Driving is a privilege, not a right!” Those of you old enough to have had the booklet type of driving license will have seen this printed on the back cover; and in any case, most of you will be very familiar with this statement. But given the fact that driving, unlike other privileges, is extended to nearly everyone who asks, this statement seems simply a catchy phrase, mulled over briefly but, in reality, ignored.  

This is going to change though; we’re at the point where greater emphasis is being laid on safe driving by the government, and now even manufacturers. Volvo – the doyen of automotive safety – has already self-imposed a speed limit of 180kph on all its cars, and the company is already looking into geo-fencing speed restrictions to see if it could further limit the speeds of its cars in sensitive areas. What’s more, they are also looking at in-car cameras and sensors that can, if so needed, mandatorily restrict, or even pull over a car in case of any danger. It may seem like an Orwellian nanny-state scenario but as Håkan Samuelsson, president & CEO of Volvo Car Group, said, “it may seem radical, but I hope this starts a conversation about whether carmakers have a right – or, perhaps, an obligation – to intervene in cases of erratic and potentially dangerous driver behaviour which could compromise safety.”

A conversation it will be; even a hotly debated topic. There’s firstly technology readiness and accuracy, legal issues, moral dilemmas and, of course, the comfort factor of handing over the wheel to a computer. But when that happens, if at all, is hard to predict right now. What is certain, though, is that if restrictions are going to get tighter, e-challans and surveillance will only increase. After all, take a look at our accident rate due to driver error, reckless driving, intoxication and more. And yeah, sadly we’ve only brought it upon ourselves. In the distant future, when autonomous cars are finally a reality, driving may go the way of horse riding – no longer used for transport, but only for pleasure and sport.

So while we point fingers at the authorities demanding safer infrastructure, and cheer Global NCAP in their crusade for safer cars, let’s remember that the biggest contribution to safety lies in our hands – literally.There’s go-karts, tracks and even arrive-and-drive track days to get your thrills. Remember, driving is indeed a privilege and not a right. Learn to enjoy this responsibly well within the safety of the road and its users. Drive responsibly and carefully – if not for the lives of yourself and others around you, then at least for the very love of driving.

Also see:

A taxing time for the auto industry

Mahindra kicks off road safety campaign with multi-city drive

Passenger vehicles at back of queue for government relief

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