P.S. Have you fastened your seat belt?

Blogger: Nandita Parekh

IA @ BCAS Blog #19

The news of the sad and untimely demise of Mr. Cyrus Pallonji Mistry is tragic and shocking. The accident has been widely covered by news and social media and moving eulogies have been written about the gentleman who left the world too early. Amidst the feeling of sadness that surrounds the incident, one thing that keeps coming up in conversations and WhatsApp forwards is the importance of fastening the seat belt, even in the rear seat.

My mind goes back to a tragedy that hit my family in 1987, when my sister, at the age of 26 years, was the victim of a road accident that took her life; a tragedy that could have been avoided had there been seat belts and air bags. That was the time when the cars in India had no seat belts.

The two incidents together, reviewed from the perspective of risks and controls, highlight two vastly different situations – the latter, where controls were not instituted and the former, where the controls existed but were not operational. This has led me to examine the various controls that are instituted for our safety, but we have somehow not made them operational; particularly those that are not mandated by law.

I share a few examples here, that has made me introspect:

Fire extinguishers in residential houses and societies – many residential houses and societies, particularly in urban areas, now have fire extinguishers placed in visible location. At the time of installation, a small demo is also given, attended sparsely and soon forgotten. In the unfortunate event that a fire occurs in our residence, would we know how to operate the fire extinguisher? And, have we made sure that the extinguisher is refilled periodically, as required?

Air travel and life jackets – the quantum of air travel has increased manifold  and in countries like India, we have many first-time fliers. Airlines, at least in India, continue to follow the protocol of explaining the safety measures comprising of seat belts, oxygen masks and life jackets…. But like the warning given in mutual fund T V advertisements, these instructions are often delivered at a fast speed, in a mechanical manner – adequate to serve as a reminder to a seasoned flier, but perhaps not fully understood by first-time or infrequent fliers. In case of a real emergency, would there be chaos, or would the passengers be able to operate the safety measures with ease?

Pandemics and Masks – the covid pandemic that hit the world in 2020, saw the whole world getting in the habit of wearing masks and using hand sanitizers; we became aware and cautious about what we touch, whom we meet and whom we allow into our houses/offices. While the initial masks (N-95/N-99) were functional, plain, and effective, soon, even when the 2nd wave made its way, the masks became colourful, well-coordinated with clothes and perhaps very superficial in their effectiveness. The effective control of a medically tested mask was soon replaced to preserve the appearance of safety, while sacrificing the effectiveness. Are there controls around you that have been diluted, so that they give a false comfort?

The familiarity trap – “Approximately 52 percent of all car accidents occur within a five-mile radius of home, and 69 percent of all collisions happen within a 10-mile radius from home. The implications are that shorter trips closer to home are among the highest for car accidents” reveals a study by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), USA. In familiar territory, we tend to lower our guard, become more distracted and perhaps over-confident. The same is true about certain practices that we have seen around us and never questioned. For example, a traditional belief that a chubby, fat child is a healthy child; or, that without sugary sweets celebrations remain incomplete. And, what about the incidences of a familiar ‘home beautician’ walking away with gold bangles and mobile phones? A risk aware culture encourages examination of biases, beliefs and trends to reassess risks and plug the gaps.

Senior safeguards – with aging population, the risk of a fall increases, both, in likelihood and its impact. Femur bone fractures and hip ball replacement account for many emergency operations. We hear of so many cases of senior, aged persons falling in a locked bathroom and not receiving help for hours, till the bathroom door is forced open. And we see public spaces having stairs that have no railings, pavements that are difficult to maneuver without sports shoes and a huge reluctance amongst elders to use the basic safety measure – a walking stick.  We see these occurrences all around us, but we act only when an accident hits us directly. Much of health care costs and agony can be saved with proper publicity of the risks and the implications.

As I conclude, I prod you to sit back and think of all the day to day activities where you see risks being undermined, controls being absent or ignored…. So that together we can create an environment of greater safety, fewer regrets and a lot less agony.

P.S.– have you fastened your seat belt? Please do, because you are precious!

The Blog solely reflects the personal views and opinions of the author(s).

6 thoughts on “P.S. Have you fastened your seat belt?

  1. Beautiful narration… Thank you for putting this together. A reflection, i got is Falsified familiarity led comfort breeds contempt & indifference amongst indulgent for the safety or cautionary practices.. So the surprise thru accidents / failures become common and familiar often.

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  2. Thank you Nandita

    Your article is indeed thought provoking and we surely need to give up the “chalta hain” attitude which is a very lethargic form of existence. Your personal tragedy resonates with many of us and definitely we need to address all issues today itself. And on road you do not need to wait for the SEAT BELTS ON Light to switch on.

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  3. So well articulated, Nandita. I have taken note of all and would practice in my day to day life. Thanks for the eye opener blog. Cheers🥂

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