Safety Matters

Not a day passes without a report of a major accident on India’s roads. There are people who lose their loved ones and people who have injuries that they need to cope with for years and years to come. Genuine mistakes do cause some of these accidents. Most accidents, however, are likely to be caused because of brazen behavior on roads, low rule awareness and poor driving ability. I have, as yet, not written anything new in all this but I do feel passionately for road safety. Everyday on our roads, we see people breaking every known traffic rule with impunity. So I decided that I will take photographs of these people and send them to police for whatever action they deem fit. Punish or Education was their choice. However, after about a week of diligently taking photographs of erring drivers I was exhausted. Sometimes I missed the right moment or there were simply too many people breaking rules in the same photo frame. I should have invested in a video camera !Perhaps, I should release a coffee table book called Signs of Traffic! Hmm..So after a lot of thought I have these questions :

  • Why can’t traffic monitoring cameras be put on each traffic light or busy areas?
  • Why can’t automobile companies look at safety related initiatives as part of corporate social responsibility?
  • Why can’t the advertising standards focus on ensuring ads do not encourage dangerous habits on roads?
  • Why can’t school curriculum focus on safety as an integral aspect of education?
  • Why can’t corporate entities focus on safety as integral to their work environment?
  • Why cant the law be modified to require traffic violators to compulsorily work in the trauma or emergency area of a hospital?

I’m sure there are more, but these are the ones I’ve thought about and come to mind as I write. If more come to mind, I will write about it.

Monitor Traffic with Cameras

My little experiment with a digital camera, while I was driven to work and back, convinced me that incase this were done it would really increase revenue for the traffic police. You might say it is very obvious. My thought is that maybe the reason it has not been done is because of funds prioritisation issues. Maybe, if that is the case, the concerned department could look at a public-private enterprise. My idea, focuses on a company taking on the responsibility of installing cameras and sharing revenue on a per car booked basis. Linking this data to insurance companies may result in increased revenue. The biggest benefit will be that roads will be slightly more safe to drive on. There are other related benefits of these cameras but I will focus on the safety aspect. Safety Initiatives by Automotive and related companies. Some out of the box thinking is required to address this issue. I feel the automotive sector has a huge social role to play in highlighting safety issues. A case in point is the Castrol Drive for Safety campaign. It effectively highlights the danger of talking on mobiles while driving (disclosure: One of the Castrol divisions is a client). There are so many issues that need to be addresed and I do feel the automotive sector needs to do more. Some of the initiatives that come to mind are:

  • Training centers that teach driving that are linked to dealerships and service centers.
  • Automotive Safety and Defensive Driving CDROM and other literature that is part of the kit of a New Car.
  • Airbags as standard fitment. I find it amazing that cars are sold with power windows but no airbags. Surely safety should have been given more priority. Am i being naive? If you gave the customer a choice between airbags and power windows at virtually the same price, what would they buy? Is human life different at various price points? Does the pain of loss or injury differ at different price points?

Responsible Safe Advertising

It’s a hilly road, a girl and boy on a bike ignore the diversion sign and the instructions of person trying to guide them away from a treacherous patch of road. It makes me angry each time! A man and a woman flirting about a cup of coffee. I’m sure this is common. What is uncommon is that they are breaking every rule book under the sun and they are driving their respective cars. Sudden u-turns, zig zags, you name it they have the move. Except that it makes me angry! A bright red car races down a picturesque and serene area, throwing water on a person who is relaxing. The look on his face does’nt seem to suggest he is going to buy that car anytime soon. It makes me angry each time I see it. I’m not the greatest expert on brand values and communication but I do know one thing.
Brand’s value propositions tend to focus on responsibility etc. How is it, that each of these ads seem to highlight a disregard for rules, potentially unsafe behavior and in the last case low civic sense. The group that owns the bright red car company, also has a chain of spas and hotels. I wonder how customer service managers of the spa will handle such a scene if it were to happen. Get a grip!, see the writing on the wall. People are getting hurt big time, communication ethics and advertising should focus on being responsible. Indian creativity, can surely come up with more responsible and cutting edge communication. Schools and Safety The reason we have low awareness of safety issues is because we have never really been taught safety.
Looking back on my school years, I dont remember more than a couple of classes on road signs etc. Over the years, that emphasis seems to have gone even further down. I have read the debate on sex education but I’ve not yet come across any debate on safety. I wonder why !In addition to the above, I don’t see schools put any effort on safety aspects of their students and teachers. I find it shocking that court interventions have resulted in standards being defined. It should have been part of individual schools agenda to ensure safety of their students and teachers. Even now implementation of these standards is fairly poor. One just has to stand outside each school to get a sense of reality. Schools are spending money on advertising, infrastructure upgradation. How about safety? Investing in safety will always be a wise investment. Train the drivers, ensure an optimum number of students are there in each transport vehicle. The vehicle itself has to have optimal safety devices . Could an automotive brand be associated and engage in a more meaningful way with its future customers. Safety in the Work Environment  When we first started working for Castrol BikeZone on an experience design project, we were briefed on the HSSE policy of the company. With specific reference to road safety, clear instructions to switch off the phone while driving and usage of seat belts while in car were given. Their emphasis on security continues even now. A lot of companies do have safety policies but somehow the implementation of these seems rather limited. In the booming IT/ ITES sector of India, I would highlight the following:

  • As the work day winds down in India, the work day in other parts of the world starts. At around 6pm onwards, conference calls are scheduled with other parts of the world. Most of these calls are fairly involved and long in duration. The interesting bit is, that a majority of the participants are in the process of moving out of office and driving back. Thus these calls are taken in the car while driving. Should the loss prevention or safety officer of a company be worried about these hazards? Yes! Are they worried? I need to do some research to get a better sense. My gut feel says not enough is being done.
  • The bpo boom has definitely resulted in a large number of people carriers on the roads. These vehicles carry staff to and fro from the workplace everyday. Most times, these vehicles are outsourced to a transportation company who has service level agreement (sla) with the bpo. Broadly speaking remuneration to the transportation company is based on the SLA which may include number of trips and people transported. It is fairly obvious that this system has some safety loopholes. Traffic rules are broken, long work hours of drivers and inadequate training issues result in accidents.

Similar instances exist in other areas as well. What is the benchmark of safety in such a scenario? What does one measure and how can road safety be improved? It should be a priority discussion topic within the corporate leadership. Service in Hospital Accident Trauma Center This is a slightly radical point but I do believe that some sensitization is required. There are too many aggresive drivers with a brazen sense of power. They drive recklessly and end up hurting innocent people. I strongly believe that people who have been involved in accidents should be asked to spend time and assist in trauma centers. They should see the destruction and pain caused on our roads. Maybe it will bring some good sense into these people. The core objective of this post is to highlight the issue of road safety and the proactive role a company or a brand can play. The objective is to find more ideas and solutions that solve problems .

6 responses

  1. Pingback: Strategic design for safer driving

  2. Connecting this post with the discussion had amongst @kawaljit and @aanteladda on this subject. I look at the change scenarios to include1) Infrastructure changes – This would be like making public transport a workable alternative for daily commuters and a improvement in City design & administration (Roads and the multiple agencies that dig them, Traffic signal co-ordination etc.)2) Education – The people at large need to be educated on the benefits that accrue to individuals and their loved ones by use of public transport, car pool etc and the risks involved in breaking traffic laws, again for the individual and their loved ones. The use of polybags in Delhi has reduced considerably not just by a law banning them but also by sufficient promotion of the need to do so.3) Charge for deviations and penalise defaulters – The charge can be in terms of usage of private vehicles in congested areas and making certain areas of the city vehicle free. The penalty does not necessarily have to be monetary, which, as mentioned on twitter, can lead to increased corruption. The idea of community service as a penalty is brilliant. In the past traffic offenders were required to attend traffic safety classes if challaned. Catch – These traffic safety classes were full of drivers who used to attend it multiple times for their bosses.

  3. Agree with you!. Education is key and perhaps this is one area each of us can make a start by encourage schools to do something..Secondly, there is a tendency to wait for something to go wrong before action is taken. Perhaps a place where one can put in suggestions for improvements and followup is key.Defaulting Vehicles owners should be made to attend classes with their drivers. They should infact be given a walkthrough of emergency areas of hospitals to see the trauma they cause..

  4. I have to agree that education is the key here – and it will have to be at three levels. First there is the need for public education, which needs to focus on the expected behaviours and the sad consequences of violating the rules. This is probably best done as a mass scale TV ad and billboard campaign.I am told that there are efforts on in Delhi as part of the Commonwealth Games – but have not seen anything yet.Secondly, there is the need for skill building. Often, driving on the roads, I realise that people are indulging in unsafe behaviours only because they know no other way to do it. I learnt driving both in India and in the UK. I was taught different things in both places. In India, I was taught to get ahead, to block others, to use my horn and accelerator simultaneously and of course I never noticed any lines on the road. When I trained in the UK, I was taught that it was my responsibility to keep traffic moving smoothly, and a good driver is one who does not force another driver to change his/her driving position. Now, the skills required for both styles of driving are different, and it is up to us to reinforce the ones that work for our roads. This process cannot be done through driving tests. We have a process, and it is full of holes. Skills are built through experience. There needs to be an incentive to buy into that experience. My answer to this would be to use gaming as a tool for education at this level. And reduced insurance premiums if certain scores in 'test games' are achieved. The third is the corporate level. Safety is traditionally an area of concern for corporates. Some like the oil companies apply it rigorously to their operations, others do not at all. I like the thought of companies investing in road safety – but then I think – why should they? Now that is a first derivative education issue right here. This would be an interesting and worthwhile effort. The tools for this of course are simple – offsite advanced driving skills courses, Formula 1 style and off road experiences etc. These can be embedded in other team building exercises. And of course, my favourite virtual reality gaming tools.Are there other parts to the solution. Of course. Does infrastructure need to be improved and re-arranged – of course. Do we need economists to understand the incentives to better driving, especially since we are dealing with a scarce resource that happens to be a public good. Certainly. But most of all, what we need here is common sense and good manners.

  5. The ongoing Toyota problem and your blog post spurred me to write about how design can shape safer driving. I argue that the big solutions, idealistic and seductive with their promise of dramatic improvement, are harder to build consensus on and to implement. Smaller things that can shape driver behaviour may be more productive and implemented quicker. Indian driving is offensive driving, most people in safer countries follow rules which are about defensive and collaborative (road sharing) driving. However all the “fixes” in the latter environment shape or influence individual behaviour.

  6. Small incremental activities will likely have more impact. It could be a residential area taking steps to make the roads safer or a school deciding to include safety and road safety in their teaching. All these perhaps could make way for communication and sharing of experiences at a larger scale eg the Jaago Re campaign etc.

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