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.
? 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.
? Media and news website coverage | Just Now Salem
? Article quoting data highlights on various road safety risks from the regional media workshop on road safety | Dinakaran Newsprint
? Snippet about the regional media workshop on road safety highlighting the helmet and seatbelt compliance study | Dinamalar Newsprint