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2 Sep 2006

Blind Alley

Posted by Oblivion in General | 12:10am

One of the stronger reasons why stupid laws/rules exist, and continue to do so, is that there are always a good number of takers for these. From the recent times, I remember two - helmet rule and seat-belt rule. Wearing a helmet and fastening seat belt are mandatory in some countries and in some states in India. When the same was adopted in Hyderabad, there was huge support from media. Government presented it as an act of concern and it worked. A sizeable section of population believed it and hailed the same as a great decision.

Helmets and seat belts are safety utilities meant for individuals. It should be an individual's discretion whether to use them or not. I don't see any good reason for interference by state about this. If anybody is concerned about a person's safety, it's the person himself. It's absolute bullshit to entertain the belief that state cares more. Sadly, this is how the whole point was presented.

There are a few important points to consider:
1.Accidents happen (besides so many other factors) not because of those chaps who do away with helmets or seat belts, but those who don't know how to (or don't care to) guide their vehicles through non-interfering trajectories (of course, you need to have excellent roads and low-density traffic for this to be possible).

2.Safety utlities are meant to save you when an accident happens. They do not, in any way, help cut the rate of accidents.

3.Driving is connected to behavior. It's absurd to believe that a chap would become a better driver by simply having a helmet or seat belt on. A chap drives best when he feels comfortable. As regards taking safety measures, it depends on the confidence and attitude of the chap. Hence, it's ridiculous to enforce a code on this.

Gavaskar and Richards never wore a helmet, but they were not any less dangerous batsmen than Sachin or Ponting.

4.There's something called 'risk compensation'. In general, people tend to take more risks when their safety is better assured. While a good driver would still be good with the seat belt on, a bad, arrogant driver would tend to be more so. It happens at a subconscious level, so it cannot be dismissed just because the effects are not obvious. Try batting with and without a safety gear and map it with the risks taken in each case, and one can notice the difference. 

5.Fastening seat belts makes sense when the vehicle hits top speeds. So, it's more necessary on highways and in cities that have speed-lane system. You don't need seat belts in cities like Hyderabad or Bangalore where your vehicle tops 60 for just a few seconds - or minutes, at best - in a one-hour drive.

Interestingly, cops keep a check on this only on city roads. Hit the highway and no cop charges you for not having your seat belt fastened or not wearing a helmet.

6.Children don't consent, and they need to be cared for. For this reason, it's fine to have seat belts for them. Adults can consent, and understand the importance of their safety. They should better be left to make decisions for themselves.

7.If you break a signal, you affect the traffic on the other side and endanger others' safety. In this case, it's quite logical if you are mandated to follow signals. But if you don't wear a helmet, you put your own safety at risk. It's none of state's or anybody's business to force you to do otherwise. It amounts to unwarranted intrusion.

8.The reason why government enforces such rules is not because of your safety or any such good shit. It's a simple equation - setting up a deal with helmet manufacturers, tenders for dealers, penalties when you fail to wear. It's all about money. If the reason, as they cite, is your safety, then why don't they ban manufacture of cigarettes? Smoking kills more people per year than accidents do. So, why not close down all cigarette manufacturing shops? They don't, for it directly translates to loss in millions. In this case, they play safe by stopping at the statutory warning. So, why don't they do the same with the helmet and seat-belt rules? Why not just stop at advertisements about advantages of helmets and seat belts?

9.The one benefit, technically, that comes of enforcing these rules is a good cut in hospitalisation and insurance costs. Since these are linked to the tax that people pay, it benefits the majority, after all. However, it can be considered a benefit only if it reduces the tax burden on the majority. But this never happens. So, although theoretically there's a benefit, actually there's no benefit at all.

If the state is really concerned about people's safety on roads, they should pay more attention to regulating the traffic better. Plan the traffic movement better, make the roads better, have a bribe-free licensing system in place, come up with a system to record driving history of drivers, make the penalty process more sensible, and, most importantly, educate cops. The focus should be on regulating the traffic better, not on enforcing silly rules and filling up pockets with money collected by way of penalties. Stupid rules encourage conscienceless cops to abuse.

But then, I believe things don't become better as long as there is this group of takers for irrational ideas. Unless these people get some sense, it won't be surprising if after five years the state decides to depute a cop in every bedroom to enforce rules of safe sex and it's praised by media and these people alike as a great move to control AIDS!

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1 Comments | "Blind Alley" »

  1. By chandrasekar

    21 Nov 2006, 4:27pm [ Reply ]

    yes.. it is purely a personal wish to wear a helmet or seat belt.. governament should stop un necessay interventioan in peoples personal matters..i do agree with that the cops should be educated properly.

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