Lessons of Road Safety from Cyrus Mistry's car crash.....by Gurjot Singh Kaler
As the nation witnessed the untimely death of 54 years old Cyrus Mistry, the former chairman of Tata Group, and his friend, Jahangir Pandole, in a tragic car accident in the district Palghar, Maharashtra, heartfelt condolences started pouring in from all quarters.
As things have come out in the open till now, there were 4 persons in the luxury car which hit the divider on the road at a very high speed and resulted in the immediate death of Cyrus Mistry and his friend, who were sitting in the rear side and not wearing the seat belts.
While Jehangir Pandole and Cyrus Mistry died on the spot, the front-seat occupants of the car, Anahita Pandole and Darius Pandole got seriously injured and are undergoing recovery at a hospital in Mumbai.
It is certainly a very sad moment for the business community in particular and the nation in general. Therefore, let us try to examine and analyze as to what went wrong and if there are any hidden lessons that we can all utilize for the future.Road accidents kill more than 1.5 lakh people every year in India. According to official data, more than 1.55 lakh people were killed in 4.03 lakh road accidents across the country in 2021.
This means an average of 426 deaths occur in the country every single day due to road accidents, which approximately breaks down to 18 such deaths in a single hour. The National Crime Records Bureau data 2021 reveals that apart from the deaths, a total of 3.71 lakh people were also injured.The data also reveals that of the total number of road accident-related death, 15.1 percent were of cars, 44.5 percent of two-wheelers, 9.4 percent of trucks and lorries and 3 percent of buses. About 60% of road accidents were due to over speeding and this accounted for 87,050 deaths and more than 2.25 lakh injuries.
The topic of road safety is of paramount importance and mass awareness needs to be spread about it. According to the Geneva-based International Road Federation (IRF), more than 11 per cent of road accident deaths worldwide take place in India and most of such fatalities can be avoidable if adequate precautions are taken.
Cyrus Mistry and his friend could have been alive today if the car was not over-speeding in a deadly manner. Also, their chances of survival could have been much better if they would have been wearing seat belts.Therefore, the first lesson which needs to be learned from this heartrending incident is that we all need to remember the old adage that ‘Haste Makes Waste’ and thus, carefully drive our vehicles within reasonable and legally permitted speed limits.
As per the latest police investigations, the car in which Cyrus Mistry and his friends were traveling was being driven at a very dangerously high speed. Even though it was a luxury vehicle – Mercedes GLC 200D SUV, and had seven airbags with a five star safety rating, still it could not save his and his friend’s life as the vehicle was being driven at a very rash speed which can be gauged from the fact that it covered a distance of 20 kilometres in just 20 minutes.
Secondly, we need to make it a regular habit to wear the seat belts, even if we are sitting in the rear side of the vehicles. Roads can be a lethal and dangerous place and have already consumed many precious lives in the past. Normally, it has been seen that people rarely wear seat belts, especially if they are travelling for a short distance and almost never care to wear them while sitting on the rear seats. Irrespective of distance to travel, one must learn to wear a seatbelt.
It is not for long drives only; it is the impact that matters and not the distance. Also, it is necessary to keep any loose items in the car’s boot space area only and not on the dashboard etc., as these can turn into missiles on a high velocity impact and cause injury to the occupants of the vehicle.
Hopefully, the untimely demise of Cyrus Mistry and his friend will serve as a chilling reminder to all and sundry that seat belts are a basic prerequisite for the safety and security of our lives. Many people who do not wear seatbelts often argue that their cars have airbags to protect them in case of an emergency. However, this is a misplaced argument.
Because seatbelts and airbags work together; having one without the other is bound to reduce the safety of the vehicle’s occupants in case of a crash or accident. We need to understand that while a seatbelt performs the function to hold you steadily in place during an accident, the airbags provide a cushion to our head, neck and chest from facing deadly forward impact.
When the ill-fated Mercedes car hit the divider, the airbags of the front seat opened, while the airbags of the back seats did not open. Reason: Cyrus Mistry and Jahangir Pandole were not wearing seat belts as a result of which the airbags did not open for their seats, reports citing sources have said.
As per the car mechanism, airbags open only when the seat belts are fastened. So, going with the chronology of the passenger-driver safeguard rules that happen when a car gets into an accident, seat belts are the primary and most probably the only way to protect the person. The defence structure of airbags, which are inflated by a pyrotechnical charge, are secondary in nature as their function is controlled by the seat belts. Seatbelts are the primary protection and airbags are the secondary protection.
According to a World Health Organisation report, wearing seatbelts can reduce the risk of death, serious injuries and fatalities by 50 per cent for the front-seat occupants of a vehicle and by 25 per cent for the rear-seat occupants. Similarly, for two-wheelers, wearing helmets can be life-saving. If worn correctly, helmets can be beneficial in reducing the risk of fatal injuries by 42 per cent and 69 per cent in the case of head injuries.
Road safety needs to be inculcated as a part of national educational curriculum and everyone in the country should be subjected to a mandatory government test of road safety standards, traffic rules and procedures. It should be made compulsory that one must pass these tests and obtain a certificate of road safety before becoming eligible and applying for any public or private sector job.
The lackadaisical and corrupt attitude of the transport and police authorities in issuing driving licenses needs to be curbed with a heavy hand so that people do not find it easy to obtain driving licenses in a hanky-panky manner. There is nothing bigger or important than one’s precious life and this message needs to be spread far and wide so that everyone learns to respect road safety rules and regulations in letter and spirit.
As India is a signatory to the United Nations road safety plan, the country has to pull up its socks in order to achieve the aim of reducing the road fatalities by 50 per cent by 2030. Apart from spreading the message of road safety and road discipline, it is also imperative to undertake a holistic study of the various deficiencies which Indian roads are suffering from since many decades and chart out a roadmap for correcting the anomalies. Immediate steps need to be taken at all levels to fix accident-prone black spots which are a major cause of fatal deaths across the length and breadth of India. T
he safety rulebook needs to be enforced with strictness by the police and transport authorities so that people learn to obey road safety rules without unduly referring to their social status, power, pelf and privileges. The fear of law needs to be driven down the spine of commuters on the roads. Any act which violates the law and poses a threat to life should not go unchecked or unpunished. Whether it is overspeeding, risky and illegal overtaking, jumping traffic lights, driving on high beam lights, having more passengers than seats, not wearing seatbelts, etc., every such act needs to be dealt firmly and responsibly without resorting to bribery and corrupt practices.
The Central government’s recent intentions to make it mandatory for the car manufacturers to provide a minimum of six airbags in vehicles that can carry up to eight passengers for enhanced safety is a much-needed step in the right direction.
It is time to take the issue of road safety in a serious manner as safe driving is the need of the hour. Let the untimely death of Cyrus Mistry and his friend not go in vain. We need to take pledge in their memory that we will obey the road safety rules and would never resort to overspeeding as well as always wear seatbelts even if we are seating on the rear seats of the vehicle.
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