Citizen Engagement: Key Ingredient in Road Safety

 

See an offender, upload their picture on Facebook. Police force in four major Indian cities—Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Gurgaon— are taking a unique approach to catching drunk-driving offenders by enlisting the help of local residents.

Faced with limited resources, civic bodies in these cities are adopting new initiatives for road safety in order to fit the large and often varied demography and geography they serve. In Gurgaon, traffic police run an initiative where local residents, deemed “Road Safety Officers”, stop individuals on the street who appear intoxicated and prevent them from getting in their vehicles.

The effort is aimed at discouraging drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel. According to a recent WHO report, 90 percent of all road fatalities in the world occur in low and middle income countries. India takes the lead with the highest number of deaths on roads— over 300 people, every day.

With the second largest road network in the world, an ever-growing population, and varied modes of transport, India has a complex problem at hand. Over 15 percent of all road deaths can be attributed to driving under the influence.

We, at Home Safe, have narrowed down the solution to two key elements to focus on in reducing India’s drunk driving statistic: education and enforcement.

Education begins with public awareness campaigns endorsed by celebrities and local leaders, akin to anti-tobacco campaigns, that can help create a social stigma around the practice of getting behind the wheel “after one too many drinks.” In a country, which is expecting a four-fold increase in car ownership over the next twenty years, a change in behavior needs to occur soon and quickly.

Along with providing chauffeurs on call as an immediate and easy alternative to drunk driving, Home Safe is also a part of one of the largest awareness initiatives around the cause in India called Respect the Road. The campaign, run in collaboration with the local traffic police in the NCR area and a leading alcohol beverage company, brings together players from the public and private sector to collectively address the hindrances to road safety.

While education of road users is something that can be adopted outside of preexisting government frameworks, enforcement is not. Internationally, driving under the influence is one of the most heavily penalized offenses.

In the US, a typical first time offense for drunk driving costs upwards of 10,000 USD and this fine only increases with subsequent offenses. Enforcement in India is weak in comparison.

In order to work towards making our roads safer, it is imperative that there is collaboration between players across the board towards building better infrastructure and framing effective policies to reduce the accidents on Indian roads. However uphill the task may seem, there are many signs of a strong and creative efforts to remedy the challenges faced in the field of road safety.

Editor's Note: Nikhil Saigal is the Founder of Home Safe and a participant in the Safer Roads, Safer India challenge. Follow #saferoads on Twitter for updates on latest on innovation trends, and join the Facebook group to become part of the conversation!

 

Featured Image: "Road traffic in Gwalior" - courtesy of Home Safe.