Frustration hits a high when driving along the roughshod roads in Nagaland. Add to that the non-adherence to road rules and driving irresponsibly, and it turns to frustrated rage. It’s time we learnt how to follow basic rules and practices such as using signals while entering or exiting the highways, avoiding rash overtaking, creating double lanes, driving sober without the influence of alcohol or other abusive substances. Learning to drive is one thing but being civilized drivers is another.
Road Rage & Road Woes
“Nagas are so modernised, and you people have the latest of everything. It must also be very exciting to enjoy the bumpy rollercoaster ride in those fancy cars, no?” said my friend sarcastically, who had come to visit Nagaland for the first time. I was at a loss for words and a little embarrassed too. She was referring to the long stretch of bumpy roads, which of course is not a new thing for us. Much has been discussed on the sorry state of roads in Nagaland and maybe it is making the government and the concerned authorities take notice in some way...or maybe not!
Another concern besides the bad roads is rash driving and driving under the influence (DUI) which is becoming more common, especially among the younger generation. Drunk driving and driving under the influence (DUI) is a criminal offence in India under Section 185 of the Motor Vehicle Act. In 2016, the Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri. Narendra Modi, gave its approval for the Motor Vehicle Amendment Bill, where the penalty for drunk driving was increased from Rs. 2000 to Rs. 10,000. That is a good start I believe, but the question remains: is it really effective in a state like Nagaland? There are cases of when a driver under the influence of alcohol is caught after causing damage and is taken to the police station, but instead of following the rules strictly, the culprit is let off lightly because the matters are settled amicably between the vehicle owners. It is sad because it only portrays the weakness of the police force. Strict measures must be taken so that it will set an example thereby making citizens to be more conscious about driving under influence. If we look at the latest report of National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) released in December 2016, Nagaland had the second highest percentage increase, 49.2%, in total accidental deaths in 2015 as compared to 2014. In a state like Nagaland which is legally a dry state, the cases for drunk driving must be zero, but according to the 2015 statistics, there were only 4 reported cases of drunk driving.
Owning a car has become a necessity these days; however, the problem arises when we shy away from being responsible while being seated behind the wheel. A good driver is not someone who can drive the fastest but someone who understands the rules of driving on the road. The Nagaland Road Safety Act 2013 is already put in place and though the Nagaland Road Safety Authority Committee has been formed, there are many instances of road accidents on the news. Of course, the accident rate in Nagaland is neither high nor alarming as compared to the rest of the country; nonetheless, we do have serious accidents every now and then, with images of such tragedies going viral on WhatsApp. Many school-going students are seen driving cars, and this makes me wonder if these juveniles even have a valid driving licence. And when youngsters violate traffic rules and cause accidents, the guardians or the parents are equally to be blamed. Underage driving should not be encouraged. Young drivers account for many cases of road accidents. This is because they are, most of the time carried away by the idea of ‘the fast and the furious’.
Driving has its own share of responsibilities which we continue to ignore. Perhaps, having poor road conditions in Nagaland is a blessing in disguise for us. Otherwise, one cannot imagine the speed with which the cars will be plying on the road. This includes not only four-wheelers but even bikes. In our state, the roads are very narrow and therefore we need to be more careful. However, we behave as if the rules are non-existent. Over-taking is a major concern in our roads today. Everybody is rushing to reach their destination and it doesn’t matter if that happens at the expense of causing harm to the other. Such is the attitude most of us have while on the road.
We talk so much about being decent with regard to our dressing sense, our moral behaviour, and so on. So, how about we talk about being decent while driving? From my personal observation, most of the people do not have the decency to drive. For instance, the use of high beam lights while driving at night. One must understand that the glare distracts the driver’s coming in from the opposite direction and this could sometimes lead to accidents. Hundreds of lives are lost every year in road accidents and in most cases, it could have been avoided.
While the state government is taking a pledge to promote road safety, cases of road accidents due to rash driving are rapidly increasing. Just recently on 30th of April 2017, we saw the news on the local dailies about the hit- and- run case where three people were killed when a vehicle rammed into a two-wheeler. In September 2016, a minor girl aged 9 was killed in a hit-and-run case. These are just two instances but there are still many cases which have been registered. And most of these accidents happen due to over speeding and careless driving. It is high time that we inject the fear of law among drivers who put the lives of pedestrians and other drivers in danger due to their reckless driving. Learning to drive is one thing but let us learn to become civilized drivers first.