‘India Vision Zero’ to reduce road fatalities

By engaging multi-sectorial stakeholders, ‘India Vision Zero: Towards Zero Traffic Deaths’ provided an opportunity to highlight the larger need for bus safety reforms in the country. The forum helped to discuss the role non-governmental stakeholders can play in advancing road safety, through education, advocacy, improved policies or through CSR investment

NEW DELHI: A diverse mix of stakeholders including government officials, corporates and civil society joined ‘India Vision Zero: Towards Zero Traffic Deaths’, to discuss road safety reforms in India.

Jointly organized by UL (Underwriters Laboratories), Bloomberg Philanthropies Initiative for Global Road Safety and World Resources Institute (WRI) India, the summit saw participants discussing strategies to make public bus services safer, as well as the role of corporates in advancing road safety in Indian cities.

Among the participants were Dr OP Agarwal, CEO, WRI India; Suresh Sugavanam, Vice President and Managing Director, UL, South Asia; Cara Gizzi, Vice President, Education & Outreach, UL and Zoe Susice, Director, Strategy and Marketing, UL. State and city transport authorities including Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC), Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC), Tamil Nadu State Transport Undertakings (TNSTUs), North East Karnataka Road Transport Corporation (NEKRTC), Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC), Brihanmumbai Electric Supply & Transport (BEST); corporates Shell, Toyota, Dell, Bosch, Honda, PVR Cinemas; and non-profit organizations like NASSCOM Foundation and Shakti Foundation joined the discussion.

Driven by the mutual goal to explore multidimensional and workable road safety solutions that can be replicated across the country, UL and WRI embarked on a multi-year collaboration in 2015. The partners focused on studying crashes involving public buses, starting with two city bus agencies: BMTC and BEST. Between 2015 and 2016, the partnership analyzed the crash data from these bus agencies and implemented some solutions such as retrofitting standard sized mirrors to improve visibility of drivers and upgrading the driver training program to make it relevant to today’s needs. In 2017, WRI continued its partnership with UL to expand the study to four more bus transport agencies, including both city- and state-run operations.

‘India Vision Zero: Towards Zero Traffic Deaths’ was conducted under the banner of India Vision Zero (IVZ), a road safety forum set up to deliberate on challenges, opportunities and solutions towards reducing road traffic fatalities in India. It is based on four principles: ” Safety first: Protecting human life is more important than all other traffic-related challenges ” Forgiving systems: Fail safe roads and vehicle systems are essential to minimize fatalities due to human error ” Shared responsibilities: Transport providers and authorities are as responsible for road safety as the road users. ” Coordinated action: An effective road safety strategy needs coordinated action between all stakeholders, with inter-linked targets, periodic communication and corrective mechanisms.

Stressing on the importance of involving public bus services in the road safety discussion, Dr. OP Agarwal, CEO, WRI India, said, “Public bus systems form the backbone of urban mobility in India and serve as an economical and convenient mode of transport for all classes of society. Effective bus safety is vital to build a robust, well-designed road safety system.” He added, “Together, we can drive the discussion with innovative ideas on road safety.”

IVZ follows the international Vision Zero approach to road safety, which prioritizes human life above all other traffic related issues. The Vision Zero approach to road safety was introduced in Sweden in 1997 and uses the basic principle that if transportation systems are designed to be safe for the most vulnerable user, then they will be safe for all users. By 2000, the country had reduced its road fatality numbers by half. In the last decade, over a million people have died due to road traffic crashes in India, accounting for more than 10 percent of global numbers.

Most victims are in the age group of 15 to 45 years. Multiple data studies done by government as well as private bodies indicate that the nation loses around two to three percent of its GDP owing to fatalities or serious injuries caused in road traffic crashes.

The Indian government has made a number of attempts to strengthen road legislation. Recently, the Motor Vehicles (Amendment Bill) 2016 was passed by the lower house of the Parliament. Many of the amendments suggested in the bill are aimed at empowering the national, state, and local governments to strengthen institutional mechanisms and initiate comprehensive road safety strategies.

Amit Bhatt, Executive Director, Integrated Transport, WRI India Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, said, “India sees an alarmingly high rate of road fatalities every year. There needs to be a cumulative effort between the Centre, states as well as private players such as vehicle manufacturers, road traffic authorities, NGOs and corporates to come together and work towards attaining zero road fatalities. India Vision Zero aims at leveraging diverse expertise from stakeholders, and using best practices for creating a conducive, safe environment for commuters and pedestrians alike.”

Suresh Sugavanam, Vice President and Managing Director, UL – South Asia, further explained, “To advance UL’s mission of safety in India, we are deeply committed to identifying and implementing public safety solutions. Addressing the road safety crisis in India requires a scientific, data-driven and collaborative approach. UL has therefore partnered with WRI to execute a one-of-its-kind multi-pronged initiative to tackle safety challenges associated with metropolitan bus transport agencies.”

Throwing light on the long-term impacts of this program, Sugavanam said, “We are delighted with the outcome of our combined efforts – apart from infrastructure changes on ground, the project has also brought positive behavioral changes in the driver community. Success of such endeavors will enable law makers and concerned authorities to frame rational policies to prevent road-related fatalities. We plan to continue such engagements and advance road safety partnerships with relevant stakeholders.”

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