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National road safety week: Navigating the streets hassle-free is a basic right; we have to walk the talk

I was talking to colleagues recently about road safety, as one often does in India, a country where 150,000 people die every year in traffic accidents. I told them about the time I was involved in a serious accident and how lucky I was to have walked away with only a broken arm.

My story stirred another person to share his and soon, the whole room was recounting their own close shaves on the roads of India. Of the 50 of us that day, 45 had been impacted by a serious road accident in this country. The remaining five felt that they too, in time, would not be spared.

 National road safety week: Navigating the streets hassle-free is a basic right; we have to walk the talk

Representational image. Reuters

It is a basic right that every man, woman and child should be able to move from point A to point B safely, and that there are measures to ensure this. Yet, the reality is sobering, and brutal. Every four minutes, someone dies on India’s roads.

The government is trying to fix this with a road safety programme that focuses on the 4Es – education, enforcement, engineering and emergency care.  The good news is that these tools can make a positive difference if people choose to use them. The bad news -- people’s mindsets are difficult to change.

There are many in India who don’t seem to value the basic right to safety, taking risks that endanger them as well as others around them. On India’s roads, it’s easy to spot motorists using the phone; or motorcyclists with children riding pillion, riding without helmets. Truck drivers are also a big concern.

Roughly 80 percent of all fatal accidents stem from human behaviour, according to figures available with the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MORTH).

So, on top of the 4Es, I would like to add 3Cs - collaboration, cooperation and consolidation. That is what Shell India is pushing with its 'Drive Safe India' campaign, which seeks to promote road safety behaviour. Shell started small, with a few initiatives last year near Surat, in Gujarat. Collaboration has been key to their success.

Shell’s joint venture partner in that state, Hazira LNG and Port, has been working with energy companies Reliance, Essar and Adani, to train 3,000 commercial drivers on safe road behaviour.
Cooperation has also been important. Through their combined networks, the programme was extended to educate drivers on care and well-being. Consolidation of these efforts has meant that resources stretch further and reach more people.

In the next few months, Shell will also embark on a nation-wide campaign on truck-driver’s health. Shell conducts eye and health tests on its drivers to ensure they address any eye and health issues that could negatively affect their driving. As others may not be receiving similar eye and health tests, Shell will offer free health checks to 20,000 truck drivers in Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Lucknow and Ambala. In the long-term, Shell hopes to take Drive Safe India to 150 million people across India by 2022. But more partners are needed to make an impact.

If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes whole communities to ensure a child comes home safely every day. Thinking back to the day of my accident, what I remember most is not the physical pain of my broken bones, but the anxiety it caused my family. No one should have to worry when their families are on the road.

Companies, government bodies, non-governmental organisations, traffic authorities and industry groups must join hands to find real solutions. There has been enough talk. It is time to act and make road safety a priority in India.

(The writer is chairman, Shell Companies in India)

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Updated Date: Apr 27, 2018 13:39:57 IST