• Soumna Nema

Red Lights, Stop Signs

"Oh, why don't you play that Olivia Rodrigo song!?" yelled my 10-year old sister.

"Sure, why not!" I replied. We were on a road trip. It was a 12-hour ride from Delhi to my mom's hometown, where we were going to visit my Nani before my second year at college began.


"I got my driver's license last week, just like we always talked about..", my sister and I sang along with the song. I was anxious initially because I hate road trips. They make me nauseous, and I feel like peeing a thousand waterfalls so, I drink less water and get dehydrated. Screaming the words to "Drivers' License" with my sister was making me feel better.


"I GUESS YOU DIDN'T MEAN WHAT YOU WROTE IN THAT SONG ABOUT ME!!!!"


My sister and I yelled just as Olivia belted the words through the speakers. We were driving on a narrow road in the woods in the middle of nowhere. There were no streetlights. We were behind schedule. We were supposed to be at home right then, but according to the GPS, we had an hour and a half left to go. It was dark, and my dad was driving a little faster than he should have for the terrain we were in because we needed to get home safe, which in this case meant getting out of this area on the route as soon as we could. Our surroundings were unsafe.


"REEEDD LIGHTS, STOPP SIGNS, I STILL SEE YOUR FA-A-CE..."


Suddenly, dad hit the brakes because we came to a very sharp bend in the roadway faster than we should have: the car skid on gravel and into a ditch.


The music stopped playing, my sister was screaming: we were off the road. The front of the car was in a ditch on the side of the narrowest road in this multiverse. My dad tried to reverse the car out to no avail. We had to get out of the car, in the middle of what was basically a forest. If it weren't for the headlights (which, by God's grace, were undamaged), it would have been pitch dark. Upon making the fortunate discovery of the intactness of the rest of the car, we realized that it had started to drizzle.


As all of us paused for a moment to take it all in and muster up the willpower to solve this problem. I felt the back of my head hurt. I realized it was because a small suitcase from the boot had bounced up and chosen a violent and precise trajectory towards my head.

It had also landed on my foot. Now my foot hurt too. My sister was still screaming. I was almost glad my head was hurting. It was anchoring me to reality and saving me from spiraling into panic.


Just as we were trying to get out, a truck full of people going to a nearby village stopped fifteen feet away. A bunch of people got out and walked towards us. They helped us get out of our car and then helped my dad get the car back on the road by giving it a push from the front as he hit the reverse gear and accelerated. Within the next 10 minutes, we were back on the road. All of us were in shock, but all of us were also very grateful. As I cuddled my sister to sleep, I found myself praying to all the gods of the world. Things could have been a lot worse. Not everyone is so lucky.


In 2019, 1,51,113 people died in road accidents, averaging 414 people in a day and 17 in an hour, in India alone, making India the country with the most road accidents that year [1]. Each year, this toll hits 1.35 million around the world [2].

With the world still barely being able to open up again, we are experiencing the fear of losing the people closest to us due to the pandemic. However, there already were so many ways their lives could be in danger without it. The least we can do is minimize these reasons. Follow traffic rules because they are made to prevent road accidents. Drive within the speed limit. Follow traffic signals. Don't drive when you're drunk. It is that simple.



"...you said forever now I drive alone past your street."


*******




References:

[1] - India had most deaths in road accidents in 2019: Report | Hindustan Times

[2] - List of countries by traffic-related death rate - Wikipedia

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