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In the 9 years that I have been residing in Gurgaon, rare is a week gone by when I don’t see the battered remains of vehicles as I ferry my boys around. It sends shivers down my spine and reminds me of my car accident in our first year in Gurgaon…the smell of burnt tyres, taste of blood and the eyes of scores of bystanders unwilling to help. Fortunately I live on, albeit with a very healthy wariness of Gurgaon and Delhi roads and motorists.
You see, the joys of a wide road also come with the trappings of speed maniacs! More so in our BPO capital, with cabs being driven like bullets released from a rifle!!! If that was not enough, we have educated people racing to work unmindful of any traffic regulations. Have you noticed that in our power starved city whenever the electricity goes off and the traffic lights goes off, the roads become a free for all…. survival of the fastest!!
If all this was not worrying enough, I have noticed time and again, a trend among parents to find innovative ways to flirt with danger while driving their children around. Yes, parents and not drivers and maids, for whom one can find a justification!! Here are some of the most common scenarios:-
Baby/ toddler on Mommy’s lap on the front passenger seat as Daddy drives around. Often even taking calls as he drives!!
Child or children bouncing on the rear seat as if it were a bed!!
Child stuck to the rear seat window panes as parents drive on blissfully unaware of it.
Child standing proudly between Mommy and Daddy being driven around on our characteristic potholed roads!!
This being the deadliest- driving around with the baby sitting between the driver and the steering wheel!!
My biggest shocker to date was in our last condominium’s driveway, which was quite a thoroughfare on its own. A father was very proudly driving his barely 2 year old daughter astride the bonnet of his jeep! Even now I can recall my horror and those of my friends as we witnessed that, swallowing on our helpless anger. For, if we had opened our mouths, that dad would have pulverized us given his fascination for maintaining his muscles!
I get accusatory stares from my boys every time I buckle them down in their seats. But whenever I witness such scenes of gross negligence of car safety, I wonder if I have lost my marbles or I am hallucinating? In almost all instances, the parents seem rather sanguine about it. To be honest, when I had my first child, I too was rather uninformed about car safety. But as you go along, your basic sense of self preservation kicks in and your natural parental instinct realizes the need for securing your child. Especially, given that we have such deplorable roads. One week of rain shower and you are left driving on cavernous roads, which my boys have aptly named our ‘diggy diggy roads’.
The aim is not to insult, belittle or underestimate anyone through this writing. In all probability, this does not strike people as important as one goes through a myriad of important and pressing chores through the day. Instead it should be seen as advice, a reminder or caveat to secure one’s child at any cost.
Car Safety Do’s and Don’ts
Do not allow children to sit in the front-seats, especially NEVER on the driver’s lap. Besides the fact that children are more vulnerable to injuries in case of a collision, they are also at risk because of front-seat airbags. Airbags are very powerful when inflated, and they're placed so low that a child placed in front of an airbag may suffocate or be severely injured by the impact of a rapidly inflating airbag.
Do use child seats, firmly fitted on the rear seats, for young children. There are specially designed car seats available for infants, toddlers and older children, with each model coming with a weight limit.
Do secure older children in the rear seats using seat belts.
Keep checking if the children are still secured from time to time. Kids seem to take buckles and straps as a challenge and will work hard to get out of them.
Children should not be standing in a moving car. Traffic is unpredictable and sudden braking can make a young child fly across the car and get severely injured.
Never leave the keys in the ignition when you get out of the car, even for a moment, if there still any kids inside. In any case, young children must never be left alone inside a vehicle, even when the engine is turned off.