The Chennai Mercedes Benz deaths

It is a classic rich vs poor case.

A month ago ( Dec 14) Chennai woke up to the Mecerdes Benz deaths in the metro , when a 16 year old son of a high profile businessman drove his plush car over sleeping pavement dwellers and a priest riding a two wheeler, after catching a late night movie at a multiplex.

UPDATE: The boy who surrendered (after initial attempts to get the family chauffeur to take the blame failed , thanks to a vigilant police officer) has been booked . He is charged under three sections of the IPC ( for causing death by negligence, causing hurt and endangering the life and safety of others, and for rash driving).
The case is currently on, and in keeping with the Juvenile Justice Act, proceedings are in camera.

RING A BELL? In 2006 a 21-year old drove his Toyota Corolla over pavement dwellers in Mumbai, while Delhi was horrified by the BMW case–again, a privileged kid running over pavement dwellers allegedly after a night out partying.

By the time the drama of the boy’s surrender in Chennai took place, other events pushed the follow-up of the case to back pages, Bhutto’s assassination and the New Year party that turned into a nightmare for a couple of NRIs in Mumbai as well as the Savera Hotel case in Chennai.

Cynics have already figured that given the clout the boy’s father reportedly wields, the punishment may not be harsh enough, and many would like a severe message to go through. After all this is the state which boasts of the ancient Chola King, Manu needhi Cholan. His only son and crown prince had driven his chariot rashly in the streets, killing a calf, and the sorrowful cow sought justice by ringing the legendary Bell of Justice hung outside the Palace Hall… Historical lore further states that the king himself saw to it that his son was duly punished.

Moral of the story? Justice should be seen as being served.

Let’s step a little out of the specific case and look at the larger picture.
A hardened crime reporter told me that in most cases of death by accident, the accused walk away after a fine of Rs 7000. “The driving license is also suspended, but that is hardly a constraint for those determined to drive.”

Horrifying, isn’t it? Juvenile drivers apart, fatal accidents are caused by drivers with years of experience as well. What is required is a rethink on the way our licenses are issued and monitored.
Most often, tests merely check if an aspirant can change gears and reverse the car. The intricacies–such as parallel parking , or reversing out of a tight corner–are never put to test. Things such as right of way or road courtesy are hardly maintained by any, rich or poor, the educated or the fish-cart driver. As for monitoring, for safe motoring, driving under the influence of alcohol is something that figures only after an accident takes place. Awareness for road safety s still at a nascent stage .

Clearly, we need checks and balances in place. Especially given the high number of fatal road accidents, each year An ADGP I was talking to felt that until fatal road accidents are treated as homicide, with stringent punishment, accidents will not be viewed as a serious cause for concern.

I do not know how many of you would agree with him, but road safety and awareness should be brought out into the open. And I feel that in cases where privileged teenagers cause accidents, parents too should be made accountable– and not by merely paying a hefty fine.

10 Comments so far

  1. SpeedKills (unregistered) on January 14th, 2008 @ 1:04 pm

    The law enforcers are the guys who should be punished! Why not show the pic of a traffic policeman or a brake inspector in papers for taking bribe???? They r the cause of accidents! This gives the idea for law breakers to think they can do anythin and get away with it!Further street dwellers should be given places to stay. As the real estae prices are spiraling because of the software guys many are left without homes and come to the streets quite naturally. How about a PPP( Public Private Partnership) for educating people on road safety? None! co are busy reaping profits and covering their sunk costs! Why are people sleeping on the roads when yuppies speed along in their cars (in the night) and not in the day? The streets are more like a parking for vehicles and these guys let loose themselves in the night, note both the accidents you mentioned were in the night. When folks respect the officials who enforce law (for their corruption free society centered actions) folks will stick on to the laws!

  2. Santhosh (unregistered) on January 14th, 2008 @ 2:47 pm

    The WHO estimates 95000 people (189000 accidents) died on the roads in India in 2006. So basically more people died on Indian streets than in the Iraq war in the same year. Not all caused by rich drunk kids driving around in fancy cars. There is a much larger problem here.

    I would agree with much of what has been said. But no matter how strict driving tests or punishments become, there is nothing to prevent such accidents from happening again; as long as we continue to accept the following (just some of the things that came to mind while reading the post):
    1. Allow people to encroach on the roadside – whether it is people spending the night or setting up shops and stalls. Nobody in their right mind wants to intentionally run over people. Construction companies have to share some of the blame here for not providing any decent accommodation for their temp workers.
    2. Horrible roads – Just last week in mylapore, I saw a two wheeler hit a hole in the road and fly across the road divider into oncoming traffic.
    3. Bad road lighting – Driving at night has become nightmarish, especially for senior citizens and people wearing glasses.
    4. No proper planning for parking or parking sense
    5. Traffic lights being turned off too early at night just encourage speeding on empty roads.

  3. Suresh (unregistered) on January 14th, 2008 @ 5:59 pm

    Will there be a time when India’s Tarnished image in the otom of the most corrupted nations list improve even marginally? Why ae the government authorities not changing whatsoever. Sucks man!!!!!!!

  4. Parthasarathy (unregistered) on January 14th, 2008 @ 10:57 pm

    I sometimes see school kids ride on bikes to school! Some even drive cars before the ‘legal’ age. The policemen can easily put a halt to this, but why dont they?

    That having been said, media coverage makes it more certain that people with ‘clout’ are punished, than those without it. Salmans is a good case in point.

  5. Ela (unregistered) on January 15th, 2008 @ 12:51 am

    Got to agree with most of the things said…but i would say that it is indifference from our people’s part rather than lack of awareness….
    In Germany, if a driver hits someone and then speeds away without stopping to help the vicitim, it is a severe criminal offense. Everyone carries a first aid kit and i have seen many times that they stop, call the police and for medical help and then help the victim as much as they can even if the accident is not due to their fault.
    I only can long for such a thing to happen in our country…

  6. Partha (unregistered) on January 15th, 2008 @ 4:16 am

    Is it all the fault of the politicians/police personnel? The people who are breaking the law don’t have any responsibility? India will not improve if the public uses the excuse (“I should have been restrained by law enforcement authorities”) to disown any personal discipline/responsibility.

  7. Ela (unregistered) on January 16th, 2008 @ 7:28 pm

    Just need a clarification for my own knowledge…..Is partha and parthasarathy different persons or the same? Thanks in advance if i get the answer!

  8. Partha (unregistered) on January 17th, 2008 @ 5:12 am


    I live in Chicago. I don’t know who the other person is. My posts are very infrequent and I don’t sign my name Parthasarathy.

  9. Ela (unregistered) on January 18th, 2008 @ 12:23 am

    Thanks Partha..i just wanted to be careful in future since sometimes when i address the questions from Parthasarathy i use the short name as Partha…now only i realised there is also someone named Partha…so i would be careful in future…

  10. (unregistered) on January 18th, 2008 @ 10:57 am

    if the road side sleepers uses the housing given by the government , then this kind of accidents are minimised significantly ,, this is my thought ,, correct me if i am wrong

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