Maneuvering thru the labyrinth of traffic on roads in a metro city is an anathema which every motorist wants to avoid but is a stark reality of the times we live in. Driving during peak hours is a motorist’s worst nightmare. Whether it is the ring road in Delhi, MG Road in Bangalore, Dadar junction in Mumbai or one of the worst cities for traffic, Chennai. Hyderabad is slightly better but things can get quite messy out there as well during peak hours.
Getting stuck in a traffic jam is not something unusual for people living in metros and for office goers it more of a routine than an aberration. I was coming from ring road near Motibagh and like any other day it was choc a bloc. There were Countless traffic signals, serpentine queues of vehicle and motorcyclists cutting across on busy traffic interactions in stuntman like fashion. I have become masochistic, I presume and this chaotic traffic does not fret me anymore. There is no point raising my BP over something which I cannot control. Most of the people on our roads are on short fuse especially people in Delhi who have very good vocabulary of expletives. At times it helps venting out our anger and frustration at the fellow motorists or the eunuchs who ask for money on the traffic signals.
This incident happened last Sunday as I was listening to song Sia’s cheap thrills in my car waiting for the red light to turn green so that I can take my foot of clutch and move forward when I heard the wailing sound of siren. Another VIP, I mused. There are so many VVIPS in our country that we have lost count and all of them get a safe passage even in massive traffic jams where as we mere mortals suffer. This wailing sound was getting closer, I looked thru the rear view mirror but it was that of an ambulance. Now I was in the midst of this mega traffic jam where there was not even an inch of space available to move the vehicle towards either side but still taking a preemptive action in order to give the ambulance a free passage, I moved my vehicle slightly towards the left. I was driving in the right most lane, though right lane is for fast moving traffic which is another farce. Average traffic speeds comes to less than a kilometer an hour so all these talks of lane driving seem farcical in nature. Just as I moved my steering to turn my car towards left, car following me in the that lane came to a screeching halt, driver applied the sudden breaks and looked at me menacingly and not to mention that sweet expletives were hurled at me with some ferocity. We Delhities are unperturbed by these sweet unmentionables. Feigning ignorance, I kept on inching towards the left lane rather nonchalantly. By now the man who was on short fuse started abusing me vociferously. One thing that comes to my rescue in this situation is my baritone and my ability to speak Haryanvi. I pulled down the glass of my window and replied with some choicest of expletives in Haryanvi. As it works most of the times he pussy footed and backed off.
But there was no change in the situation of the ambulance which was still stuck in traffic jams. It was an advanced life support ambulance. Most of us might not be aware that there are three kinds of ambulances which operate.
- Advanced Life Support Ambulance: Ambulance is capable of providing treatment of life-threatening medical emergencies through the use of techniques such as endo- tracheal intubations, administration of drugs or intravenous fluids, cardiac monitoring, and electrical therapy by a qualified person.
- Basic Life Support Ambulance: Ambulance is capable of providing basic life support to the patients.
- Patient Transport Ambulance: A vehicle that is used for making non-emergency calls such as scheduled visits to a physician’s office for treatment, routine physical examinations, x-rays or laboratory tests, or is used for transporting patients upon discharge from a hospital or nursing home to a hospital or nursing home or residence, or attending to other non-emergency calls. Services and transportation is provided to a patient whose condition is considered stable. These patient transport ambulances are not usually (although there are exceptions) equipped with life-support equipment, and are usually crewed by staff with fewer qualifications than the crew of emergency ambulances. Their purpose is simply to transport patients to, from or between places of treatment. These can be vans, buses or other vehicles.
For all types of ambulances, emblems and markings have been explicitly specified. But laws in our country are meant to be flouted and ambulance drivers deliberately pressing on the siren to cut thru the traffic is quite rampant. I have given the above description so that one can easily identify the ambulance and gauge the gravity of the situation. An ambulance has to be mandatorily given a safe passage even as per Indian Motor vehicle rules.
Besides this there are certain minimum qualifications for an ambulance driver and not ever body can become an ambulance driver. He has to have a valid Driver’s license and an experience of more than two years; he must be a qualified paramedic and should have CPR certification. He should be a trained mechanic and should be able to handle any breakdown of vehicle.
But we have scant respect for rules and scant respect for human lives as well. It has been found that ambulances are involved in many accidents. Ambulances flouting traffic rules is common phenomena in our country. Ambulances have to follow traffic rules including stopping at the red light. It is widely believed that ambulances can jump the red lights but it is not the case. So many accidents have been reported because of rash and negligent driving by the ambulance drivers. These are some of the reasons why people don’t give passage to ambulance as well.
But even if they are flouting the rules, let us give them the benefit of doubt and do not tailgate an ambulance, give it space to turn back and change route in case road is jammed ahead.
Numerous instances of people getting stuck and losing their precious lives have been reported from Chennai, Delhi, Bangalore and many other cities. People losing their precious lives because of our insensitivities is really deplorable. I remember one particular incident in Chennai when a man lost his life on his way to hospital because the ambulance in which he was travelling was not given way. Who is to be blamed for these deaths? Why we are we so insensitive to the cries of people? We take immense pride in our culture and our values. Is this our culture to let people die on the road, Is this our culture to tailgate an ambulance so that we can have some relief and most dastardly is the deportment of some of our ambulance drivers who deliberately turn on the sirens to gain free passage on otherwise busy roads.
But all is not gloom and doom, numerous initiatives by Government and NGOs have started paying dividends. Some people are becoming sensitive and safe passage is indeed given to ambulances and emergency vehicles. But much more needs to be done if we don’t want to lose precious lives our people on the road because of traffic and our insensitivities.
Their wails created travails
Their cries were deride
Their prayers fell on deaf ear
Their sobs were probed
Humanity could have been saved
Had we heeded those wails
Had we moved an inch
Had we turned that steering
An incandescent lamp Instead of a funeral pyre
Would have been burning
The shame continues unabated.
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