By Mr. Mahesh Rajoria, Senior Advisor Driving Training, Maruti Suzuki India Limited
This is college time. Braving steep cut-offs, entrance exams and other tough qualifiers, thousands of bright 18-year-olds are preparing for life after school. They also turn eligible for a driving license. We should encourage them to enroll at a quality driving training school.
India does not yet have a culture of driving training. Youngsters learn the basic controls of a vehicle from friends and relatives or, in the case of truck drivers, from their “ustaads”. They believe they are ready to take to the wheel. That is clearly not enough. By not insisting on quality driving training, we are putting at risk the lives of these youngsters, and of many other road users.
On the one hand, we want these youngsters to enroll in the best colleges to get quality education so they can have a great career and a successful life. But when it comes to their safety on the road, we are brazen about it.
Part of this attitude comes from the fallacy that driving is only operating the controls of a vehicle. That is wrong. A driver needs to know much more. Road rules, traffic signs and traffic laws are essential for safe driving. A driver ought to understand finer aspects like the speed of response. Once on the road, a driver has to be carefully trained in vehicle manoeuvre, in both merging and diverging traffic. Many drivers lack the basics of reversing, never being trained in speed control, steering in reverse gear or weaving the “S” bend. Parking skills is another gap among many drivers, causing safety problems and much frustration on the road.
To ensure a learner is equipped with all these skills, it is important to have training tools like a driving simulator. The training program must give adequate weight to classroom training, where knowledge of traffic laws and right road behaviour can be imparted. The instructors should first be properly trained. Only then can they be capable trainers.
I am often told that youngsters do not enroll at a good driving school because getting a driving license is easy. (Many local driving shops make it even easier!). I know the current licensing system does not mandate, or even encourage, people to go in for driving training. But should we depend on the law to make decisions about our own safety? Just because the law does not require us to train in driving, is that reason for us to put out own lives at risk? How ridiculous is that!
Take seat belts, for example. These can be vital life-savers in a crash. With cars now starting to meet advanced safety norms, complete with airbags and other equipment, not wearing a seat belt (including on the rear seat) can cause even more damage in a crash. Yet, there are so many of us drivers and occupants who do not wear a seatbelt and go to great lengths to hoodwink the traffic police. Aren’t we being plain silly about our safety?
The scene with regard to truck drivers is even more disturbing. Young boys with little or no education start out as “cleaners”. They learn the controls by trial and error. In our refresher programs for truck drivers, we see large gaps not just in their driving skills, knowledge of rules and road behaviour, but also with regard to health and hygiene. Disregard for proper training is putting lives at risk and making people miserable on our roads.
India has one of the largest road fatalities – nearly 1.5 lakh people die every year in road accidents. As a country, we want to bring this down by much, and do it fast. But let not just the threat of an accident or fear of law take us to a quality driving school. Instead, we recognise that as young and responsible citizens, we have to take ownership of our safety and of others on the road. So we choose proper driving training.
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