Srini has a set of awards of his own, and they include you – but you may not appreciate the recognition.
Towards the end of every calendar year, the Indian automotive industry generally kicks back just a wee bit and decides to celebrate the near-12 months gone by and steels itself up for the next 12 months. Covid, of course, has changed things around, and that winding down feeling that typically takes place every December is now absent – OEM and Tier 1 vendor activity is now a continuum without any let-up. What’s more, whether they are participating or not, an Auto Expo looming early in January 2023 translates to some worried anticipation amongst industry players. In the midst of this, enter the awards. A reason to celebrate, exchange notes, and some harmless gossip. But are all honours worth receiving? Er, not exactly.
The KNEEJERK REACTION AWARD 2022 goes to… Mumbai Police & Delhi Police! Yes, I know, I know, what is wrong if the cops fine you for not wearing rear seatbelts while driving in the city? They are enforcing the law, which is what all talking heads like me, er, talk about. And it is indeed a good beginning. So why should they be given this honour? Because it’s an award given for showing exemplary token action, without actually doing anything substantial to reduce road injuries and fatalities. The issue is that the police are already stretched while managing traffic and making them go after already decently-protected car occupants instead of taking action against the real, brazen offenders who make our roads unsafe is mind-boggling. Cars are visible, lucrative, and easy-to-nab targets, hence challaning them for not wearing rear seatbelts is low-hanging fruit. How about taking firm action against those who break signals, drive or ride on the wrong side, ride without helmets, ride on pavements, park on pavements, etc.? Urban road fatalities and injuries most often affect two-wheeler riders, cyclists, and pedestrians, not car occupants, so this sudden fit of enthusiasm for road safety is misplaced.
The WATCH IT BEFORE YOU DIE AWARD 2022 goes to… no, it’s not an award for a great movie, but to all those numbskulls who watch videos while driving their vehicles. Our eyeballs are glued to our smartphone screens most of the time, but doing that even while driving or riding is perhaps the acme of cellphone addiction. Merely talking on the phone while you are behind the wheel is so distracting that it’s the equivalent of driving drunk and substantially slows down reaction times. So imagine WATCHING stuff. Heck, I need all my senses while driving and can’t take my eyes off the road even for a microsecond, so I don’t know how these extremely gifted video watchers manage to do both simultaneously. I can understand that driving can be stressful and tedious, but distracted driving is a killer. Multiple incidents of pile-ups and deaths across the country can be attributed to our screen addiction. So if you see somebody doing it, report it with evidence to the cops – these idiots deserve a better award than mine.
The NO ONE’S TO BLAME AWARD 2022 goes to…. well, no one. Our newsfeeds are full of reports of crashes and collisions of a diverse nature, across the subcontinent. Our roads are the great equaliser – it doesn’t matter who one is in life, we are all vulnerable by different degrees, but vulnerable nevertheless. Given that, when injuries and fatalities occur, have you noticed that a majority of crashes occur due to driver error? If most of us think we drive or ride very well or at least better than the next person, what explains our gruesome statistics? And how come no one else is to blame? Why is there no ownership? Why do all authorities pass the buck? When can we have an authority with powers vested in it to bring change? Till then, it’s no one’s fault that 150,000 Indians die on the roads every year.
And now for the final award. And it is the WHAT HORRIBLE TRAFFIC AWARD 2022, and the winners are all of us. We sit in traffic jams and gripe about the horrible traffic around us and the number of vehicles clogging up the roads. Most of us don’t realise that everyone else has as much reason as we do to be on the road. In other words, they must be cribbing about you while you are doing the same about them. So when you’re stuck in horrible traffic, remember you are traffic. Congratulations on the win.