Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Take it easy ...

Almost everything is more expensive now than it was a couple of decades ago. More expensive, and more affordable. Thanks to liberalization and the gumption of the common man he can now afford that new model car, the wide-screen plasma TV, the home theatre, the washing machine, the vacuum cleaner ... the list is long. In a nutshell, life is a lot easier these days.

This new found affluence is most visible on the streets . Cities that grow taller, denser, and (paradoxically) sprawl ever wider. New vehicles pour out of the factory by the thousands onto roads easily older than the age of the average indian. Even 20 years ago, the engineers who designed these roads could not have anticipated the spike in vehicle population. Whilst I do not have figures, I'm quite certain the average speed of vehicles on the road within a city today is slower than it was earlier. And yet the vehicles themselves are powered by more powerful engines, driven often by people with less patience. Driven by educated persons who fail to realize that catching the signal will gain them at best a few minutes, or so.

Seated in a cab in a snarl-up, I'm almost thrown against my baggage when the cabbie accelerates wildly to cover the gap in the bumper-to-bumper traffic before another vehicle sneaks in from the left! Good for me the driver was alert; I could have injured my back. The driver in the car that almost sneaked in, a young couple with their small baby looks at me and grins ruefully. Most people drive like this these days. Looking around it is common to see infants and toddlers in the passenger seat of a car. Cherubic infants and babies can be seen enjoying the rush of wind against their faces seated in front of a motored cycle with their little legs astride of the fuel tank. Still others stand on the floorboard in front of a scooter, or even stand between the scooterist and his/her pillion rider as it zips through narrow passages and squeezes through seemingly impossible gaps in near-stationary traffic.

Equipped with an air-bag, crumple zones, monocoque frame, seat-belts ... a car is so much more safe now that the driver often chooses to take risk. The risk of injury is scarcely there any more. Even if he is in an accident he'll probably survive to walk away from the crash ... and perhaps regret it.

Babies, and children are delicate creatures. An acceleration that would not budge an adult from the seat can catapult a baby out of the protective arms of it's parent head-first into the windscreen, or into the dash-board. The phone placed on the dash-board can rocket into the head of a baby. An impact against the back of the vehicle can throw a baby against the shift-stick, or on it's head against the floor. The air-bag that protects an adult can smother an infant. The seat-belt that helps protect an adult from being thrown into the dash-board, can crush a baby against the body of it's parent. With a motored cycle the injuries can be worse. A baby seated happily on the fuel-tank of a motor-cycle can slip and, by way of the hot engine and exhaust pipe be dragged beneath the vehicle ...

Sooner or later (hopefully), in India too, a legislation will make it mandatory for babies/children to be seated at the back of the vehicle with a parent. But why wait for legislation, and subsequent enforcement? Be careful, young parent, when you drive with your family. Let your precious one sit in the back... and let prudence take the front-seat.