Supercars or super killers?
The roads remain narrow, the traffic diverse and chaotic and empty stretches rare, and yet the craze for supercars shows no signs of letting off.
The Lamborghini crash on Bus Rapid Transit near Chirag Delhi was no exception. Supercar crashes are becoming a norm now, commensurate to their ever increasing presence on the roads. Only in October last year, a Rs 1.5 crore Porsche also met with the same fate. That time it was at the India Gate roundabout and thankfully offered no casualties (besides the car) as the seat belt did its job well.
There are quite a few things common between the two accidents but the biggest similarity was that the vehicles were being driven at a very high speed resulting in the cars getting out of control. The Lambo was speeding along at an unbelieveable 200 kmph, the Porsche at an equally eye popping 180 kmph.
In both these cases thankfully, it was only the drivers who largely bore the brunt. But pedestrians and fellow drivers are not always as fortunate. With over 1.25 lakh people dying on the roads every year, India by far, leads the list of countries with the highest number of deaths due to road accidents. There is no statistic to suggest how many of these are courtesy these super machines but there is reason to believe the numbers are rising.
Which should make us wonder, whether India is ready for such cars?
The main problem here is not the price though there is a school of thought that opposes Rs 1 crore plus cars for the sheer ostentatious display of wealth. Also it seemingly mocks the population at large that can hardly afford a Maruti Alto, leave aside a Ferrari. The issue really is with the cars themselves.
A Ferrari, Bugatti, Maserati, Lamborghini or Bentley are such engineering marvels, that for a relatively under developed market like India and for its even more malnourished drivers, they pose a problem. Case in point, is the fact that P C Jewellers, the original owners of the ill fated Lambo, themselves wanted to get rid of the car as they found it nearly uncontrollable on Indian roads.
Their top speed of over 300 kmph is what comes to mind when we say something as being difficult to control. But it is actually not as simple. Some manufacturers like BMW, Mercedes and Toyota voluntarily cap the speed of their vehicles to 250kmph recognising the fact that their owners may not be as evolved as the vehicles irrespective of the fact that they have the money to buy them. But that does not guarantee a safe drive.
A BMW, Mercedes, Audi or even a Toyota and Volkswagen are as susceptible to high speed crashes. With or without speed governors. The death of a certain queen of an erstwhile superpower 10 years ago is a fitting example of that.
The main issue is the way these cars handle on the road and the steep acceleration curve that they possess. The Gallardo for example, can get to 100 kph from standstill in a mere 3.4 seconds. If you keep the pedal pressed for another 7 seconds, you would hit the kind of speed that Rishi managed on Monday morning (200kph). To put things in perspective, a Honda City which itself is not a slow car, would need another 2 seconds to reach half that speed.
Conservative drivers that we are, with limited exposure to such superlative machines, we are not trained to handle this kind of steep acceleration. It is this that needs to be kept in check, but then that is also the beauty of these cars.
There is another problem that these vehicles face in India–the dreaded low ground clearance. The Gallardo has an unenviable ground clearance of a little over 100mm. While that is necessary for a car that can do 300 kmph plus, on Indian roads it is quite a liability. With potholes that resemble the craters on moon and speed breakers more akin to vehicle breakers, only the most unfortunate of these cars from the assembly lines get to be driven in India.
And when that is combined with an equally unfortunate driver, tragedy is only a logical conclusion. Since there is no assurance of how soon the human mind will turn rational and seek practicality over bragging rights, perhaps it is better to not give them the option to exercise irrationality at all.
And no, I am not mourning for Rishi. I am only mourning for the car, now awaiting burial in a nondescript Delhi Police dumping yard in Greater Kailash.