Last Sunday was the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. Traffic officials recall accidents that left them choked and discuss how mishaps can be prevented.

After a happy day at school, Kanagadurka, 10, and her brother Gokul, 9, were riding pillion with their father on his scooter. Elsewhere, a cement mixer lorry took a short cut to escape the toll gate and thundered down Singanallur Road. A while later, the two children lay dead. “All because the driver wanted to avoid paying toll. Two innocent lives were snuffed out,” recalls C. Chandraseelan, Inspector, Traffic Investigation Wing, Coimbatore City.

Recently, another accident left RTO officials choked. A couple was driving down the L&T bypass, when the husband tried to overtake a lorry. He saw a vehicle coming from the opposite side and slowed down. It was too late. The car swerved and rolled down. The air bags failed to open, and he saw his wife struggle and die in front of him.

“Many people forget that when they speed, the vehicle takes the lead; they lose control,” says M. Raju, Motor Vehicles Inspector, RTO, Sulur. He blames most accidents on speeding, drunken driving and speaking on the mobile phone. Fatalities increase because helmets are given the go-by, he says.

He says an average Indian motorist has to deal with at least 20 impediments on the road — from electricity posts, water pipes and protest marches to processions, statues and cut-outs. “Only a combination of knowledge and experience can help one drive safely,” Raju says.

As for speeding, he gives an example: “If you’re travelling at 100 kmph, you cover 1.67 km a minute or 28 metres a second. Any motorist needs at least a second to react to an emergency on the road. So, when you are travelling at 100 kmph, by the time you react and apply the brakes and the vehicle stops, you’ve effectively mowed down everything within 28 metres.”

Road etiquette

These statistics are a sobering reminder of how not to drive. “There is an urgent need to teach road etiquette. That overtaking from the left is not all right. That it is all right to give someone right of way,” says Raju.

Chandraseelan says that on an average, the city sees 20 deaths a months on the road, mainly due to head injuries. Most victims are two-wheeler users, who ride without the protection of helmets. Among his top reasons for accidents include speaking while driving. “When motorists use a headphone, the concentration is on the conversation, not on the road or the signal.”

Drive with caution

A. Mahesh, former Chief Traffic Warden, Coimbatore, says the focus should be on preventing accidents. The buzz word is caution, he says. “Everyone thinks they ride well. Therefore, it is sensible to be a cautious driver.” During his tenure, about two lakh students were trained in traffic rules and about 12,000 appointed as road safety patrol cadets. “We have sown the seeds of change. When these children drive, they will set an example for the rest to follow.”

Till then, all one can do is remember the victims on the third Sunday of November.

THE RIGHT WAY

* Relax when the signal turns amber. If you try to beat it before it turns red, remember that the person at the opposite side is also impatient to cross before the signal turns green

* Avoid speaking on the phone while driving/riding. You tend to lose track of what’s happening on the road

* Your vehicle can handle 150 kmph. But, can you hit that speed on the road you are driving in?