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11th-17th January is Road Safety Week. The writer, through The Arundhati Foundation, shares her personal story of the loss of her daughter to a road accident, urging readers to follow traffic rules and demand good roads.
It was in the early hours of the 9th of September 2014 that life for my family changed for ever. I lost my healthy, beautiful daughter to a ghastly road traffic accident in Vellore.
My daughter, a doctor, had just graduated topping in eleven of the fourteen subjects in MBBS with a gold medal for securing the highest marks in MBBS. She was also awarded the Best Graduate Award of 2014. She was doing her postgraduation at CMC Vellore. She was a multitalented young girl with a passion for dance and danced like a dream. She was a wonderful artist and a sensitive poet. Above all, she was a wonderful giving and caring soul.
I shall not go through the harrowing and excruciatingly painful journey we, as a family are going through…or the state of her father, younger brother and aged grandparents.
It seems surreal and hard to accept the fact that she is dead especially since she did ALL the right things. She was riding pillion on a motorbike with her fiancé whom she was going to get married to nine months down the line. BOTH of them were wearing helmets.
People said it was her and our fate. We disagree.
It was a bad road. A pot hole ridden, badly maintained road which killed my child.
I hold the municipality of the city of Vellore responsible.
This story is not just the story about my daughter alone. It is the story of thousands of people killed on Indian roads . In 2014 alone, 1.4 lakh people lost their lives in road accidents and another 4.8 lakh were injured. Every day, India loses sixteen lives an hour to road traffic accidents. This means we lose around 400 lives a day. This could be equated to a jumbo jet crashing every single day!
India has only about 1% of the world’s vehicle population but has the dubious distinction of having one of the highest accident rates in the world. Two-wheelers contribute a whopping 25% of the vehicles involved in accidents followed by lorries and buses.
Mostly the lives lost on our roads are young adults and hence besides shattering the entire fabric of a family, it also leads to a colossal economic loss amounting to 3% of India’s GDP. These are figures given according to a report by the Planning Commission of India.
The Road Safety Week observance is initiated by the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways. With a view to supplement the efforts of the Ministry, the Road Safety Council from the year 2011 has started Road Safety Week (11 – 17 January every year) effectively.
My heartfelt plea to all is not to limit road safety awareness and road safety work to just this week but to take care of yourselves and people dear to you all year round.
Almost 97 % of all accidents are preventable. Overspeeding, overcrowding of vehicles, unsafe behavior on the roads like drunk driving and use of cell phone, jumping signals, are all behaviors which can be easily avoided.
Why would you want a police officer to tell you to wear helmets or wear seat belts? If you don’t care for the safety of your dear ones or your own why should he bother? And whom are you really fooling when you hurriedly slip your helmet on when you see a cop? These rules are meant to keep you safe.
My husband and I have started The Arundhati Foundation in the memory of our daughter.
We are working hard in our own capacity to bring a change on our roads by carrying on the uphill task of bringing in legislation and a change in infrastructure on our roads. For this, we need help from external sources. But social behaviour? It is all in the hands of each and every individual.
Our hope is that each citizen acts more responsibly valuing precious lives around them by doing what each one can do.
Here are the tenets of VIKRAM (the road safety initiative) from The Arundhati Foundation. Please share. Be safe. Do take our pledge for road safety.
I will always wear a helmet when driving a two-wheeler.
I will protect my pillion rider by getting him/her a helmet.
I will NEVER drink and drive.
If I drink, I will NOT drive.
If I need to answer or make a call, I will STOP.
I will give pedestrians the first right of way.
I will not allow my underage children to drive.
I WILL OBEY TRAFFIC RULES.
I will teach my children and friends the above.
We hope no one has to live the nightmare of a life that my family is living for no fault of ours.
We hope no more young dreams like ours or our daughter’s died.
Follow traffic rules. They are there for a reason. Respect lives.
THERE IS NO ONE THAT SOMEONE WILL NOT MISS.
For more information on this, visit The Arundhati Foundation.
Image source: road accident scene by Shutterstock.