However cautious the driver of our vehicle may be, the extraneous circumstances can cause freak accidents and we can be the victims of such unexpected happenings, if we do not follow safety measures like wearing seat belts even if we are seated on the back seat
Normally, when we drive on dual carriage ways (called as ‘divided highways’ in US and Canada), we tend to go a little faster. This is because we feel that there are no chances of head-on collision due to the existence of a median strip, which separates the opposing lanes of traffic, giving us a false sense of security. But even in dual carriage roads, accidents do happen and if we take a little extra care, many a life of our kith and kin can be saved. Here are two live examples of how accidents happen in a split second, and how you can minimize their impact on the human lives.
My niece and nephew with their five year old son while proceeding by car from Bengaluru to Pondicherry recently met with an accident within half an hour of starting their journey in a dual carriage way called NICE Road. It was early morning and raining in Bengaluru and the potholes on the road were not visible due to water stagnation on such holes. There was a steep pothole in the center of the road, which made the car jump and when he applied brakes, the car was completely skidded, toppled and landed upside down. (See picture)
When we heard that news, our immediate reaction was that something fatal would have happened and we were curious to know the extent of injury to the people inside the car due to the accident.
This is what happened to the occupants of the car.
1. First the good news. The only boy child sitting alone on the back seat had a miraculous escape. He is completely safe and there are not even scratches in his body.
2. The husband driving the car had fractured his right hand, which required medical care. But for the fracture in his right hand, he had no other injuries and he was alright in all other respects.
3. His wife was sitting on the passenger seat by the side of the driver which is supposed to be the most risky seat in a motor car. She, however, fractured her left hand and it was found that she had two fractures and required immediate surgery to fix the fractured bones.
As stated above, fortunately both the occupants of the front seats including the driver survived with minimum injury and most surprisingly the child on the back seat was totally safe and was not injured at all. This miracle, if I may say so, happened because of the following safety precautions taken by the family while starting their journey.
1. Both the husband (driver) and wife, who were in their early thirties, took care to ensure that they had worn their seat belts properly, knowing fully well that sitting in the front seat is always more risky particularly while driving on the highways for long distances.
2. The car they were travelling had air bags on both the front seats and they had ensured that they were ‘on’ before starting their journey. I understand that there are ON-OFF switches for air bags in some cars and in this case the switch was on at all times. When the car met with the accident, the air bags opened up automatically and that prevented those seated in the front seat from banging their head to the dash board of the car.
3. The most admirable thing was that they had ensured that the child was seated on the back seat and was securely tied with the seat belt, which was properly buckled. This thoughtful action on the part of the parents virtually saved their child who had no scratches at all on his body.
Here is another freak accident that took place recently when a friend of mine and his wife were travelling in a cab on the outskirts of Bengaluru. They were sitting on the back seat when suddenly the driver applied brakes to stop the car as the vehicle in front of them had stopped abruptly due to some obstruction on the road ahead. Though the car in which my friends were travelling had safely come to a halt, they were suddenly hit by a speeding car from behind, which resulted in all the three cars hitting each other and the one in the middle occupied by our friend got hit from both ends. The lady seated on the back of the driver’s seat met with severe injuries to her face, as she banged against the driver’s seat in front of her which was decorated with glass beads hanging behind the head-rest of the driver. The lady’s face was badly disfigured due to the force with which she hit the seat in front which had those glass beads. Her husband sitting beside her, had leg injuries though it was not that severe.
Both of them had not worn the seat belts, though they were available on the back seat as well. If they had worn the seat belts, the extent of injury could have been possibility much less.
Lessons to learn from these two accidents:
In our country, it is mandatory only for the driver to wear seat belts by law and others are not bound to wear seat belts. The first lesson to learn from these two accidents is that all passengers sitting in the car must invariably wear seat belts irrespective of the seats occupied by them. There is a tendency not to wear seat belts by those sitting on the back seat, without knowing the risks involved. It is abundantly clear from the above accidents that however cautious the driver of the car may be, the extraneous circumstances can cause freak accidents and we can be the victims of such unexpected happenings, if we do not care to wear seat belts even if we are seated on the back seat.
The second and important lesson to learn is that we must ensure that children should also be made to wear seat belts whether they sit independently or on special seats provided to them. Generally, out of love and affection for our children, we tend to leave them free while travelling, and hardly care to ensure that they are properly secured by seat belts. More often than not, children of that age tend to sit on the mother’s lap without wearing seat belts, which could prove fatal both for the mother and the child. The golden rule is “Always remember to buckle up – every time – whenever and wherever you are seated in a car.”
It is not compulsory in our country for cars to be fitted with air bags, though most of the cars today have air bags fitted as original equipments. Though cars with air bags may cost a bit more, it is always advisable to go for cars fitted with air bags as they provide additional safety.
The existence of ON-OFF switch for air bags is hardly made known to us while buying a new car. If you are buying a car with air bags, please understand the operations of ON-OFF switch fitted inside the car and ensure that it is always put on specially when going on a long trip.
The website of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of the US Dept of Transportation gives detailed guidelines on the use of seat belts and air bags with graphic designs of how to use the seat belts for children and with regard to on-off switches on air bags, which are both informative and useful for car users.
It concludes with the following words of wisdom: “Will following these safety tips guarantee that I will be safe in a crash? There is no guarantee of safety in a crash, with or without air bag. However, most of the people killed would not have been seriously injured if they had followed these safety tips.”
This site offers important information to help you stay safe in a vehicle with seat belts and air bags.
(The author is a banking analyst and he writes for Moneylife
under a pen name ‘Gurpur