The recent tragic accident, involving a private bus, where more than 22 people were killed with over-speeding / rash driving, reported as reasons, prompts me to write this piece. This also reminds me of the miraculous escape we had a few years ago, when the vehicle we were travelling in, met with a freak accident. Despite our repeated advice to slow down, the driver kept driving fast and when he swerved the car to overtake the vehicle ahead of us, he noticed another vehicle approach us from the opposite side. Instead of slowing down, he jumped on to the next lane without noticing the lorry already speeding down. The lorry almost bore down on us when the driver panicked and hit a 15-feet ditch. We emerged from the vehicle more or less unscathed, except for a few bruises, though the vehicle was totally damaged. The driver was given a dressing down and the owners were contacted immediately and taken to task.

Nowadays, it is a common sight especially on highways, to find most of the slow-moving traffic such as lorries and buses, driving on the fast lane forcing cars to overtake from the wrong side — the left. This could be very dangerous as the overtaking is on the blind side where two-wheelers and pedestrians cannot be seen. Besides, drivers, particularly of state transport corporations, keep changing lanes frequently, and this could result in vehicles ramming into each other.

Traffic offences and violations are increasing by the day and the statistics accounted throw up disquieting facts — the number of deaths due to accidents has gone up to 60,794 in 2010 as against 48,923 in 2000 and I am sure that the number of injured would be even higher. Though many reasons such as an increase in the number of vehicles on roads, the use of cell phones while driving, bad roads, use of outdated and poorly maintained vehicles, could be cited for this disconcerting regularity in road accidents, the main cause is apathy towards road safety among motorists and the lack of sufficient enforcement of traffic rules by the law enforcers.

In order to improve the situation, it is very important for motorists to practise road discipline. They should realise that it is better to reach their destination a little late than never. Road users should also be educated on rules frequently. Orientation programmes on road safety should also be conducted for drivers by the department concerned.

Rules of the Road Regulation, brought into effect since 1989, is germane to Indian drivers, while on road, to ensure orderly traffic and a safe journey. Violation of these rules is a punishable offence as per the city specific traffic police rules and the Motor Vehicle Act. Thus, it is vital for the traffic police to do their duty diligently and levy fines promptly for traffic offences, as we have the system of on-the-spot traffic fines/imprisonment as punishment. More police personnel should be posted on highways and random inspections carried out to study various violations and wrongdoers must be penalised. Drivers should be warned of severe consequences for flouting rules.

As in some countries, where there is a system of issuing traffic points, the accumulation of which beyond a certain limit results in cancellation of the driving licence and permanent disqualification from driving, it is time our Government considered adopting something similar to bring repeated offenders to book.

(The writer works with CAG, which offers free advice on consumer complaints to its members. For membership details/queries contact 2491 4358/2446 0387 or helpdesk@cag.org.in)