safety: first, do no harm

- Ankit Tuladhar
Road safety: first, do no harm

Sep 2, 2014-

Every day we have to share the road with people who have no clue what their actions could result in. There are many people who don’t know and don’t follow traffic rules. This is a big safety problem because often accidents are caused by someone else’s mistake. But no matter how conscientious we think we are as drivers, we have to be careful too. Here are some points that people should really ponder over for the sake of everyone:

1.    Changing lanes: Some drivers don’t pay attention while changing lanes; they don’t check their rear view mirrors to see who’s coming up behind, and some people don’t even indicate that they are going to change lanes, which is very dangerous because we cannot predict which way they are going to go. Don’t be that person, for sudden lane-changes can cause serious accidents. Use your indicators at all times: for your own safety and that of others.

2.    Crossing lanes in traffic jams: This is very common in Nepal. This happens when we don’t have the patience to wait out the jam. We will cross our lane and go to the other lane, which we think will provide a quick exit out of the gridlock; when we do this, we only end up obstructing traffic around us and adding to the chaos.

3.    Micro/bus drivers:  Not to pigeonhole anyone, but many of our bus drivers drive like they were driving on an F1 circuit, albeit one with way too many pit-stops. I think this is because the bus driver and the conductor are constantly on the lookout for more people to cram into their already crammed vehicles. In their zeal to snag passengers, they have been known to stop without a warning, zoom out of bus stops and even squeeze other vehicles out as they make a beeline for prospective passengers. Give these guys a wide berth for you don’t want to fall victim to their swerving and herky-jerky movements. And don’t tailgate them, ever.  It would be grand if the concerned authorities reprimanded the offenders and also initiated more awareness programmes for public-vehicle drivers, but until then, drive with care around them.

4.    Road conditions: The sorry state of our roads is there for all to see, and to make matters worse, the volume of traffic is far from ideal. Bad road conditions lead to myriad problems. On roads where some sections are in shambles, you’ll find most drivers and riders heading for the parts that are still motorable. On such stretches, the usual city-traffic rules get thrown out the window. In such situations, be patient and go with the flow rather than following the letter of the law to the T. Also, be extra careful when riding on [any] Kathmandu road at night. Especially if you are on a bike, don’t rev it up to its max even if all you see is the wide open road before you. One unexpected speed bump, one misstrewn piece of rock and you could very well end up with broken bones.

5.    Pedestrians: Pedestrians are often the victims of road accidents, but as often, they are the causes too. When pedestrians make haphazard crossings and flout traffic rules, they can throw you off the line you were planning to stick to. If you see someone crossing the road without checking to see if the coast is clear, don’t accelerate and try to beat them to that point where your two paths might intersect. Slow down and honk if you have to (in this chaotic city, honking is still not considered bad manners); if they come to a stop, go on your way; if not, give them the right of way. This is not how things should be: but until more pedestrians start using the overhead bridges (many of which are in terrible states of disrepair) or stick to using the zebra crossings, be extra careful around pedestrians. And don’t even try to compete for precious footpath space with pedestrians during rush hour and so on. You will only be encouraging everyone to break the rules.

6.    Stray animals: Stray animals do not know traffic rules so it is our responsibility to be aware of them; yes, our cows and oxen love basking on the middle of the road, and yes, dogs sometimes jump into traffic as they chase one another. But we, of higher intelligence, who have the ability make rational decisions, must make use of that intelligence and drive likewise. If we do not pay attention to these animals it endangers both the rider’s/driver’s life and the animal’s life.

7.    High beam: Driving around with high beams when no one is driving on the opposite lane is fine but driving with high beams when there is traffic on the opposite lane is an incredibly selfish act. High beams affect the visibility of individuals exposed to them because the light from high beams is blindingly bright. So use a bit of common sense and switch to low beam when you see vehicles coming from the opposite direction.

8.    Talking on the phone while driving: If you get a call while you’re driving/riding and it’s really important to take the call, the smart thing to do and the only thing you should do is pull up to the side of the road and allow the traffic to pass; but remember to use your side lights or hand signals to show that you’re going to pull over. Driving while talking on the phone is very dangerous as it draws a lot of your attention, so you’re putting yourself and the rest of the people that you’re sharing the road with at risk. No phone call is so important that it can’t wait a few seconds until you pull over.

9.    Driving Under the Influence: Driving after consuming alcohol is stupid; you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to realise this. DUI impairs your driving/riding ability and you take that much longer to make quick decisions--and the lag in your reaction times can sometimes be the difference between life and death. The MA.PA.SE efforts have drastically decreased DUI, but people have found ways around that. For example they’ll wait until it’s past 11:30 pm or midnight to hit the road. If you are drinking at a friend’s place, stay over instead of going home. If you are smashed after some bar-hopping, park your vehicle at an overnight-parking place and take a cab home. I recommend that if you’re going to drink, plan things ahead so that there is at least one designated driver who can chauffeur you home.

10.Driving while sick: Driving while sick is sometimes as dangerous as driving drunk because when you are sick your body will be weak and you won’t be able to concentrate on the road. If you absolutely have to get out of your house and run some errands or something, find someone who can accompany you and either opt for a cab or public transport instead. And driving while under medication that makes you drowsy is a no-no too.  

Ride/drive safe!! Happy riding/driving!

Published: 03-09-2014 09:25

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