On July 8, 2016, the West Bengal government launched the “Safe Drive Save Life” initiative in Kolkata aimed at reducing road accidents, which were one of the leading causes of deaths and disabilities in the state. The initiative, which was the brainchild of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, is proving to be hugely impactful.
The number of road accident cases in the state capital is down by nearly 15 per cent in 2018 compared to the year before. As per the data sourced from Kolkata Traffic Police Department, in 2015, total road accident cases registered were 3739; out of these, the number of deaths was 422 in Kolkata. In 2018, the total number of cases came down to 2,456 and deaths were down to 294 — a decline of over 30 per cent on both counts. “Safe Drive Save Life” has thus emerged as one of the most successful government programmes by the West Bengal government after Kanyashree Prakalpa, seeks to improve the status and wellbeing of girls, specifically those from socio-economically disadvantaged families through conditional cash transfers.
Speaking to The Indian Express on the successful implementation of “Safe Drive Save Life Campaign” Kolkata Police Commissioner Anuj Sharma said, “Kolkata Traffic Police over the years has successfully established itself as a premier organisation in metropolitan traffic management. We have undertaken efforts to improve our performance by adopting new technological advancements.”
The traffic department implemented the three E’s — Enforcement, Education and Engineering — of traffic management to achieve success. A big part of the plan was to raise awareness about traffic safety issues. So there was a concerted campaign to have roadside hoarding that carried slogans such as “speed kills” or “always wear a helmet” etc. urging commuters to be more responsible. The government also worked social media platforms such as Twitter to extend its message to the new generation. One of the biggest successes was when the department used the image of the Beatles walking across the zebra crossing on Abbey Road to get people to use such pedestrian crossings. This provided huge popularity for the department’s Twitter handle.
The department also used shock tactics. During the initial phase of the campaign, the traffic department used to play real accident video footages at all movie theatre just before the start of the movie to get people’s attention and raise awareness. Apart from these innovative methods, there were the regular modes of reaching out to the public — via radio jingles and puja pandals etc. The government also reached out to the schools.
The government also put a lot of effort in training drivers and sensitising them about the situation. One interesting approach in this regard was reverse the roles for the drivers and make them direct traffic for a few minutes at some traffic signals and make them see the whole situation from another side.
Beyond training and raising awareness, the officials also used technology and analysis of traffic patterns and accident locations to reduce fatalities. For instance, one of the first things they did was to identify 19 black spots — spots which were most accident-prone — such as Maa flyover, AJC Bose Road, EM Bypass. And then they placed CCTV camera there to better monitor the area.
The government also shifted to increasingly doing things digitally. So instead of sending notices via the snail mail, they sent challans via phone messages. Field officers were given mobile apps to instantly load information about violators. Speed guns to detect overspeeding and the use of Automated Number Plate Recognition system to track traffic signal violators were put in place.
The traffic department also has its own central data server where all this information is stored. The officials can now study traffic and accident patterns better. Road signals can now be controlled centrally. They are now synchronised in such a manner that allows traffic police to manage traffic better by tracking the peak traffic profile of the city.
“What the Chief Minister had aspired is now visible in numbers also. This campaign has created a positive impact on the psychology of the people,” State Transport Minister Suvendu Adhikari told The Indian Express.
But Kolkata Traffic Police is not resting on its laurels. Moreover, the Bengal government is now determined to spread this campaign across other districts in the state.
Kolkata’s tools for traffic management
– Speed laser gun at key locations to curb overspeeding
-Breath Analyser to detect drunken drivers
-Video analysis through CCTV to nab violators of traffic signals
-Red Light Violation Detective and Automated Number Plate Recognition system — that intimate violators in real time
-A citation app that allows instant uploading of information about violators
-E-Challan for paperless prosecution
-Online payment for hassle-free and transparent payment of penalties
Source: The IndianEXPRESS