Monday, December 15, 2014

Safe Driving ~ The Interventions

Goosebumps fulminated as the previously distributed indemnity bond was thoroughly inspected before the access to the rider’s den was granted- the glistening pit-stop where the likes of Vettel, Webber, Schumi and Karthikeyan have scripted a saga of unprecedented momentum. The stretch where we recorded a whopping 240 Km/hour indeed turned on the screws…we realized that perhaps it wasn’t the best of ideas to take on a hot pursuit on our first lap itself; but we never pulled back. It was a smooth and creamy beginning to be honest yet the directional deviations did prove to be quite a challenge in itself. It was almost a “Drift” to start off with, as the racing vehicle pursued an approximately right-angled trajectory to evade those “abrupt road blocks”. It was almost a snake-ladder run; those curved paths had “danger” written all over them. The first HOT LAP, as they say was testing to the core since the body took a while to adapt to the “Whirl-wind” ride…and off we went…. – “Oh hello!! Stop dreaming young man…the signal’s wide open”; the grouchy old man mocked as he drove past my sedan.
And my trance broke as I heard the “horny cacophony” that followed the lampoon…it seemed as if I have been shoved into the line of fire all of a sudden! The lissome bike-riders disdained my mere presence at the traffic signal…literally scurrying past my rear-view mirror as if in utter disgust. The monstrous freighter wanted to grind my sedan and mangle with debris…yes, the expeditious flux, the mad rush had propelled them…the alacrity that has literally blindfolded these on-road wagons, the “hunger” has contributed to the cataclysmic restlessness. But WAIT! Have I been dreaming all this while? Those flashbacks from the memorable hot lap at the BIC could have brought in trepidation but unfortunately, the “facet” out here at the Gariahat road was completely different. I have been battling for pace on the cryptic racing tracks and now, I’m exactly on the receiving end…the major difference being from the point of view of intent, devoir and exigency. Sometime back, a friend of mine was comparing our whirl-wind ride with that of the “Need for Speed Underground” game-play with a number of tracks being conceptualized in a hustling, swamped, overpopulated expressway...Sigh, I wish I had the liberty to smash a few running vehicles and still cruise away like a boss.

However he stressed on the very fact that, perhaps the Generation X confuses exuberance with fitfulness…and there you go, take a look at the following dreadful stat published by the Times of India–“At least 13 people die every hour in road accidents in the country, the latest report of the National Crime Records Bureau reveals. In 2007, 1.14 lakh people in India lost their lives in road mishaps — that's significantly higher than the 2006 road death figures in China, 89,455.” In-fact, the picture presented in the research paper on “National statistics of road traffic accidents in India” by Manisha Ruikar is vexing to say the least….in a nut-shell, the study reveals that the road network in India, the numbers of registered motor vehicles in the country and the country's population have increased at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.4%, 9.9% and 1.6% respectively, during the decade 2001 to 2011, whereas during the same period, the number of road accidents in the country increased at a CAGR of 2.1%. The increasing concerns with the number of road accident fatalities and the number of persons injured in road accidents in the country between 2001 and 2011 that have mounted to 5.8% and 2.4% respectively has made way for a disconcerting scenario.
The fact that road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death among young people aged 15-29 years has brought up a very fundamental question…the ones who have seen the movie “Ungli” might have guessed it by now; yes I am referring to the un-uniformity in the statutory compliances that are involved in the process of obtaining a driving license. We have been talking about e-transforming all the major Government processes as a part of the newly adopted e-Governance principles, but the backbone still remains weak….can we completely do away with the manual checks involved in each of the processes? Well, the answer is NO, it has to be a mix of the two…and that my friend holds good for the process of obtaining an authentic driving license in a seamless manner. Coming back to the “speed” prompt, an in house study revealed that 5% increase in average speed of a running vehicle leads to an approximately 10% increase in crashes that cause injuries and a 20% increase in fatal crashes. It goes without saying that the mitigation plans, both in terms of road traffic regulation, empathy as well as medical back-up are critically important to reverse the trend that forecasts road fatalities to become world fifth biggest killer by 2030. And it’s not a happy feeling when I say that in this relatively short span of 25 years, I have witnessed at least 3 dreadful road accidents right in-front of my eyes. It’s easy to play the blame game, but at the end of the day….running away from a diurnal solution is not cove table.
Well, honestly speaking, I would say that suggesting an amelioration plan might be tricky, but I’ll still try…perhaps, we need more of those fresh, gleaming ideas to come in, we really do.
  • I’ve been working on the usage of micro-controllers (ATMEL 89C51 Micro-controller chip) for the betterment of traffic control as well as regulation through a pre-defined logic right from the college days…the exercise that has not been consummated owing to the complexity of the traffic scenario in Kolkata, but it could be worked upon in depth; in addition to this, the function of traffic lights that require sophisticated control and coordination to ensure that traffic moves as smoothly and safely as possible, could also be enhanced by implementing the micro-controller based tools at every crossing. Usage of sophisticated and compact components such as LED as traffic light indicator and micro-controller chips for auto change of signal after a pre-specified time interval, and intelligent sensing could be thought of as a worthy intervention.
  • Statisticians, in this aspect could come into the picture, making use of their various cogent mathematical principles to accurately predict the number of on-road casualties using the chronicled data like “number of vehicles passing the particular road-crossing at a particular time of the day”, “number of passengers without helmets, crossing the particular traffic signal” etc. Such reference analysis could be of mighty help to predict and thereby regulate the flow of traffic. There should be more emphasis on safety research, exploration and scrutiny; this could unfurl new-flanged solutions for the betterment of traffic-management.
  • We have been thriving on sophisticated and handy mobile applications recently and many of those are equipped with GPS. We could perhaps go one step ahead in simulating the existing traffic condition with the historic data and in effect, execute a predictive analysis thereby apprising the driver (within a range of 5 Km or so) on the imminent course of action. This, in effect, might bring in the definitive prognosis into the picture…the picture, that is looking ominous at this moment, might just head for a facelift.
  • Next in line, is perhaps an auto-mated controller cum IR tracker that could be handed over to every patrolling police-man at the controller booth or on the road. Through this infra-red cum precocious sensor he can track down those drivers driving without a seat-belt or those punks ‘scampering’ without a helmet from a distance of approximately 5 Km and act accordingly. They might be equipped with night vision glasses and one-pitch-alcohol-Breathalyzer-tester-syllogism to get hold of the reprobates. The penalty associated with any of the above mentioned non-compliances should be made very stringent so that people think twice before breaching them.
  • It goes without saying that the current road conditions are absolutely harrowing to say the least. A recent survey also revealed that a substantial number of on-road accidents have been attributable to the impecunious road conditions in all the major cities of India. Talking about Calcutta, well, the stretch of road connecting Howrah to Dalhousie is perhaps as flustering as ever; the intersections are impregnable as well. The street / roadway lighting, specially at the street-intersections and related infrastructure should also be improved to facilitate driving especially during the night. Honestly speaking ,the State as well as the National funds could be channelized to address the growing concerns with the deplorable road conditions around the country. A logical coalition with JNNURM could open up newer avenues alright. Engaging private consultants could lead to harvesting an unbiased opinion in terms of assessing the "As-Is" and design a re-engineered "To-Be" state, focusing specially in the road-and-transport sector.
  • I did mention earlier that the entire process of Issuance of Driving License should undergo complete re-engineering with process simplification, enhanced transparency, mandatory inspection and full-proof verification. A total of 50,000+ unauthorized driving licenses have been recovered from the North and North-East India in the past 10 months or so, those are alarming figures indeed.
  • I think The Nissan Safety Driving Forum should organize interactive seminars cum workshops in schools, universities and corporate organizations on a regular basis to apprise “them” of all the various traffic-oriented-dos-and-don’ts to “induce a better acceptance”. They could perhaps resort to road-plays as well as creative presentations to attract better attention; choosing a leading motor-sport racer as the eminent brand ambassador could also help in creating an impact. Sensitization through social media in terms of engaging Facebook, Twitter or Blogging campaigns to promote the principle of "Safety Begins With Me" could be invaluable; that of course comes with a caveat that teenagers should be specifically asked to switch off their data connection while driving! :)

This post has been written as a part of the "Safety Begins With Me" campaign launched by Indiblogger and well supported by the Nissan Safety Driving Forum.

Note: The Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., conducts the Nissan Safety Driving Forum (NSDF) in India as part of its safety driving promotion activities. The program began as an annual activity in 2012. In its initial phase it covered three main Indian cities – New Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai – and since then has gradually expanded to several additional cities across India.

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