By SK RAM
Driving which was a privilege of a minority a few decades ago has now become a necessity for most. Our fleet of vehicles consists ‘largely of cars and dual purpose vehicles – 87%’.
Until a more effective means of transport is developed we will still have to rely on road vehicles for conveyance purposes. With the growing number of vehicles the incidence of road traffic accidents has increased.
The mid-year publication of the Central Statistics Office for the year 2011 reports the following:
‘From January to June 2011 the number of road traffic accidents has increased to 11,426 compared to 11,227 during the corresponding period of the year 2010. During the first semester of 2011, 79 persons died against 70 in 2010’.
An increase in the number of seriously injured persons was also noted. Many of these accidents must have been caused by inconsiderate or careless driving behaviour.
A motorised vehicle was intelligently designed by the mind of man as a means of transport. The responsibility of running it should be left in the hands of a skilled, lucid and reliable person.
Blaming the authorities is pointless. The state is investing billions in order to improve the condition of our roads. Speed cameras have been installed to deter speeding; motorised police patrols have increased their vigilance; road markings and signs have been upgraded. All these measures have had some positive effects on the toll of road traffic accidents.
Police has reported that during the end of the year festivities the number of accidents declined compared to last year. This is an encouraging sign. Police officers who were on patrol during the end of the year festivities deserve our congratulations for having performed their duty with diligence.
A driver should be fully aware of his responsibilities and duties. Many drivers are to be blamed for fatal accidents, which cause dire grief. Homicide is a sin which is punishable by man-made laws as well as Scriptures. ‘Thou shall not kill’!
A sound knowledge of road traffic rules and strict observance of the driving code should be the first priorities of all drivers. Knowledge is but one of the components of safe driving.
Going through a driving test with honours does not transform a new driver into an ‘ace du volant’ overnight and give him the right to behave as a road cowboy – ‘Education teaches the rules, and experience the exceptions’.
Driving is an operation that requires technical skills, and the perfect coordination of the mind and body which can be disturbed by the consumption of alcohol and drugs. A driver with a restless and deranged mind will not be able to control his actions and can show reckless disregard to his safety and the security of others.
Skill is a quality that can be acquired through teaching, and experience which cannot be gained by taking shortcuts. The subtleness of skill, however, can be grasped only by a perceptive student. This is what differentiates the common driver from the gifted one such as Formula One drivers. They should at all times have full command of their technologically advanced cars which race at 300km/hr on a circuit. There is also the truck or bus driver who undertakes an unforeseeable journey almost every day, climbing or descending the serpentine roads of the Himalayas or the Andes with their hairpin bends and covered with snow, driving at 35km/hr. Both of these groups of drivers have to maintain the unity of their body, mind and spirit.
Indian drivers have a picture of a statue of their favourite deity on their dashboard whom they ritually pay respect to in anticipation of a safe journey. ‘Pranams’ are offered to the driving wheel before they start driving. Drivers of Christian faith carry a medal of St Christopher in their key ring. He is a Biblical personality who helped Jesus cross a dangerous river by carrying him on his shoulders. He is considered the patron saint of drivers and travellers. Arjuna chose Lord Krishna as his charioteer to guide him in making the right spiritual choice during the epic war of the Mahabharata.
Modern driving requires a new mindset to allow adaptation to new situations. A responsible driver should be able to think with his mind rather than with his emotions. When drivers get angry they lose their wisdom and are unable to control their emotions; this can be the origin of many conflicts which could have been avoided on the roads. ‘The best way to win an argument is to avoid it’. Drivers should not let emotions overcome their reason.
Politeness and respect are values that are acquired from childhood. They derive from eternal traditions of spiritual values which help us to raise our awareness and consciousness.
The right attitude guides the driver to be tolerant and make driving a less stressful occupation. This can happen if one adheres to eternal spiritual truths.
Nature has endowed women with many spiritual qualities which reflect their feminity. They are kind at heart, polite and respectful of traffic rules. These qualities make them safe drivers. Moral harassment of lady drivers is not an uncommon behaviour of macho motorists on our roads. This show of pseudo- superiority can upset the targeted person emotionally and provoke an accident.
Egoistical attitudes and the selfish behaviour of some drivers may lead to similar unwarranted reactions by other drivers. This mutual disrespect can lead to incidents with sorrowful consequences.
Any hesitancy on the part of a driver should be interpreted as a sign of cautiousness instead of an error.
The conduct of taxi-drivers and drivers of other vehicles should be exemplary. Some taxi-drivers believe that they can flout laws without impunity. It is unfortunate that driving misbehaviour is not punishable by law and is often overlooked by policemen.
There is no foolish driver. There are only foolish actions and reactions: ‘Rules are made to be broken’ is a cynical disregard of the laws of a country. ‘You can turn away from spiritual laws but they won’t just go away’.
Laws and dissuasive measures may not be the only solutions to improve driving attitudes. It is the awareness of drivers that should be raised.
Safe driving can only be a reality if discipline is enforced at home and in educational institutions where importance is given to universal values which teach us to be simple and elegant.
* Published in print edition on 17 February 2012