I was amused to read this news report this morning.
It seems that there are motorcycle taxis in Nigeria with laws requiring pillion riders to wear helmets. To avoid this new law, instead of helmets, riders wear dried fruit shells, paint pots or pieces of rubber tyre tied to their heads with string.
Some motorcyclists complain that helmets are too expensive.
Some passengers refuse to wear them fearing they will catch skin diseases or be put under a black magic spell.
“They use pots, plates, calabashes, rubber and plastic as makeshift helmets,” said Yusuf Garba, commander of the Federal Road Safety Commission in the northern town of Kano.
As I read further, I realized the situation was not as amusing as I had at first thought.
‘There are tens of thousands of Okadas buzzing around Lagos, a chaotic city of 14 million people, many of them given to unemployed and illiterate youths as part of poverty reduction programmes or on hire-purchase schemes run by businessmen. Most have never been taught traffic rules.’
And what about the situation here in India?
In India we do not take any rule or law seriously. We feel that laws are made to be broken. And we do not even have the excuse of widespread illiteracy, as in Nigeria.
Remember the tragic case of Mohammed Mukharram, a twenty year old student who was shot dead by army guards after he trespassed into an army officer’s house in the high security defence area in Bangalore? This sad story happened because of speed-racing.
Traffic rules are flouted habitually by Indians- we think this is our birthright!
Car drivers often exceed the speed limits. Youngsters think it is ‘cool’ to hang out of the window of a car. It seems many drivers do not know what seat belts are there for.
How many times have we seem motorcyclists with their heads bent to one side while driving because they are talking on their cell-phones? Often, instead of two riders on a bike, there is a whole family of four or five people. And the way some motorcyclists weave from side to side while speeding along- the less said the better.
In villages, auto rickshaws often ply, overflowing with eight or ten people instead of three. I did not believe that these many people could fit inside a rickshaw, until one day I actually saw ten people alight from one.
After the Mumbai terror attacks, we, Indians, are ready to do whatever we can, for our country. Maybe we can start by following ordinary, everyday traffic laws?