Varsha, Researcher - CAG

Tamil Nadu’s MARCH towards Vision ZERO

Thu, 01/12/2022 - 14:42

Globally, road crashes kill 1.35 million people and injure 50 million people every year. Road Traffic Injuries are the leading cause of death amongst children and young adults. It is important to recognise that road crashes not only contribute to the unaccountable suffering of victims, their friends and families but also impact economically productive young lives thereby draining the GDP of the nation. . India witnesses more than 400 road fatalities every day (WHO, 2018). It is important to promote evidence based actions to reduce the impact of this epidemic of road crashes and their socio-economic fallouts.

The World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims (WDoR) is a day observed globally to remember the millions killed and injured on our world’s roads, together with their families, friends and many others who are also affected. WDoR is commemorated every year on the third Sunday of November. Considering the numerous crashes and fatalities that take place daily on Indian roads, this day is of enormous relevance to Indian road users.

This year, WDoR was commemorated in a joint event by CAG, the Greater Chennai Traffic Police (GCTP), and the Tamilnadu Dr. Ambedkar Law University (TNDALU). The programme was kickstarted with a road safety quiz for students from city colleges - JBAS, Patrician, and TNDALU. This was followed by screening of an animation video on road safety that highlighted the need for wearing helmets, driving within speed limits, and not drinking and driving.

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📷 Keynote address by Thiru.Shankar Jiwal, IPS | Photo: CAG

The Chief Guest was Thiru Shankar Jiwal, IPS, Commissioner of Police, Chennai who spoke on the efforts taken by the government on improving road safety, in particular the enforcement of road rules by the police. He highlighted the socio economic fallouts of a road crash, and that as a society, “We need more discussions on the causes of road crashes and how we can effectively ensure course correction.” He also felicitated the winners of the quiz competition and honoured various officials of the GCTP for their outstanding work in promoting road safety.

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📷 Felicitation of police personnel by the chief guest | Photo: CAG

The event also saw the participation of the Additional Transport Commissioner, Mr. M. Manakumar. He appealed to all citizens to cooperate with the authorities adding that “Penalties have been increased as per the MVAA 2019 to act as a deterrent to risky road behaviour. They should not be perceived as harassment.” Sumana Narayanan, Senior Researcher, CAG, also emphasised that “The increased penalties under MVAA 2019 being implemented in Tamil Nadu is a welcome move. This should serve as a deterrent to poor driving. Penalties are a crucial tool in nudging citizens to obey the law and thereby avoid road crashes.” Participants also heard real life experiences from two road crash victims. The event concluded with the chief guests and other dignitaries including the Vice Chancellor of TNDALU, Prof. Dr. N.S. Santhosh Kumar and the Additional Commissioner (Traffic), Thiru. Kapil C. Saratkar lighting candles and observing a minute of silence in memory of the precious lives lost on Indian roads. The event witnessed enthusiastic participation from college students, faculty members, representatives from Civil Society Organizations and media.

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📷 Remembering the precious lives lost on roads | Photo: CAG

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Workshop on strengthening road safety decision-making in Tirunelveli

Tue, 18/10/2022 - 10:36

Tamil Nadu continues to hold its place as one of the top 5 states for road fatalities (Road Accidents in India, 2020). This is despite the consistent steps since 2017, taken by the state to improve road safety. Institutional changes, data-driven approaches, and improved law enforcement have only borne limited fruit. What then will work? How are countries around the world strengthening road safety? Are there lessons for Tamil Nadu from this? CAG, Chennai, in collaboration with the District Administration of Tirunelveli organised a workshop on ‘Strengthening Road Safety Decision Making’, to understand global best practices on road safety such as stronger legislation and increased penalties to act as deterrents. The Motor Vehicles Amendment Act, 2019 (MVAA) brings in these key features - increased penalties, accountability of infrastructure contractors, road safety audits, and improved data collection. The MVAA also incorporates elements of the Safe Systems Approach that seeks to reduce deaths to zero by focusing on 3 components - safer roads, safer vehicles, and safer road users. This has been used by countries around the world to drastically cut road fatalities; and one that can be used by Tamil Nadu’s government departments and CSOs.

Dr. Ganapathy Subramanian, our local partner, welcomed the gathering. The District Collector, Thiru.V.Vishnu, I.A.S., inaugurated the workshop and said that these discussions on global best practices and knowledge sharing are essential to improve road safety management. He also highlighted the challenges in managing various categories of roads (National Highways, State Highways, rural roads, etc.) and funding different road works. He stressed the need for sustained coordinated action from all departments and government authorities. He pointed out that the remedial engineering measures taken at a blackspot in Gangai Kondan, now a fatality-free spot, were the result of such coordinated action. “Road safety management can be made robust by addressing pre-crash, at the scene of the crash, and post-crash concerns'”, he said. He also quoted Germany’s autobahn system of well-engineered interstate highways as an example to look up to and refrain from making engineering mistakes in our Indian road design. He underlined the need to anticipate and plan for future changes while designing interstate road networks. . He applauded the various initiatives taken by the Government of Tamil Nadu for post-crash care such as Innuyir Kaapom Thittam and the establishment of trauma care centers at regular intervals in districts. He concluded by saying that such discussions around road safety should not be a one-time activity; rather, there should be a formal system for continuous feedback loops from the decision-makers and the public to steer road safety action. He also said such a system at the district administration level for Tirunelveli is on the cards.

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📷 Key note address by District Collector Thiru.V.Vishnu, IAS | Photo: CAG

Dr. P.Vedagiri, Dean-Infrastructure Support and Planning, IIT - Bombay who is known for his works on Transportation System Engineering, spoke on proactive traffic safety evaluation explaining various methods and tools used. He pointed out that Tamil Nadu continues to remain one of the top five states with regard to the annual number of road crashes and that two-wheelers followed by pedestrians are the two vulnerable road user categories mostly involved in road crashes in 2020. In order to improve this scenario and strengthen road safety, he emphasised the need for road safety audits, increased enforcement to keep a tab on road risks and user behaviour, and the design of roads as per IRC (Indian Roads Congress) standards. He also highlighted that with speeding, the severity of a road crash increases, resulting in an increased risk of a fatality. He also discussed the need for a robust licensing procedure for drivers and imparting basic road sense through advanced training tools such as driving simulators. He concluded by encouraging road users to follow the 2-second rule (i.e. the rule of thumb for drivers to maintain a safe following distance at any speed), and be aware of vehicle blind spots.

Dr. Moses Santhakumar, Professor, Civil Engineering Department, NIT- Tiruchirappalli, an expert in traffic safety and expert systems, spoke on the application of Intelligent Transport Systems in traffic management as well as in road crash analysis. He explained the various technological advancements to create intelligent roads and vehicles. He also pointed out that

this will aid efficient monitoring of road user behaviour and enforcement. He discussed various examples such as “glow in the dark'' road markings, pedestrian/obstacle detection systems, and vehicle stability and warning systems. He underlined the need to collectively work towards making Tamil Nadu’s roads safer to traverse.

Presenting the global perspective, Sandeep Gaikwad, Senior Project Associate from the CSO, Parisar, spoke of the need to bring the Safe Systems Approach into road safety planning and management in India.

Ms.Varsha Vasuhe. V, Researcher (Architect – Urban Planner), spoke on CAG’s work so far on advocacy and engagement with various stakeholders including the citizens, unions, government officials, and policymakers. The work areas largely cover research on road safety legislation in Tamil Nadu, its status and implementation in various districts, and compliance with road rules and enforcement. She also highlighted the findings from the helmet and seatbelt compliance study conducted across 15 selected intersections in the district. The findings revealed that out of the 16858 two-wheelers surveyed, 55% of the drivers and 97% of the pillion riders did not wear helmets. Similar alarming rates of non-compliance were also seen amongst car users. It was observed that out of the 4019 cars surveyed, 57% of the car drivers, 64% of the front seat passengers, and 82% of the rear seat passengers did not strap their seatbelts on. The findings underlined the need to implement the increased penalties as per MVAA 2019 to instill in motorists the habit to comply with using safety gear, an ideal preventive measure of road crash injuries and deaths.

The workshop concluded with notes by the Regional Transport Officer Thiru. M.Chandrasekar, Additional Superintendent of Police Thiru. Raju and Mr.Salim, Consumer Awareness Movement, Kallidaikurichi. The workshop witnessed the participation of the District Road Safety Committee members and other decision makers. The workshop highlighted the need for immediate action with scientific underpinnings to move Tamil Nadu to a position of leadership in road safety.

Regional Media Workshop

Date: 15.10.2022 Venue: Press Club, Tirunelveli

A regional media workshop spearheaded by CAG (Citizen consumer and civic Action Group) in collaboration with its local partner, Dr.Ganapathy Subramanian was conducted at the Press Club of Tirunelveli on October 15th, 2022. The workshop discussed the role of journalists in improving road safety in the district and encouraged them to cover road crashes more sensitively through a pro-people narrative; highlighting risky road behaviours, the various causal factors of a road crash, enforcement strategies, and holding the government accountable in case of discrepancies. Handouts compiling Tamil Nadu’s road crash statistics and findings from the helmet and seatbelt compliance study conducted across 15 major intersections in Tirunelveli district were distributed to the participants. The workshop also discussed the need to use data backed facts to highlight the seriousness of road risks, such as non-compliance with wearing safety gear, drunk driving, distracted driving, speeding etc.

The key highlights from the workshop, Strengthening Road Safety Decision Making, presided over by the District Collector V.Vishnu IAS., with participation from academicians (Prof. Dr.P. Vedagiri from IIT-B and Prof.M.Santhakumar from NIT-Tiruchirapalli) and the District Road Safety Committee members to promote an ‘Accident-Free Nellai’ were also discussed and quoted. The media workshop witnessed the participation of more than 25 local journalists including senior reporters of visual and print media. The event received significant media coverage and kick-started various discussions around improving road safety in the district.

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📷 News byte on the regional media workshop, Tirunelveli | Race TV

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Workshop on need for implementing MVAA 2019 and role of media in road safety

Sat, 01/10/2022 - 14:59

CAG in collaboration with Consumer Rights Movement, Salem conducted a regional media workshop in Salem on the 25th of September, 2022. The workshop aimed at underlining the need for implementation of the Motor Vehicles Amendment Act (MVAA) 2019 and sensitizing media reporters to cover road crashes more effectively. The workshop witnessed the participation of over 30 media personnel, inclusive of senior reporters and journalists. The event was presided over by officials from the district’s police and transport department including Mr.Ravichandran (Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police, Salem), Mr.Damodharan (Regional Transport Officer - Dharmapuri), and Mr. Kalyanakumar (Regional Transport Officer – Salem East).

Mr.J.M Boopathi (Consumer Rights Movement) delivered the welcome address followed by a presentation by Ms. Varsha Vasuhe.V (Researcher, CAG) highlighting the various provisions of MVAA and the need to strengthen enforcement through increased fines for traffic violations. She also discussed the findings of the helmet and seat belt compliance study conducted at four major intersections in the district. The intersections studied include Kondalampatti, Collectorate Junction, Five Roads, and Cherry Road. The findings reveal that out of the 4761 total two-wheelers surveyed, 68% of drivers and 82% of the pillion riders were not wearing helmets. Out of the 1558 cars surveyed, 63% of the drivers, 88% of front seat passengers, and 97% of back seat passengers did not strap their seatbelts on. Such alarming levels of non-compliance with wearing safety gear among motorists only point to the need for sustained implementation of higher penalties as mentioned under the MVAA 2019. Implementation of the MVAA 2019 coupled with quality enforcement will help improve the road safety scenario of the district.

Mr. G. Ananthakrishnan, a senior journalist who was the guest speaker, stressed the importance of the media’s role in highlighting the road safety improvements needed and holding the government accountable for the same. He also emphasised the need to report road crashes as social crises and use pro-people language. He highlighted that the common practice in vernacular media has been reporting single collisions with very weak or no follow-up investigation. He encouraged that media investigation and follow-up of road crashes would prove to be a useful tool in promoting road safety measures.

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📷 Keynote by Mr.Ravichandran (Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police, Salem) | Photo: CAG

The key speaker Mr.Ravichandran (Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police, Salem) spoke on how Enforcement and Engineering should work in parallel with Education on road safety. He also stressed that the socio-economic costs of road crash deaths and injuries should be factored in while strategizing enforcement measures. Mr.Kalyanakumar (Regional Transport Officer – Salem East) spoke about how the penalties have been duly increased for overloaded vehicles as per MVAA 2019. Though efficiency of enforcement can be increased, he stated that repeat offenders are being observed and notified to attend sessions where they are sensitised on the consequences of their various traffic violations. As Salem witnesses over 300 road crashes every month, he suggested that enforcement should be coupled with other aspects of education, engineering and willingness to comply with the traffic rules by the road users. Mr.Damodharan (Regional Transport Officer - Dharmapuri) underlined the need for different departments such as the police, highways authority, and the regional transport authority to work in a coordinated manner to strengthen road safety and enforcement. He also spoke in detail about eliminating blackspots along the Thoppur Ghat Road where road crashes involving trucks carrying freight were prevalent.

Reputed media personnel from the district of Salem including Mr.Senthil Kumaran, the special correspondent, The Times of India, and R.S.Sakthivel, correspondent, Kalaignar TV also spoke about the consistent efforts taken by the media to highlight causal factors of road crashes in the district.

They positively received the suggestions to conduct follow-up media investigations rather than reporting single collisions. They also showed substantial interest in highlighting the need for increased penalties as per MVAA 2019 in a positive manner to eliminate the common man's misconception of fines as police harassment.

The event kick-started several discussions around the media’s role in a road crash investigation, implementation of the increased penalties under the MVAA 2019 and received significant coverage in print and visual media.

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📷 Media and news website coverage | Just Now Salem

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📷 Article quoting data highlights on various road safety risks from the regional media workshop on road safety | Dinakaran Newsprint

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📷 Snippet about the regional media workshop on road safety highlighting the helmet and seatbelt compliance study | Dinamalar Newsprint

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Child safety on Tamil Nadu's roads: are we doing enough?

Tue, 06/09/2022 - 13:47

Children are perhaps among the most overlooked Vulnerable Road Users (VRUs) in our country. This statement is justified by the scary statistics of India witnessing 11,168 child fatalities on roads in 2019, an increase of 12% from the previous year. Regrettably, Tamil Nadu accounted for 10.3% of the total child fatalities in the country amounting to 1153 deaths on roads in 2019.

Workshop on Strengthening Road Safety Decision Making

Thu, 28/07/2022 - 12:36

CAG in collaboration with the Tamil Nadu Consumer Protection and Environment Research Centre (TNCPERC), Tiruvarur organised a workshop on ‘Strengthening Road Safety Decision Making’ for members of the District Road Safety Committee (DRSC) on the 18th of July, 2022. The workshop aimed at sharing knowledge of global best practices on road safety emphasising the need for robust road safety legislation, increased penalties to act as deterrents and leveraging the use of technology for improved enforcement. The session was inaugurated by the District Revenue Officer, Mr. P. Chidambaram who highlighted the road safety challenges in Tiruvarur district and that careless road user behaviour should be addressed. He also appreciated that this workshop would kick-start discussions and lead to the strengthening of the road safety scenario in the district. Multi-disciplinary experts spoke on a range of topics that enabled interactions on improving road safety management in the district. Sumana Narayanan, Senior Researcher spoke on CAG’s work on road safety advocacy and engagement with various stakeholders including the citizens, unions, government officials, and policymakers. 

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Presenting a snapshot of the global perspective, Sandeep Gaikwad from Parisar, a Civil Society Organisation based out of Pune, spoke of the need to bring the Safe Systems Approach into road safety planning and management in India. He also spoke about the Haddon’s matrix and underlined the need to view crash-related injuries through a wider lens including human, vehicle, environmental and social factors. Dr. Bhargab Maitra from IIT-Kharagpur spoke of the need for coordinated speed management. He pointed out that currently speed limits are set in an arbitrary manner and do not reflect the ground situation. He further recommended that scientific speed limits should be set based on traffic engineering criteria and human injury tolerance. Dr.S.Moses Santhakumar from NIT- Tiruchirappalli while speaking on the application of Intelligent Transport Systems in road crash analysis as well as traffic management, stressed the need for safe infrastructure and a proactive approach to road safety rather than a conventional reactive one.

The workshop concluded with an interactive session with the members of the DRSC discussing road safety concerns in terms of infrastructure and enforcement that need immediate attention and addressal in Tiruvarur. The vote of thanks was delivered by Mr.Ramesh of TNCPERC. Global road safety concepts, result-oriented strategies, and the need for strict enforcement of increased penalties as per MVAA 2019 in Tamil Nadu were the key takeaways from the workshop. The district authorities showcased a substantial interest in taking action to actualise them. The event also received significant media coverage in vernacular print and audio-visual media.

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Regional Media Workshop, Tiruvarur

The morning’s event was followed by a media workshop organised by CAG in collaboration with Tamil Nadu Consumer Protection and Environment Research Centre (TNCPERC), Tiruvarur, for various print and audio-visual media reporters and journalists on 18th July, 2022. The workshop aimed at sharing insights on global road safety perspectives, tying road crash reporting narratives to the existing MVAA 2019 legislation, and a more data-driven approach to highlighting reasons for a road crash rather than just documenting or describing them on the news.

Flyers depicting the national and state-level road crash statistics visually were presented to the participants along with the findings of the helmet and seat belt compliance study conducted in the district of Tiruvarur by CAG. The session began with Sumana Narayanan, Senior Researcher, CAG presenting a snapshot of trends in the road crash statistics over the past five years. It revealed that there is still work that largely needs to be done to improve the road safety scenario in India and in Tamil Nadu. She emphasised how the decrease in road crashes and road fatalities during COVID-19 lockdowns should be considered an aberration; rather it’s important to focus on the nuances and the increase in numbers post the lockdown period. She also spoke on how the media has a huge role in instigating the government to streamline its focus on road safety and hold the authorities accountable for the same.

The workshop witnessed the enthusiastic participation of around 12 local journalists and reporters from the region. The session was led in an interactive manner with the participants sharing some of the persistent road safety issues they report in the Tiruvarur district. It also registered the fact that road safety measures will reap fruit only when all road users take responsibility for their behaviour on roads and strive to create a safe environment for all. The workshop ended with a note to prioritise road safety issues and improve enforcement through effective implementation of the increased penalties as per the MVAA 2019.

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Buckle Up! An assessment of helmet and seatbelt law compliance in Thiruvarur district

Fri, 15/07/2022 - 16:29

More than 50% of vehicle drivers in Thiruvarur district were found not adhering to the helmet and seatbelt laws, says a compliance audit conducted by CAG recently. With Tamil Nadu topping the charts for the highest number of annual road crashes consecutively for the fifth year in 2020, it is important to lookback, learn and redefine our road safety management practices. This study also recommends next steps for proactive enforcement and road safety management in districts of Tamil Nadu.

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An assessment of speeding concerns and their management in Chennai, Tamil Nadu

Tue, 14/06/2022 - 12:56

“Two wheelers and cars speed upto 75 kmph in major arterial stretches of Chennai city” says a study by CAG that highlights the concerns of speed management in the city through evidence based cases. The report also outlines priority areas to reduce speeding threats. Read to know more!

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Speeding woes in Chennai need to be resolved, NOW!

Fri, 08/04/2022 - 09:42

The consequences and the dangers of speeding are far ranging and well known. From losing control of a vehicle to the  potential dangers of increased stopping distances and higher crash severity, speeding is a huge menace for the mixed road traffic scenario typical of India. As per the State Crime Records Bureau (SCRB) 2020, 98.57% of crashes in Tamil Nadu were the result of dangerous driver behaviour. The main reasons included speeding and aggressive driving.