CHENNAI: Amnesic. Perhaps this how we can describe Chennaities when it comes to traffic rules. Remember the Monday last December when almost every car driver on the roads were seen wearing that little belt across his torso? Even if some people have gotten into the habit of wearing seatbelts, most people have let it slide. Motorista no longer worry about the meagre fine of `100 and are extremely adept at coming up with ‘logical’ excuses, “See, i’m not going to drive at 100 kmph in Chennai’s traffic. I think the belt is not needed to hold me back as I can’t get flung from my car even if I apply the brake suddenly,” says G Shanmugavel, a call taxi driver at Nungambakkam.
But experts disagree. “Seat belts have played a great role in bring down accidents in many western counties. Even if we realise a 50 percent compliance to this rule, it will help bring down the road accident fatalities by a considerable number,” says N S Srinivasan of the Transport Advisory Forum.
It is true, as Shanmugavel says, that every one gets stuck in traffic snarls in the city and move slowly. But gory accidents can happen in a matter of seconds, “We never know when we may get a chance to drive at a higher speed. That’s why we must wear the seat belts. Even a sudden forward movement after using the brake can be life ending,” says a Chennai City Traffic Police officer.
When asked whether the city police has gone soft on violators of this rule, he denies it and added that at least 200 drivers are pulled up every day for not wearing the seat belt. But he says in most of the cases they only get advised and are spared of paying the fine.
He hopes that Chennaites will soon become mature enough to know that the seat belt can save lives — and people no longer need a cop to tell them what they themselves must be doing for their own good.