Once in the Heavy Rain

S. Sandhiya

Sandhiya is the daughter of R. Shankar, a truck driver and his wife S. Kaveri from Vellore, Tamil Nadu. Born in January 2000, she is studying B. Com in DKM College for women. She wants to work as a Chartered Accountant in future.

The statistics showing the number of people falling victim of road accidents are scary. Prominent reasons behind the number of accidents rising are speeding and unskilled people taking over the steering.  My father is a truck driver, spending most of his days and nights on the road. He is a skilled person. But he works hard often without sleep in the nights when he is on duty. He assures me that he knows his limits and is careful with the vehicle. But I know the critical nature of his job. A small mistake may lead to an accident anytime. The daughter’s heart trembles with fear as her father continues driving relentlessly.

Drivers face so many problems while driving. There are crime-prone zones where robbers wait for lone trucks at night. They don’t hesitate to kill truckers for money. My father had faced such situations. By god’s grace he escaped without any injuries. We always pray for the wellbeing of my father on road. I get restless if my father’s phone is not reachable. I feel scared that something bad might have happened to him. Sitting at home, none can be sure that the loved one is safe on the road. What if my father needs help and there is no one to help? Anxious thoughts hover my mind. I know his job is often challenging and lonely on the road. My father could survive in this field only because he did learn from his experiences. His patience is his biggest strength that helps him in dealing with awkward situations and hostile people.

My father tells driving during heavy rain brought the most difficult hurdles for him. He suggests, using headlights is a must when visibility is seriously reduced, especially when the driver cannot see more than 100 meters (328 feet). Switching front or rear fog lights on also helps but these must be switched off when visibility improves. In case of poor visibility, distance from the vehicle ahead and the one behind should be double the usual distance. When parking on wet roads, distance from the nearest vehicles should be maintained same way.

He told me a story of his experience of driving on flooded roads and standing water once. Heavy monsoon rain caused flooding in the area where he was supposed to go. He was driving fast as usual with loaded truck through the road, not being able to realize how deep the standing water was. Suddenly he realized he was losing control over the steering as the tyres were their losing grip on the road. He was experiencing aquaplaning indeed. Holding the wheel straight, he lifted the throttle off till the tyres regained grip. Then he moved back to lower gear to push the engine torque higher and started driving much slower than usual speed. He knew water in the exhaust could otherwise damage the catalytic connector. He knew the area very well, but could not understand how much damage the heavy downpour did to the excellently made road surface – it was full of cracks and holes.

Even though he was driving at about 20 km/hour, he could not save himself from falling for bigger trouble. In one side of the road, water was slightly lesser and he was trying to move forward taking that stretch. But in one place, that part of the road was washed away and his vehicle got stuck there. The visibility reduced significantly in the heavy rain. He could not expect any help in that situation though he called for help. He continued waiting in the closed truck cabin hoping for the weather to improve. Finally after one day, the breakdown service could reach the spot and rescue him. He tells that getting down from the truck or keeping bonnet open in such situations is even more dangerous while rain-soaked electrical wires would hamper starting the vehicle again. He still considers himself fortunate that he could safely come out of the situation.

In India, we should draft a better plan for elderly drivers to keep roads safer. They must be well equipped to face hazardous situations and receive good retirement benefits. My father believes that my education will help me understand the road safety issues in detail. I would like to spread awareness to make our roads safer not only for drivers but also for all road users. I hope my education will help me to know more about road safety and to reach out to a larger section of the society regarding road safety issues.

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