SIAM debates best practices on road safety during virtual SAFE convention

by Mayank Dhingra 26 Sep 2020

SAFE – the Society for Automotive Fitness and Environment – concluded its 21st annual convention on September 25, albeit virtually. The conference invited industry think tanks, environment, and road-safety experts to discuss upon the various aspects of road safety improvement in the country as well as to bring a heightened focus on environment-friendly vehicles.

The convention’s theme – ‘Connecting the Indian vista with improved safety requirements and environment management’ – focused on disseminating information about the best practices adopted nationally and internationally for road safety improvement and a cleaner environment. A part of the society of Indian automobile manufacturers (SIAM), SAFE has been commissioned to drive the core objectives of education, enforcement, engineering and emergency services to ensure safer driving habits, road discipline, safer vehicles as well as roads, thereby reducing casualties.

AK Saseendran, the Minister for Transport, Government of Kerala, was the chief guest in the inaugural session. During his address, he mentioned, “Traffic accidents form one of the major reasons for socio-economic and health problems across the world and India is one of the severely affected country. The good news is that the government, NGOs and corporates are working in tandem, addressing this important social issue we are facing today as a country. The government has been taking active steps in improving road infrastructure, road safety measures to minimise road accidents.”

The minister further remarked, “Road accidents and fatalities in Kerala have reduced by 10 percent between November 2019 and March 2020, compared to the same period a year ago. We must not forget the fact that environment protection is also vital for the present and future generations and it needs well entrenched, concerted efforts from all stakeholders.”

Anupam Shrivastava, president, SAFE and vice president, Bajaj Auto, said, “Road Safety is one of the primary concerns today. Over 1.35 million people die globally because of road accidents – over 90 percent in developing countries and out of these, 11 percent are from India. SAFE has been working towards training students and drivers on safe driving and holding interactions with various government departments on ensuring greener environment among various other initiatives.”

Presenting a paper on the theme - “A step towards road safety: connecting the Indian vista with improved safety requirements,” Devayan Dey, director, Capital Projects and Infrastructure, PwC India, said, “Around 400 people killed on Indian roads every day. Still, we haven’t braced our actions enough to improve the situation. India can take precedence from countries like Sweden, South Korea and the UK, which have done significant amount of work to improve road conditions and reduce fatalities.” 

“India needs to take data-based approaches to tackle the challenge and the government is focusing on road infrastructure, vehicles and drivers. Road signages, lane markings and speed limit markings will play a key role in enabling upcoming vehicle ADA systems. While we talk about infrastructure and vehicles, it is extremely important to also look into the aspects of driver behaviour. Enforcement of laws is also very important alongside emphasis on prioritising safety for pedestrians and other vulnerable road users like two-wheeler riders. Due to Covid-19, the number of road casualties are set to go down in India, but it might revert with the traffic coming back to roads in a gradual manner,” added Dey.

Dheeraj Sahu, IAS, Transport Commissioner, Government of Uttar Pradesh, said, “Road accidents are primary cause of unnatural deaths in the world. Last year, 22,000 people lost their lives to road accidents in UP. However, over the first 3 months of 2020, we have managed to reduce that number by 15 percent. In this regard, we adopted a two-pronged approach. The first approach was to set up a coherent road safety strategy and ensure its robust implementation and the second was adaptation of technological best practices. By 2030, we are targeting to curb road accidents by half.”

Colonel J M Pathania, Transport Commissioner, Government of Himachal Pradesh, gave his remarks and said, “Our primary aim was to focus on good governance for road safety. In fact, Himachal is the first state in the country to digitise all transport services online, as a part of its ‘e-parivahan vyavastya’ (online transport facility), and for most services, the physical visits are not that needed. We also took initiatives to ensure that people are aware of how to avail of such services and also warranted its seamless real-time delivery. In fact, we also launched a 360-degree road safety campaign to make road safety a culture. Between August and December 2019, we have been able to reduce road accidents by 7.62 percent and fatalities by around 6 percent.”

He further added, “We undertook road safety education for school children, worked on enforcement of traffic discipline, facilitated technology enabled training for drivers, opened road safety driving centres and organised street plays to spread awareness about road safety.”

The subsequent sessions were attended by other eminent industry leaders including Ramashankar Pandey, MD, Hella India, P Sankaramoorthy, VP and head – Hyundai Motor India, Pankaj Gupta, treasurer, SAFE and VP, Skoda Auto VW India, Dr Navdeep K Asija, traffic advisor, Government of Punjab and Prashant K Banerjee, ED, SIAM, among others.