Here’s a worrying statistic: according to the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH), over 1.5 lakh individuals died in road accidents in India in 2018. Road safety lapses have been, for long, a serious cause for concern in India, with the country registering the highest number of road fatalities in the world. Though the buzz around safer roads has picked up in recent times with new vehicle safety norms, like the mandating of ABS and airbags and the upcoming implementation of new pedestrian safety norms, the overall road situation still remains far from ideal.
Homegrown carmaker Mahindra, in an effort to further the cause of road safety, recently organised its ‘Safer Drives Safer Lives’ campaign, in association with the SaveLIFE Foundation, an independent, non-governmental organisation. The campaign kicked off with special drives in the cities of New Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai for motoring journalists and other media persons, to highlight the best driving practices, as well as the importance of modern safety equipment in cars.
The event started off with briefings from auto experts on typical Indian driving conditions, road user behaviour, the need for following regulations and tips for staying safe behind the wheel. Providing further insight at the Delhi leg of the event was ace rally driver and Arjuna Award winner, Gaurav Gill.
India’s top rally driver, Gaurav Gill, was on hand at the Delhi leg of the drive.
Also being one of the first media drive events post the COVID-19 pandemic, the organisers had taken special measures to ensure the safety and hygiene of every participant, providing everyone with face masks, sanitisers and gloves. Social distancing was being observed in full swing and even the cars were sanitised at regular intervals.
Once the briefings were done, the first activity of the day was to tackle the hustle and bustle of our city streets. We were taken out on the public road in Mahindra’s XUV300 to demonstrate how to effectively tackle day-to-day driving situations. The focus was primarily on following speed limits and road signs, safely negotiating slow-moving traffic, giving way to pedestrians, and overall, just being aware of other road users.
Participants at the Chennai event, ready for flag off.
To show how safety equipment in cars can greatly help, each participant was then taken through a series of demonstrations in a controlled environment. The car used here was also a Mahindra XUV300, which boasts of the highest safety rating awarded to an Indian car by independent safety evaluator Global NCAP (New Car Assessment Program). The XUV300 comes with safety kit like seven airbags, disc brakes all round, ABS with EBD and corner braking control, ESP and ISOFIX child-seat mounts.
With ABS deactivated, the wheels lock up and the car goes on to hit the obstacle.
First up was a braking test, which showcased the increase in braking distance with every increase in speed, thus highlighting the importance of maintaining a safe distance from other vehicles. Next up, was driving both, an ABS-equipped car and one without it, and seeing how it was impossible to avoid a lockup or have steering control under hard braking without ABS. This one was an eye opener and really underlined the importance of ABS in avoiding accidents.
With ABS, the car is able to steer around the obstacle as the wheels aren’t locked.
Once the demonstrations were complete, it was our turn to get behind the wheel of the Mahindra XUV300. The organisers had laid out a handling course that included a chicane, a sharp turn and a slalom section to demonstrate the ability of the vehicle’s ESP (electronic stability programme) system in preventing the car from skidding by modulating engine power and braking individual wheels. And with the tests being performed on different surfaces in different cities, ranging from wet tarmac in Mumbai to loose dirt in Delhi, the day’s activities also highlighted the effectiveness of the safety systems in different conditions.
Delhi’s dirt course put all the XUV300’s systems to the test in varied conditions.
The handling course, uniquely, ended with a series of road signs, like a 20kph speed limit, that we needed to adhere to and then park the car in a designated area. We were accompanied by one of the driving instructors, who not only guided us, but also scored us on how quickly we completed the course, and if we were taking the necessary safety precautions. The experts judged us on whether we buckled up, set our mirrors correctly, used the indicators and our responses to the obstacles and road signs. The organisers also handed out a pop quiz at the end of the event to judge our knowledge of road signs.
Participants were quizzed on their knowledge of road signs.
Speaking about the safety campaign, Veejay Nakra, CEO – automotive division, Mahindra & Mahindra, said, “Mahindra has a long-standing reputation for building vehicles that are reliable, trustworthy and safe. We have constantly raised the bar for safety, going beyond regulatory requirements voluntarily.”
“Our XUV300, which is India’s safest vehicle among all the vehicles tested by GNCAP in India over the last six years, is a testimony to that. However, the status of road safety in India is alarming, hence we have decided to take on the mantle and bring road safety into the fore through this ‘Safer Drives Safer Lives’ campaign.”
The XUV300 has the highest safety rating awarded to an Indian car by Global NCAP.
With a road accident fatality being reported in the country every four minutes on average, it is imperative for road users to adopt driving discipline and for buyers to assign a greater importance to a vehicle’s safety aspects while making purchase decisions. Raising awareness, then, is a key step towards achieving the goal of safer Indian roads and Mahindra did just that with the ‘Safer Drives Safer Lives’ campaign.