Making Indian roads safer

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Multi-level education to play a crucial role to elevate safety.

Story by:

Anirudh Raheja

The sixth edition of Mahindra Transport Excellence awards set a high standard. Held on February 03, 2017, at Delhi, the awards, under the aegis of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH), recognised performance, innovation and excellence in the trucking field. In what could be termed as a 14 per cent increase, 6164 case studies were undertaken, highlighting quality, positive change and innovation. The awards once again underlined Mahindra’s commitment towards girl child education through the ‘Mahindra Saarthi Abhiyaan’. The company also organised MSA Outperformer contest for MSA scholarship beneficiaries along with a short story contest to harness story telling power while making the roads safer.

Jay Prakash Singh of Bharti Bulk Carriers was felicitated with the ‘Super Outperformer Driver of the Year’ award. He was handed over keys of a Mahindra Blazo 25 for being a responsible driver, and for saving lives of people. Singh cleared the stringent psychomotor and psychometric tests along with a good understanding of the traffic rules. If Singh’s wining streak reflected upon his responsible behaviour and high regard for safety, a panel discussion just ahead of the awards ceremony focused on making roads safer.

Making roads safer

The panel discussion on making roads safer, moderated by Prof. G Raghuram, Faculty and Profressor of Public Systems Group, IIM – Ahmedabad, turned out be thought provoking. It delved upon the prime causes for road related deaths, and how awareness can be created to curtail such mishaps. Prof. Raghuram pointed out that over speeding is the major cause of accidents. He claimed that it were the cause of close to 41 per cent road accidents. The next cause, he said, was overtaking, at 32 per cent. Raghuram also drew attention to the consumption of alcohol by drivers. Truck drivers, he said, account for merely three per cent of the road deaths due to alcohol. “It is the driver, road engineering and vehicle that play a critical role in the transport ecosystem,” he added. According to Raghuram, regulations and other operational controls through traffic management system and police have to fall in place to create a safe ecosystem. “As buses handle a lot of passengers, it is important to take bold steps and create the necessary awareness across various platforms,” he averred.

Panelist Ravi Prasad, Chief Engineer – Road Safety, MoRTH, called for a need to reach to the root of every accident. He opined that every accident has multiple causes that are complex in nature. He drew attention to the four Es of road safety – Engineering, Education, Enforcement and Emergency Care. Stating that road engineering and road safety are of individual importance, Prasad said, “Despite being resource constraint, road engineering has moved at a pace that has left behind road safety due to numerous reasons.” “There is a gap that needs to be bridged through consistent and special efforts,” he quipped.

OEM role

On the role OEMs have come to play, Rajan Wadhera, President and Chief Executive, Truck and Powertrain Division, Head – MRV, and Member – Group Executive Board, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd, expressed that the geometry of the vehicle plays a crucial role in a road accident. Stressing upon the introduction of seat belts, ABS, airbags and the usage of high tensile strength steel, vehicles are becoming safer, he added. Wadhera stated further, that due to various regulatory norms, road side body building of truck and bus bodies will be contained. Fully-built bodies will offer increased energy absorption capacity.” Drawing attention to Mahindra having joined hands with Savelife Foundation to make the Mumbai-Pune Expressway a zero fatality corridor, Wadhera said that the fully-built CVs will also influence a move towards stricter emission norms. Stating that the Mumbai-Pune corridor witnessed 150 deaths in the year 2016, Wadhera touched upon the identification of 2600 black spots that cause accident on the respective route. “600 black spots out of the 2600 black spots identified have been resolved,” he added.

Driver aspect

Lady truck driver Yogita Raghuvanshi and Jay Prakash Singh, as panelists, brought to the fore the driver aspect. Yogita drew attention to drivers being harassed unnecessarily for bribes. She and Singh stressed upon paying attention to the driver fraternity. It has been neglected for long, the duo said. Emphasising upon drivers often getting licenses without specialised training and tests, Yogita said, “Certified training schools are necessary to impart a sound understanding of vehicle size and manoeuvrability. It is necessary that the driver is attentive and has the presence of mind.” Singh stressed upon reducing the transit time for quicker transportation of food items. Said Yogita that overbridges across states are necessary as they minimise public movement and reduce time wastage in changing highways. Opined Singh that it is not the truck driver who is at fault always. He touched upon untimely vehicle parking on the road side that often causes avoidable accidents. “High beams make it uneasy for drivers to constantly concentrate on the road. Police and RTO in some states like UP, MP, Orissa, Chattisgarh and Rajasthan spell trouble for truck drivers. This is not the case in south India,” he added.

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Possible solutions

Prof. Tamorish Kole, Chair, Academic Council, Society for Emergency Medicine and Advisor – Savelife Foundation, and Prerna Arora Singh, Road Safety Expert, Advocate and Educationist, opined that a lot needs to be done to make the roads safer. The two touched upon following traffic rules. “Right from the top to the bottom of the pyramid, capacity building is very important in India of all the stakeholders in this sector,” said Prerna Singh. Kole called for efforts to prevent accidents. A five per cent reduction in speed can lead to a fall in fatalities by 30 per cent, he reasoned.

Take away

The take away of the panel discussion was the need to follow traffic rules and drive responsibly. The take away was also on the identification of unsafe conditions, and to immediately address them. The panelists came to conclude that there should be one medical helpline. Emphasising upon the need for right education at all levels and in school curriculum, the panelists called for elimination of system discrepancies that lead to harassment of good Samaritans.