Road Safety Starts At Home
While we cannot be responsible for the actions of other road users, there are measures we can take to protect us and our loved ones. Seat belts can be the first step!
In 2010, Commonwealth Games archery coach Cherukuri Lenin (26) was driving back to home in a Scorpio. At around 2 am, while trying to avoid an autorickshaw that came suddenly from opposite direction, he lost control over the car and rammed the road divider. Lenin who was thrown out of the vehicle died instantaneously owing to head injury. He was not wearing his seat belt.
It’s been proven time and again, on back roads and superhighways: A seat belt can save a life in a car accident. According to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), lap-shoulder belt systems reduce the risk of fatality and serious injury by 50 percent when used by driver and passengers. The three-point safety-belt restraint, which includes a combination of lap belt and shoulder-to-hip belt, protects the internal organs in a crash as it controls the forward motion of the body and the accompanying rotation of the pelvis. It also minimizes head contacts and excessive neck motion, preventing head and neck injuries. When crashes occur, unrestrained drivers are thrown against their steering wheels or ejected from their cars, while unbelted passengers hit the dashboard or go through the windshield. People who are ejected in crashes are 25 times more likely to be killed than those who remain within the vehicle.
As a teenage passenger and subsequent adult driver, I never thought twice about strapping myself into a seat belt. To me, it is as second natural as closing the door after you get into the car. Since my first encounter behind the wheels of a car, I never hesitated to buckle up my seat belt. Owing to that, now I can’t drive a car without being strapped to my seats. It would be troublesome for me to find a good position and confidence without buckling the seat belt. It became habitual for good.
What about back seats then? Are the rear occupants so safe without seat belts?? Certainly not. In fact, all these day experts insisted on front seats safety only because they are occupied always. But back bench passengers do require seat restraints. So, beginners and young drivers must understand the importance of seat belts and make them habitual.
I notice that a majority of my friends and parents simply prop their children on their laps or carry them in their arms instead of tucking them safely into proper child seats. The awareness of using a child seat is very less or nil in India. Their usual excuses are “the kids don’t like to be strapped in” and “we drive slowly, so it should be okay na..“. Children are not small adults — they need specialized protection in a moving vehicle. Since their skeletal structure is different, age, height, and weight determine the safest way for a child to travel.
Children under age 1 and those who weigh less than 10 kilograms should sit in rear-facing, child safety seats. Children older than 1 should ride in forward-facing child safety seats. The seat should be placed in the rear of the vehicle until the child reaches the upper weight or height limit of the particular seat. Typically, a child will outgrow a safety seat around age 4 and once she reaches about 20 kilograms. Children age 4 and older should ride in booster seats. A child can safely progress to a seat belt when the belt fits properly across the upper thighs and chest. “This is usually at age 8 or when they are at least 4 feet 9 inches tall,” says the American Academy of Pediatrics. When children outgrow their booster seats, they can use seat belts, but they still should sit in the back of the vehicle. Really, all children should be riding in the backseat of the car until they are at least 13 years old! Unfortunately, there is no law pertaining to the use of child restraints and booster seats in India. Even if it exist, we will easily defy it. Such a mentality must change.
It is just a myth that children will resist being strapped to their seats or using exclusive child seats. Do not compromise on your child’s safety, even on occassions when they would struggle and whine in protest. Surely after some trips, they will voluntarily submit themselves to their child seats without battling an eyelid.
It is also wrongly advised that pregnant women must avoid wearing seat belts. One must wear it properly to reduce the pressure that is exerted on one’s belly and baby, in case the brakes are applied suddenly. Experts recommend that the shoulder portion of the belt should sit over one’s collarbone; it should be placed between her breasts and then move lower to the side of her belly. The lap portion of the seat belt should be worn below her belly and as low as possible on hips and across her upper thighs. Never place the lap portion above one’s abdomen.
The FIA’s (Federation Internationale de’l Automobile) global call for a “Decade of Action for Road Safety” from 2010 to 2020 is an eye-opener. This initiative, supported by governments worldwide, aims to reduce road deaths by 50 percent. The safety of ours and our family members ultimately lies in our hands. It stars from our home. We should not be practicing safe motoring habits merely to comply with road traffic rules.