Dec 12, 2006

Rising Motorcycle Deaths: Solutions?

The cup spilleth over. Motorcycles are the rage right now and everyday it claims more than a few victims. A fairly large number perish because they're not wearing lids, not concentrating on riding, are probably drunk or incapable and most often, all of the above.

But the minority, and these chaps invariably make the news, are just youngsters out to have some fun. Fun being 'lane-cutting,' 'Dhoom 2 stunting,' and so forth. Between the motorcycle illiterate journalists who report these sad and depressing events and the reckless and unfortunate victims of the accident itself, it is we, the serious Indian motorcyclists who are being maligned. Which parent in their right minds, would read these reports and then let their precious 18-year old out on a bike? I would, but I'm nuts.

I am sure it has happened elsewhere in the world before, and we all have heard of specific motorcycles being banned in places (the RD350 comes to mind) for being too dangerous (or over-represented in accident fatality statistics). And it's about to happen to us.

As more and more of these stories come out, the police will grow less and less tolerant of us. They'll think, 'the stupid f**ks deserve to die.' Or worse, they'll think, 'Riding in full gear? Must be a racer. I', gonna f***in kick his arse into jail.' Neither of which is funny, or fair. Especially to those of us, who actually care about how we ride, how much safer we can make it and invest a fair amount of our time, money, effort and emotion to riding.

In the past couple of months, between Mid Day and Mumbai Mirror there has been a book-sized list of motorcycle death stories. And only a couple were speeding truck/busses. The rest were all young chaps, out for a on-the-sly night run, stunt went bad, electricity pole, crash, blood, sirens, cops, hospital and morgue... 'Two young motorcyclists killed imitating Dhoom 2,'

A friend recently told me that a plainclothes cop was asking around for a chap who'd fit a second disc on his modded R1 Pulsar. Another tells me of a meeting where cops called a whole bunch of mechanics together and told them to stop all performance mods. Or else.

But do they really believe that the bent and pre-crashed RX100 that was involved in the latest of the stories killed its riders. Had it been ported and tuned to rally-spec, would it have killed them, er, harder? Forget the fact that adding a fairing is no performance mod for a just-about-100 kph bike.

Why are they targeting the mod-bike crowd? Just becuase they happen to be the most visible (for umpteen reasons) of motorcyclists? And do they think that the mod-bike crowd riding bone-stock mobikes will be any safer? Have they bothered to see that accident prone zones (like the JJ Flyover) are killers simply because the mod-crowd lacked skill? There is one decreasing radius corner on that bridge. Just one. And people fall of everything in that corner - splendors, calibers, pulsars, karizmas, both modded and stock. Both fast and slow... They all simple lack skill and judgment.

What I think is needed is a comprehensive system of motorcycle training. License tests are a joke. You know it, you've laughed at it. It should not be. Being certified to pilot a 150 kg missile or a 2-ton metal tank should be difficult. Every tom, dick and harry does not deserve a license. They should have to earn it.

I think more rigorous enforcement is needed. Speeding fines should be in the tens of thousands. Licenses should be suspended often. Jump a red light? That'll be Rs 10,000. Cops should not be allowed to levy any fines on the spot except by credit card. Jump a light? Submit license, come to a conveniently located Fine Collection Center, pay up. License will be couriered to you shortly. Caught stunting on public roads? Rs 50,000 fine, two year ban of driving and riding. Now let's see who has the balls to be stupid on the road.

Training and enforcement apart, I think we need a racetrack, or at least a place where this crowd can go to be rowdy on the weekend. An exhaust valve of sorts. An acre of so of paved surface without any poles and obstructions will do. They can wheelie till their engines fall off and they'll have nothing more than basic road rash to show for it. A racetrack attached to the paved surface would be great. It's a great place to find out how good you really are, a safe place to go balls out and a facility that invariably calms down crazy-fast road riders.

8 comments:

Sankoobaba said...

Seems like a dream!!!

Yogesh Sarkar said...

Media is looking for stories; first they call people who do stunts on public roads bustling with traffic professional stunters or “bikers”. Then when those people die or cause an accident doing the same thing, they cover them as hooligans out for fun!

As for cops they are always looking to categorize trouble makers based on how they are dressed or if they are from a particular background. It makes it easy for them to keep an eye out for people like those, after all in country where there are millions of two wheelers, it is almost impossible for cops to differentiate idiots from average Joe!

As for licensing policies, well they are not likely to change any time soon and even if they change what will happen to all those nincompoops who have already got license issued? In any case there are several people who are not a least bit worry about getting a license or for that matter paying fines.

In Delhi, police sends challans to the address given in the registration to avoid getting in to ugly situation by trying to stop a speeding vehicle. And I know many who take pride in the fact that they have wrong address or previous address listed in the RC and know they won’t have to pay the fine!

Strict enforcement is defiantly needed, but more than that we need awareness. And when people try to raise a voice and try to talk about things like this, what happens? They get booed!

Remember those who were and still are organizing against any law to make helmet compulsory in various cities?

Anonymous said...

Quite an all-round write-up. You have summarized all the points in a pretty readable package.

Tanmay said...

Measures like forcing the mechanics not to do performance mods are sortsighted as best. A comprehensive policy to improve road discipline is something badly required. And our government, does not seem to have time to spare to address these issues that appear in daily life of every citizen. The only hope is now the Supreme Court. May the Supreme Court meddle in and force the governments to set the things in order.

Anonymous said...

" What I think is needed is a comprehensive system of motorcycle training. License tests are a joke. You know it, you've laughed at it. It should not be. Being certified to pilot a 150 kg missile or a 2-ton metal tank should be difficult. Every tom, dick and harry does not deserve a license. They should have to earn it.

I think more rigorous enforcement is needed. Speeding fines should be in the tens of thousands. Licenses should be suspended often. Jump a red light? That'll be Rs 10,000. Cops should not be allowed to levy any fines on the spot except by credit card. Jump a light? Submit license, come to a conveniently located Fine Collection Center, pay up. License will be couriered to you shortly. Caught stunting on public roads? Rs 50,000 fine, two year ban of driving and riding. Now let's see who has the balls to be stupid on the road."

Boy are you dreaming wild or writing wild? :D
It aint gonna happen.The roads and the country is for all tammys,dicks and harried people.So any rules that are made must first suit these ppl,not motorcycle enthusiasts.The essence of motocycle riding in india is not people loving bikes..it the common man, a commuter, a milkman...

you can write loads of tecnical stuff--in india it just doesn't work!

-vickyr_88

Bharath said...

Agree with this blog on most things. People don't have enough competence (read lack of training and no road sense) to ride bikes or drive other vehicles. Add to it Indian Society, age-based social majority in any situation, might is right of truckers and buses, inconsiderate morons on all big vehicles, Brownian motion of the indian roads.

Anonymous said...

BikeNomads: My observation, guys who tour regularly, very few accidents , zero deaths last 2 years. Most riders have decent protective riding gear, ALL WEAR HELMETS. Most average 80 kmph on the highways. Many are able to maintain steady cruising speed s tween 90/100.

My take is that members of good on line riding clubs have wealth of info on safe riding and mobike maintainence.

thinKinBLaQ said...

seen a few idiots pull wheelies off at signals, only to end up with a few broken teeth. had an ugly experience with one of these modded RX's slam into me. the kid was 17 years old for crying out loud. here i am, shining my baby till the skin from my fingers begin to peel, riding safe, observing every rule in the book & SLAM! i'm the one who ends up with a huge bill & looking like an idiot.
i agree, too long have people taken bikes for granted. get a license ONLY when you pass a rigorous test.
It's a long road ahead... hope this one's not as rough though.