'Safe Drive Save Life': four omnipresent words in the state of West Bengal have for all practical purposes become traffic jargon in themselves. From signs, banners, hoardings and kiosks to television and radio advertisements, these four words have become an integral cog of the popular culture. But what exactly do these words mean? Has 'Safe Drive Save Life' been successful in making city roads safer? In this issue of Kolkata on WHEELS, let us find out what 'Safe Drive Save Life' has managed to achieve and what’s still desired. The 'Safe Drive Save Life' campaign was launched on 8th July 2016 by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee with the aim to ensure road safety for everyone. To impact the road culture of the city and to change the on-road behaviour for a better urban experience, West Bengal Police and Kolkata Police joined hands with Karmyog Foundation- an NGO, to implement the project. The entire campaign under “Safe Drive Save Life” aims to improve relationships among four major stakeholders of the road – the police, drivers, passengers and pedestrians - through mass education and mass media for developing a better road culture in West Bengal. While the psychological motivation provided along with the learning experience aims at a large-scale behavioural change that is truly laudable, there seems to be a dearth of actual driving instructions for safe driving beyond the set curriculum. CAMPAIGN COVERAGE As a part of the educational campaign, children aged 8-18 were targeted from both private and government schools. To bring about a change in behaviour, classes were designed as interactive experiments with audio-visual aids and open-ended assignments that encouraged the children to hone their creative talents. As of 27th July 2017, 84,851 children from 329 schools had been initiated into the campaign. Along with children, the campaign also includes a general educational module for professional drivers. The 25 traffic guards in the city were converted into ‘learning clubs’ where select Kolkata Police officials were engaged in taking classes designed by Karmyog. The curriculum is divided into twelve modules which includes knowledge (gyan), skills (kaushal) and practice tips (sadhna) on topics such as over-speeding, defensive driving, drunken driving and vehicle maintenance, and also on life-topics such as de-addiction, alertness, personal hygiene, etc. These classes are interactive and imparted with audio-visual aids to enhance the learning experience for the drivers. As of 27th July 2017, 51,603 drivers had been enrolled into these learning clubs spread over the 25 traffic guards in the city. According to the statistics provided by Karmyog to Team WHEELS, Auto, Taxi and Bus drivers figured prominently amongst the total enrolled drivers. COMMENDABLE POLICE ENFORCEMENT Team WHEELS observes that it is the stricter enforcement of existing traffic rules by Kolkata Traffic Police and not exactly the campaign that has brought down the number of road accident fatalities from 450 in 2014 to 329 in 2017. Kolkata Traffic Police have not only been successful in reinforcing the vital safety measures but the unabated illegal bike racings which led to heavy casualties for road users has also been significantly controlled. Moreover, the police have been able to effectively enforce the habit of using the seat belt and observing speed regulations, as well as raising awareness about drunken driving. These measures, along with CCTV camera surveillance and the App-based management of Kolkata Police have been greatly effective in bringing down the number of road accidents. Whether this commendable achievement is actually a result of the 'Safe Drive Save Life' campaign or of direct police enforcement of the existing traffic rules is a matter of introspection. Jurisdiction: Kolkata Traffic Police Year No. of Fatalities 2014 450 2015 422 2016 407 2017 329 LACK OF SPECIFIC RULES Since its launch in 2016, it has been observed that the 'Safe Drive Save Life' campaign does not have a specific set of safety rules for car drivers to follow beyond the matters of seat belt, drunken driving, mobile conversation and slow driving. Though the 'Safe Drive Save Life' banners and hoardings are widely visible, specific rules set as per target groups are missing. Simply telling the drivers to ‘drive safely’ is unlikely to cut the ice unless they know the safe driving techniques. It is learnt that beyond the common inputs, nothing is imparted through the campaign. Though a ‘Training Manual for Drivers’ has been published by the Transport Department of the State Government in collaboration with Indian Institute of Technology Kharagapur, the rules have not actually been disseminated amongst the motorists. VITAL SAFETY RULES FOR MOTORISTS In the absence of any specific set of safety rules under the 'Safe Drive Save Life' mission, Team WHEELS compiled a comprehensive set of safety rules for private motorists including the most common ones propagated by the campaign. 1 PRELIMINARY CHECKS The air pressure of tyres should be checked before undertaking any drive. Tyre bursts are common at high speed, throwing the vehicle out of control. The standard air pressure of tyres as recommended by the tyre company should be checked at regular intervals. The air pressure should not be reduced to manage tyre inflation on long drives. Tyres while being manufactured are built to sustain inflation to a very high extent. Instead, low air pressure in tyres would make them susceptible to damage or cuts over long-distance rolling. The tyre condition and tread depths should also be observed before one takes his vehicle on a long drive on the highway. Wheel alignment and balancing should also preferably be done which reduces the risk of tyre damage due to high speed spinning over long distances. Before you embark on a long drive, the condition of the brake, lubricants, coolants, lights and wipers should also be checked. 2 FASTEN YOUR SEATBELT Most motorists feel that wearing the seatbelt is bothersome and useless. Interestingly, they wear it to escape paying traffic penalties and not to save their dear lives! In reality, in case of a crash, the motorists without seatbelts hit the dashboard or windscreen or are thrown out of the vehicle sustaining severe injuries or facing death. Motorists have not yet developed the habit of buckling up. Though the law in India requires seatbelts only for the front seat passengers, it is safer for all passengers in the vehicle to put on seatbelts, especially on highways. Wear the shoulder strap over your shoulder, never under your arm or behind your back. The lap belt should be worn low over the hips and not against the stomach. You never know when an accident might occur and it may be the seatbelt that makes all the difference between you being dead or alive. 3 DEFENSIVE DRIVING Defensive driving is the anticipation of situations or factors that can possibly lead to accidents, and driving the car in a manner that would help you stay safe. Defensive driving is based on three ideas: visibility, space and communication. Visibility: Visibility is about seeing and being seen. You should always be aware of the traffic in front of you, behind and beside. Keep your eyes constantly moving, scanning the road ahead and to the side and checking your mirrors. The farther ahead you look, the less likely you are to be surprised, and you will have time to avoid any hazard. Make sure other drivers can see you by using your signal lights as well. Space: Managing the space around your vehicle lets you see and be seen and gives you time and space to avoid a collision. Leave a cushion of space ahead, behind and to both sides. The greatest risk of a collision is in front of you, so stay well back. Communication: Communicate with other road users to make sure they see you and know what you are doing. Signal whenever you want to slow down, stop, turn or change lanes. If you need to get another person's attention, use your horn. 4 LANE DISCIPLINE On Highways The majority of motorists in India are clueless about the correct lane to drive on. The main cause for accidents on Indian highways is perhaps driving in the wrong lane and forcing the other vehicles to overtake from the left. With new-generation highways coming up all over the country, the need to follow lane discipline has become imperative. 6-Lane Highway (3 lanes up + 3 lanes down): As a highway rule, in a 6-lane dual carriageway (3 lanes up + 3 lanes down with a median), the leftmost lane is meant for slow-moving vehicles such as loaded trucks. The middle lane is for the faster light motor vehicles. The extreme right lane is meant only for overtaking and not for continuous driving and thus should be kept free. 4-Lane Highway (2 lanes up + 2 lanes down): On a 4-lane highway (2 lanes up + 2 lanes down), one should stay on the leftmost lane and move on to the right lane to overtake the vehicle in front. After overtaking, one should again come back to the left lane. Contrary to the rule, we see the reverse in India when it comes to lane discipline on highways. The heavy slow-moving vehicles drive on the rightmost lane blocking the faster vehicles which are supposed to overtake from the right. However, if you are forced to overtake from the left, do so very carefully. Put on your left indicator to signal your intention, check vehicles on your rear view mirrors and keep enough space from the vehicle you overtake. In City 4-Lane Road (2 lanes up + 2 lanes down):
- Stay on the left for turning left.
- Stay in the left lane for going straight too. (The right lane may be blocked by vehicles turning right).
- Use the right lane only if you want to turn right or to overtake.
- Stay in the left lane for turning left.
- Stay in the middle lane for going straight.
- Use the right lane to turn right or overtake.