By Gopinath Mavinkurve
It happened on 7th of April this year in Mumbai. On my way to office, I got into an auto-rickshaw. The rattling ride would not allow me to read. Having no better pastime than to see the lovely faces of girls riding pillion on 2-wheelers, my pleasant journey had lots to offer - lovely, cheerful, full of life faces, chatting away with their man riding on two-wheelers. I soaked in the lively, refreshing faces. They made up for the lack of refreshing breeze, which comes but rarely in a slow moving, congested traffic of this maximum city. A blast of polluted smoke spewed by heavy vehicles that could choke us is all that we can expect.
On 7th of April, the much-publicised ‘No Honking Day’ was being observed in Mumbai. The hoardings were put up on several of the newly erected bus stops, urging drivers to hold back their urge to honk their way to their destination. I was looking forward to a peaceful, tranquil day on the way to office. Easy on my ears and nerves, one would guess if not the respiratory track. But that was not to be… the honking continued unabated. My auto-rickshaw steered through the maze of countless two-wheelers, each one trying to get past the other. Our rickshaw moved slowly. Several vehicles had stopped ahead of us and some were moving very slowly near the Flyover on the Western Express Highway.
People had rushed to the spot about 10 metres ahead of us. I just peeped out and then I saw it… A woman lying in the middle of the road! What had hit her? Why weren’t anyone helping her to the hospital? I got the answer as we moved ahead… The ghastly accident had killed her on the spot. Her brain had spilled out! I had seen such a signt for the first time - blood rushed inside me, as if not knowing where to flow. My stomach churned as though it wanted to throw up. I could not speak or think. I never wanted to see this ghastly accident on the road! I took a few deep breaths and momentarily closed my eyes for a silent Prayer for the departed soul. I could never take that .. never wanted to see it.
Never did it ever occur to me that those lovely faces I was seeing before were without a helmet! Or that the beautiful pillion riders were unsafe and vulnerable. When I looked out again, I could now see the vulnerable bare head. The non-descript features of the pillion rider told me that she was not being cared for...and an accident waiting to happen. I am sure the two-wheeler riders have their eyes on the road, as they should. Not seeing what I was seeing now. He has worn his helmet…so he is safe. Is that all he cares about - All that matters? What about his beloved pillion rider behind? The same very person, who had so caringly insisted that you wear your helmet. For whom, your safety was paramount and without whom, one would have found ways to deal with the ‘keepers of law’ but perhaps not, in your view, ‘savers of life’, the traffic policeman.
When I ruminate about this incident, it comes to my mind, that occasional pillion riders, whether males or females frequently throw caution to the winds in the same way. “It wont happen to me”, one would think, unmindful of the dangers lurking on the road ahead. A syndrome prevalent today and responsible for several lives lost in road accidents lately. It is strange how we possess such lackadaisical attitude, even when it comes to our own lives! Rarely do we see the pillion rider wear a protective helmet, be it male or female.
For the several readers riding the pillion even today, may the good sense of safety prevail!! Save your own life, wear your helmets!!! Riders too!
Take Care! Not just my usual way to sign off - I mean it.
In public interest on the occasion of the World Day of Remembrance for Traffic Victims observed the world over on the third Sunday of November each year.
A Brief History of this Observation Day
The World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims was started by RoadPeace in 1993. Since then it has been observed and promoted worldwide by several NGOs, including the European Federation of Road Traffic Victims (FEVR) and its associated organizations.
On 26 October 2005, the United Nations endorsed it as a global day to be observed every third Sunday in November each year.
A guide for World Day of Remembrance for Traffic Victims published
This will be a major advocacy day for road traffic injury prevention and WHO and the United Nations Road Safety Collaboration encourage governments and NGOs around the world to commemorate this day. WHO, FEVR and RoadPeace have jointly developed a book, World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims: a guide for organizers, to provide practical guidance to people or groups on how to plan and organize events on this day. The book gives a brief history of the day, offers suggestions on how to plan the day and provides examples of specific activities that can be organized. We encourage all those concerned with road traffic crashes and their consequences to use this guide to organize annual events in different parts of the world to ensure that the advocacy opportunity of this day is fully realized.