My colleague Navdeep has been sporting a clunky waist belt lately. It’s not a fashion statement.
Last week, she had a narrow escape in a horrible accident on the airport-Dwarka road while returning from a late night assignment. A car rammed into her cab, sending her flying from the back seat to the dashboard. Hence the belt — a doctor’s prescription for a backache.
Perhaps if rear passenger seat belts were compulsory in India, she may not have been hurt. But then again, even if it was compulsory, how many people would have bothered?
Not many, seeing how most drivers themselves seem to consider seat belts a bane. I know someone (I can’t give you any hints about her because she is convinced that the police will nab her on this basis) who never wears a seat belt. She holds it over her shoulder if a cop is around, or hangs on to it with one hand, but never, ever wears it. “It’s uncomfortable and cuts into my paunch,” she says. To her, it makes a lot more sense to hang on to the bulge!
She’s not alone though. I know at least 15 people who would rather not buckle up. One is an on-trend colleague, who hates wearing seat belts when she’s dressed for a party. “Clothes get bad creases,” she complains. Another says seat belts are the sworn enemies of saris. Frankly, I’d prefer creases to the doctor’s straightjacket.
But, that’s not how most people think. According to the Delhi Traffic Police, in 2010, the Capital saw 69,860 seat belt violations. In 2011, by February 15, there were already 14,452 offenders.
The only solution, feel the powers that be, is persistent prosecution. “People in India don’t believe in safety. So, we have to put security measures in place,” says Satyendra Garg, joint commissioner of police (traffic). He adds that they are currently on a concerted drive to catch cars with tinted glasses and defective number plates, in the process of which, several thousand seat belt offenders were also found. So, if you ask me, don’t just buckle up, keep all your papers in order too! The cops are out there and they have their eyes on you!