SUV crash raises many questions

SUV crash raises many questions

A Range Rover flipped over and landed in a ditch during a test drive, killing a 31-year-old businessman. What could have gone wrong?

This Range Rover Evoque was on a test drive when it hit a railing and flipped over.

Earlier this week, a speeding Range Rover Evoque crashed into a railing and toppled over, killing a businessman in his early thirties. Sagar Jayaram, his wife Sowmya, their six-year-old son Samarth, his friend Goutham, and a staffer of the car showroom were in the vehicle at the time of the accident. The family was doing a test drive on the NICE expressway near PES College.

Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic) P Harishekaran blames speeding for the accident. The car, he says, was going at 120 km.

“Our speed radar guns are operational round the clock on roads where people tend to speed---NICE Road, and the roads to the international airport and K R Puram,” he told Metrolife.

Many driving posh cars step on the gas the moment they hit a highway. They are terrified when they are stopped by the police, and try to bribe their way out of trouble, offering up to Rs 10,000 to be let off without a case, says Harisekaran. “This is a direct reflection of the attitude of the person at the wheel,” he observes.  

 On the road to the airport, passengers late for their flights often tell their drivers to speed up. The Range Rover was being driven at 120 kmph, beyond the prescribed test drive speed limit.

DCP (West) Soumyalatha S K, says vehicles within the city can’t go beyond 60 kmph, but once they hit less crowded stretches, such as the NICE expressways, they tend to zoom irresponsibly.

“We can’t deploy police personnel on NICE Roads because they are free-flowing traffic lanes. However, we do book cases against bikers doing wheelies and stunts there,” she says.

Police place speed radar guns on the Outer Ring Road and regularly book cases against speeding drivers.    

Automobile companies are not too particular when potential customers ask for test drives. In most cases, they don’t even ask to see the customer’s driving licence.

But it is good to follow norms, says L N Ajay Singh, director of sales and marketing, Advaith Hyundai.

“When people call for a test drive, we check whether they have a valid licence and note down the details. We also have a preset test drive route, usually not changed under any circumstances,” he says.

The company employs technology to drive home the message of safe driving. “We have something called the talking car which begins talking as soon as you get in. It asks you to wear the seat belt and warns you if you exceed the speed limit,” he says. Dealerships also educate customers about the importance of wearing a seat belt, because the airbags don’t open otherwise. Some customers want to test drive on a route of their choice. Not all dealerships oblige. 

“We have had a minor accident a few years ago when the driver tried to avoid an oncoming vehicle,” he says.      

Vinayak Cars in Sadashivanagar gives out Skoda cars for test drives. “We ask about what prior experience the driver has before giving the car. We insist on prescribed routes. We have both short and long drive options,” says Suresh Bafna, director Vinayak Cars Private Limited.  “Test vehicles come with built-in cameras. “We don’t monitor test drive vehicles all the time but the cameras help track the route and do random checks,” he says.

What happened on Tuesday
Sagar J Rao (31), running an interior design business, was keen on buying a luxury SUV. He wanted to try out the Range Rover, priced at about Rs 60 lakh.

He got into the test drive vehicle, sent by a dealership in Roopena Agrahara, with his wife, their six-year-old son, and a friend. It was 3 pm when they were driving near the toll plaza on the NICE expressway near PES College, Hosakerehalli. Some reports say the car was being driven at 120 km, while others suggest the speed was much higher. Sagar’s friend Gautam was driving the car, according to the police. He hit a cement block and then a railing. The impact sent the vehicle flying. It flipped over several times before landing in a ditch. Sagar died on the way to the hospital, while his wife suffered a severe back injury. Their son Samarth (6), Goutham and Shivakumar, representing the car dealership, were also injured.

Safety first
Were the driver and passengers in the Range Rover wearing seat belts?
Police: Yes. The airbags protected the driver and the passenger in the front seat.
What speed was the car going at?
Police: According to the FIR, it was 120 km.
Did driver Gautham have a driver’s licence?
Police: Yes.
Did the test drive violate any rules? What is the speed limit on NICE Road?
Police: The driver violated the speed limit on NICE Road, which is 80 km.
What could have saved Sagar?
Police: The seat belt. He was in the back seat, and he wasn’t wearing one.

When you go on a test drive

  • Follow speed limits and traffic rules.
  • Don’t drive rashly to test the car’s limits.
  • Wear your seat belt; get others to do it too.
  • Ask sales executive about switches and controls.

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