Simple tips for citizens to ensure safe journeys

Earlier this year, the Motor Vehicles Amendment Act 2019 was passed with a view to strengthening road safety. Despite the new law and harsher penalties for violation of traffic rules, accident headlines make it to news every other day. In the end, our safety is our responsibility.

As responsible citizens, we need to realize that safe driving is in the interest of each of us, and our safety is not the responsibility of the government or of anyone else. The sooner we accept this fact, the better.

Earlier this year, the Motor Vehicles Amendment Act 2019 was passed by the government with a view to strengthening road safety. The new law sets out much harsher penalties for violation of traffic rules, but even after that we see newspaper headlines on accidents across the country almost every other day. Many of these could have been clearly avoided if safe driving rules had been followed stringently.

Here are some tips that can mean the difference between life and death:

 Seat Belts: The use of seat belts can never be over-emphasized. Every other day, we come across news of road accidents where lives have been saved by the seat belt, but what is not being highlighted enough is that there are seat belts in the rear seat also, and passengers in the back seat must also secure the seat belt for their own safety. Here is a useful article on this subject that appeared in 2013 in Reader’s Digest:

The Back Seat Belt

So you think you don’t need to wear the seat belt if you’re in the back seat of a car? Even the authorities seem to think so—though the law mandates you wear it. The Central Motor Vehicles Rules stipulate that both front seat and front-facing rear-seat passengers all buckle-up when a vehicle is in motion. So this must be the most diluted law of the land. Even the traffic police are not taking the rear seat passenger safety seriously. Take the case of the noted comedian Jaspal Bhatti. Bhatti, 57, died after his car rammed into a tree. He was in the rear seat, and not wearing his belt. Chances are he might have lived had he just worn it—why, his son Jasraj, who was at the wheel and buckled up, survived the accident.

It’s high time the authorities cracked down and insisted that the back-seat occupants too adhered to the life-saving law. As for you — front or back seat — wear the seat belt always, for your own good.

Ironically, in India, where instances of fatal crashes are far more than in other countries, we are still trying to come to terms with seat belts because they may cause a little discomfort. And in the rear seat, it’s considered even more of an absurdity! Is the discomfort of the seat belt worse than the agony of a hospital stay?

Speed: The highways in India are now changing for the better, allowing for smoother and faster rides. However, the flip side is that we are driving faster, but are we driving safer? The answer is an emphatic no! More accidents are happening on the highways and expressways due to people driving at breakneck speed. This is worsened with newer and faster car models. According to a report from the road transport and highways ministry, titled ‘Road Accidents in India, 2018’, 64.4% of the total road fatalities in India were in accidents caused by overspeeding.

Can we try and cap our speed to, say, 100 kmph on highways? Here is my take on this issue: If you drive fast, you might reach your destination in an hour; if you drive slow and steady, you will still make it in 60 minutes!

Duration: We know for sure that often drivers on service are made to drive almost non-stop for long hours from early morning to late night. I am basing this on a recent accident that involved close associates. One person died on the spot and others sustained major injuries.

We must take care to allow sufficient rest to the driver so that he doesn’t dose off while driving. We can occasionally stop and let him have a cup of tea or coffee. We need to ensure that all the passengers do not go off to sleep, especially the one in the front seat. The driver should be constantly engaged in small talk, and cautioned every now and then to slow down, use the dipper, etc.

Say ‘no’ to your mobile: If you get a call while you are driving, either reject or ignore it. If you must take the call, park safely on the roadside and complete your call. Your safety is more important than that call! Some feel that they can use the phone in the Bluetooth mode, but this is equally dangerous. While you are on the phone, your mind is diverted and you cannot concentrate on driving.

Signal your intention: Many drivers think that an indicator is only meant to signal the direction in which they want to turn. In fact, it’s more important to signal your intention when switching lanes if you do not want the vehicle coming from behind to crash into you! This also brings me to the subject of lane driving.

 Stick to your lane. There is no need to ‘fill in the blank’ if you see some gap in the adjacent lane. Moreover, if you see the other lane moving faster, just wait for a few minutes and it will be the other way round.

Rear view mirrors must be adjusted for maximum vision. As a thumb rule, the side mirrors should be almost at right angles to the car body. Here’s a link to a video clip that explains in detail how best to adjust your mirrors:

Drunken Driving is a strict no-no.

Overtake only when you are sure there is no oncoming traffic from the other side, and never overtake at a blind curve!

You don’t want to crash into that car in front of you, especially if he applies a sudden brake! Allow sufficient distance to be able to slow down gradually. This will also help to enhance the life of your brake-lining!

Beware of speed breakers: On Indian highways, you will come across speed breakers or rumble strips randomly built, in spots where you least expect them. If you speed over such breakers, not only are you likely to damage the vehicle, you might even lose control and crash!

Use Dipper at night. This is a cardinal rule for safe driving at night for your own benefit as well as for oncoming traffic.

Rainy season driving demands more caution; tyres must have proper treads, one  must drive slowly to avoid skidding, ensure that the vehicle has highly effective wipers, and so on.

Pic: Vijay Bagaria

Beware of traffic hazards: Stray cattle, a toddler suddenly running across the road, a biker materializing from nowhere and whizzing by from the wrong side, a vehicle parked on one side without flashing lights (this is a massive danger in the night), the ULO (Unidentified Lying Object) on the road, a cyclist suddenly deciding to cross your path, and so on.

Safety is paramount for you and your loved ones; so, drive or ride safely and reach safe!


  1. Ravi Tewari says:

    Very well written. It comprehensively covers multifarious aspects of safe driving. I would like urge upon everyone to meticulously follow the tips in the article. Wish everyone safe driving!

  2. goutam sen says:

    I remember coming back from UK in the 1980’s. I wanted seat belts for my Gypsy. They had none. I had to customise it.
    I also started a seat belt clib in my hospital and gradually made everybody use the seat belt.
    Even earlier i was the first to make my wife use a helmet on the scooter.
    Take all precautions while driving.

  3. Vijay Bagaria says:

    Thanks, Ravi! You had also mentioned to me about mountain driving. I suppose this article applies to ALL driving conditions, but obviously mountain driving requires more skills.

  4. Shiv Shankar Datta says:

    Very nice reading sir ! Though all the points mentioned is not unknown to us but somehow we miss those while traveling. Looking forward to more writing from you.
    Warm regards,


    Excellent Sir. These tips are very very essential and must be followed by every body while travelling and particularly while driving to avoid accident and for general safety.

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