Sunil Gavaskar: Rishabh Pant’s accident a wake-up call for speedsters on the road

Rishabh Pant’s accident drove home the point that it need not be your error that causes a calamity involving you on Indian roads.

Rishabh Pant being shifted from Max Hospital in Dehradun on January 4 to be airlifted to Mumbai for further treatment. He is all set to miss the Test series against Australia in March and perhaps even the IPL.

Rishabh Pant being shifted from Max Hospital in Dehradun on January 4 to be airlifted to Mumbai for further treatment. He is all set to miss the Test series against Australia in March and perhaps even the IPL. | Photo Credit: PTI

Rishabh Pant’s accident drove home the point that it need not be your error that causes a calamity involving you on Indian roads.

Rishabh Pant’s lucky escape is a good wake up call for youngsters who get their thrill by speeding. The one thing to remember in India is that however good you are as a driver, others may not be as good, and it’s their mistake which can cause an accident.

Pant suggests, according to reports, that he tried to avoid a pothole, and so the car swerved and the accident happened. That’s another aspect of driving in India. The quality of roads is not always the best, meaning an accident can happen any time. While travelling to and from the T20 game in Pune recently, we found that there are many miles of road which are bumpy even on the famed Mumbai-Pune expressway. So if a person is speeding, there’s every possibility of the driver losing control due to the uneven surface, and the accident can happen any time.

Sadly, road deaths are hardly ever taken seriously unless it happens closer to home to one’s near and dear ones. There’s hardly any accountability for the road contractor and he continues to get his ‘benefit match’ over and over again.

The other concerning factor is that driving licenses are given without adequate checks. Our driving schools are a joke. Most schools are interested in churning out so-called drivers. This is not simply about driving straight or reversing properly and parking correctly. It is about being able to read road signs and to drive accordingly.

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Most long-distance drivers have not been to school, and so are unable to read or write. They are also under the pressure of delivering their goods on time, and so usually don’t mind taking shortcuts and ignoring road signs and traffic signals. With more and more powerful engine cars coming on the Indian roads, it is tantamount to handing a lethal weapon to those who don’t know how to drive correctly. Even simple norms like using an indicator for turning or switching lanes aren’t practiced when all it requires is a flick of the finger.

Disregard for rules

Try standing at a traffic signal on the road on any given day and you will find that traffic rules are broken mostly by the professional drivers, regardless of whether they are driving corporate vehicles or public vehicles.

Seeing the number of deaths and near fatal accidents on Indian roads as the commissioner for Road Safety World Series has brought out this rant. I am not even talking about those who barely survive and are physically challenged for the rest of their lives.

They say that New York City, which was in the 1970s and 80s considered the crime capital of the world, became a safer city when the then mayor brought in a zero-tolerance policy for even the most minor traffic offences. It is hoped that this policy is implemented in India. It would certainly go a long way in having more responsible motorists on the roads.

Hopefully, young Rishabh will recover quickly and be back in action sooner that later. The government of India would then be smart if it uses him as brand ambassador for road safety, and through him reach out to ensure that more and more drivers – especially the professional ones – become aware of the traffic signs and rules to reduce the number of accidents on our roads.

There was another accident that happened, but this one was at home to Salim Durani. The 88-year-old genius – that’s the only way to describe a player who could change the game with both bat and ball – fell at his home and broke his leg. Today, he would be bought for crores by IPL franchises. He, however, played cricket when there was no money in it, and so he is dependent on the BCCI monthly grant and some smaller ones from trusts like the CHAMPS foundation and other well-wishers.

The BCCI has very kindly given him the medical expenses for his treatment, which is wonderful. His expenses will be chicken fed when compared to what Pant’s will be, but make no mistake, during his playing days, he was as big a crowd puller as – or greater than – Rishabh Pant is today.

Here’s wishing both the speediest of recoveries.

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