Even as Road Safety Week kicked off yesterday, we are in no doubt that throughout the city, as happens every day, cars cut through red lights, motorcyclists defied one-way street rules, overloaded trucks speeded, and pedestrians jaywalked dangerously. This sounds like a nightmare scenario in some fictitious place, but unfortunately it is what Mumbaikars encounter every day.
This is not to say there are no law-abiding, safe drivers and riders. But the preponderance of rash drivers, and the gravity of their offences, all but nullify safe driving by others. And it often seems like an exercise in futility. On the one hand, for example, traffic police try to keep heads safe by booking riders without helmets. But when bikers are so indifferent to their own safety, how can we expect them to care about other vehicles and pedestrians?
The presence of traffic police and marshals is generally a deterrent to lawbreakers. But the men and women in uniform can’t be at every traffic signal all the time. And in their absence, all rules are thrown to the wind. Just one question seems to prevail can I get away with it?
Add to this maelstrom the factor of drivers, riders and walkers using mobile phones as if the world would end if they did not. And the result is a network of roads, already overloaded with traffic, on which life and limb become casualties on an almost nonchalantly daily basis. When questioned, the instant response is to blame someone else. Drivers and riders point to pedestrians who walk on roads instead of pavements.
Pedestrians point, in turn, to the growing encroachment on pavement space by shops, restaurants, itinerant hawkers and even parked cars, which often forces people to step onto the road, simply because there is no
But it is not a question of finger-pointing. We can’t have one section of people behaving responsibly while others make life dangerous for them as well as everyone else. A safe life, on the roads and off them, is the duty as well as the right of all.