Bike hits car door? Car on fire? Safety tips

Representational Photo. Picture credit: flickr.com/ State Farm

You’re on your motorbike in a by-lane of Bengaluru, and passing a stationary car on the right. This should be simple enough. But suddenly, without warning, the car door is pushed open. You have no place, or time, to swerve, and you ram into it.

The author had this experience and was thrown into a nearby stormwater drain. In the circumstances, he was lucky to emerge with only a few bruises, though he had to endure the unjustified wrath of the driver. It could all have been a lot worse.

Every year, in Delhi, a few cars will burst into flames spontaneously in peak summer. This is a terrifying situation made worse by the fact that the power windows jam, leaving the occupants with little chance of escape.

The two examples above, though seemingly unrelated, both illustrate the death traps that await us on Indian roads. Below are a few ways that you can reduce your risk, tips on both road safety and emergency measures in the event of an accident or natural disaster.

1. The use of safety belts is now fairly widespread thanks to the law. Even so, do not forget to belt up by some chance because even in a moderate-speed accident, the drivers’ lungs could be punctured by impact with the steering wheel.
 

2. It’s a good idea to invest a bit more and buy a car with airbags. The importance of airbags should never be underestimated because it can save the occupants from serious injuries which could occur even if the seatbelt is fastened. With seatbelts on, the occupant will not get thrown off the seat but there are chances of head injuries due to inertia. Airbags can protect the occupants from head and chest injuries. The more expensive cars are often fitted with side and curtain airbags and these provide much better protection in case of an impact.
 

3. Though today’s cars are built far better than those from the yesteryears, regular inspection by the owner and mechanic is a good practice. It is a good idea to check for bad fuel lines or leaks. A leak is asking for trouble because hot fuel dripping on hot engine parts can result in a major fire. Keeping a small, portable fire extinguisher is also a good idea.
 

4. As regards stationary cars bursting into flames in summer: Leaking fuel could be one reason, but retrofitting cars with unauthorized compressed natural gas (CNG) kits is also asking for disaster. Saving a few bucks and buying CNG kits from unauthorized vendors could result in an explosion because there is no guarantee of safety and good quality parts.
 

5. Looking in the rearview mirrors regularly is a good habit. There are a lot of reckless drivers on Indian roads and keeping an eye on the vehicles beside and behind your vehicle is crucial. Use the side mirrors while turning to check that there is no bicycle or motorbike creeping through.
 

6. Staying with rear view mirrors, the Dutch reach is a practice that could save you and others from injury. While opening the door on a busy street, the occupant should open the door with the hand that is away from it. So, it has to be the right hand for a left side door and vice versa. This forces the upper body to turn and a good look behind will save a motorcyclist or biker from crashing into the door. The Dutch reach is taught as a standard during driver training lessons in the Netherlands.
 

7. During the floods in Mumbai, a lot of motorists ended up getting locked inside their cars due to electrical/ electronic system failure. There are chances of this happening when the car is fitted with a central locking system. Naturally, power windows will not work. This is not the situation anybody would like to be in. The simple way to get out is to kick the top of the window glass to break it. Trying to break the front windshield will not really work because it is a very tough piece of glass. The other way of breaking the window glass is to remove the headrests, jam the pointed rods between the glass and bottom part of the window frame and pull sharply. This shatters the window and the occupants can exit safely.

8. Small multi-tools are available and often include pliers, a small knife, a wrench, a glass breaker, and a seatbelt cutter. Keeping one of these in the car could prove to be useful.

9. Child seats should never be kept in the front row and where there are airbags. The best place is the middle or back row. It is also crucial to fasten the child seat really tight and snug to ensure that it can only move about an inch or so on either side.

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