'That she drove 20 km in 9 minutes is rubbish.'
Former Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Mistry's death in a tragic car accident has sent shockwaves across the country.
According to media reports, Dr Anahita Pandole, a well-known gynaecologist in Mumbai and a long-time friend of Mistry, was driving the car at great speed. Mistry was sitting in the backseat with Jehangir Pandole, Dr Anahita's brother-in-law, who also died in the accident.
As per the information given by the police, both Cyrus Mistry and Jehangir Pandole were not wearing seat belts.
Dr Anahita and her husband Darius Pandole, who was sitting next to her in the front seat, survived the crash.
"Cyrus Mistry would have survived if he wore a seat belt. Even without the airbags, most probably he would have been saved," Dr Rohit Baluja, president, Institute of Road Traffic Education, tells Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com.
In India, 87,000 people die every year in road accidents due to overspeeding. What can be done to save these lives?
It would be wrong to say that 87,000 people die every year (in accidents that occur only) because of overspeeding.
I am saying so because there has been no study conducted on accidents in our country (with these angles).
We are making the same folly by blaming overspeeding for the accident that killed Cyrus Mistry.
One must ask the following pertinent questions before reaching any conclusion over a road accidents:
- Were speed limit signs installed at the place of mishap?
- Were people informed about speed limits on that particular road (in Palghar, Maharashtra)?
- And if speed signs were installed, were they correctly installed?
(It has become a common practice for the) police to write in their first information reports that deaths were caused due to dangerous driving.
And speed is brought into question to prove dangerous driving, and therefore when you say 87,000 people die because of overspeeding, it is not correct.
But yes, speeding is a problem on National Highways and Expressways as speed limit signs are not installed scientifically.
They are not installed in such a way that they are clearly visible and, therefore, National Highways, which form 4 per cent of our country's highways, kill 40 per cent people.
The speed limits are also not enforced on National Highways the way it is not done within the cities.
It is being alleged that Dr Pandole was driving really fast, which led to the accident.
It is wrong to blame her.
How did she hit the parapet?
Were people driving on the right hand side at the time of the accident and therefore she overtook them from the left hand side?
Was the visibility good?
Was the speed sign installed properly?
We only blame (the driver).
Someone said she drove 20 km in 9 minutes. All this is rubbish.
We have to ask what kind of road it was.
How many lanes were there?
Was there a blockade and, if yes, was it visible enough?
What was the kind of traffic moving in that direction?
So many questions need to be answered.
What must the government do on its part to prevent such accidents?
The first thing is that an 80kmph speed limit on highways does not mean you can drive that fast.
You cannot drive at 80 kmph during bad weather.
The speed limit signs, therefore, must be clearly visible and must be installed as per Indian Roads Congress standards.
Speed installations should be correct and installed on both sides of the road.
It should be displayed for all categories of vehicles.
We do make signs for heavy motor vehicles (HMVs) and light motor vehicles (LMVs), but 74 per cent of vehicles in our country are two-wheelers. We do not set speed limits for them.
The traffic has to be engineered. For example, if there is a two-lane road, then you cannot assign three speed limits.
Speed signs are totally neglected in our country and highway engineers are not trained or know how to scientifically gauge the right speed limit.
Speed limit signs should be enforced as per the Motor Vehicles Act Sections 112 and 116 (external link).
This should be in the gazette and notified, but the government is not doing it.
The speed signs should be properly visible during day and night. And finally, when you install a speed limit sign, it has to be enforced.
It is also being claimed that Mr Mistry's death was caused by him not wearing the seat belt.
Road safety has two types -- active and passive. Active safety prevent the accidents. While passive safety saves lives in case of an accident.
Section 138 of the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989 states that everyone travelling in a car should wear the seat belt.
It means the number of passengers in a vehicle should not be more than the number of seat belts installed. So that everyone wears a seat belt.
That is the law. But the governments have not made it compulsory. People sitting in the backseat are not fined for not wearing seat belts, while those in the front are.
If Cyrus Mistry wore a seat belt, he would have survived. Even if there were no airbags, most probably, he would have been saved.
Wearing seat belts on the rear seats prevents death?
Yes, because when an accident takes place, people sitting in the rear seat get thrown to the windshield or their head hits the front seat with great impact and they get brain injuries.
You will see in Cyrus Mistry's case too, it sould turn out to be a brain or cervical injury that caused his death.
If not that, they die of a heart attack, especially the elderly. Because they are thrown onto the windshield, they suffer cardiac arrest.
Therefore, it is important when you travel on highways at a speed above 70 kmph to wear a seat belt even if you are sitting in the rear seat.
On expressways you have a speed limit of 120 kmph. Therefore, for your own safety, you must wear seat belts even in the rear seat.
Wherever speed limits are operational, you must wear seat belts if you are sitting in the rear seat and the law must be enforced.
It is a tragedy that while we are building highways across the country, we do not talk about road safety as nearly 150,000 people die every year in road accidents.
The number of deaths due to road accidents went up to 160,000 in 2019. It is our figure. The World Health Organisation says over 300,000 people die in road accidents every year.
WHO believes India does not record road accidents (properly). It means 820 people die every day in India due to road accidents.
Add 16 more people to this figure for each day as the seriously injured are not recorded in our statistics.
WHO says that India accounts for 23 per cent of global road accident deaths. This is true for all times.
But we focus on this problem only when a Cyrus Mistry or a Gopinath Munde dies in a road accident.
This happens every day, but we do not pay much attention to it as 80 per cent people who die daily belong to the poor or middle-class (sections). Who cares about them?
Would you like say anything to the ordinary people who drive?
One has to self-enforce (the safety rules) and understand that if you collide at high speeds, you are likely to die.
Therefore, wear seat belts at least on highways and expressways.
And whenever an accident takes place, we need to diagnose the cause of the accident for remedial measures.
The Government of India must put all its efforts in accident diagnoses.
This should be given top most priority. If the illness is not diagnosed, how will you treat it?
And if you speak without diagnosing, then it is all talking without understanding.