No brakes on safety

Federation Internationale de L'Automobile (FIA) president Jean Todt says the education and awareness journey is a long and arduous one 

All eyes on the road, that is the message Federation Internationale de L’ Automobile president Jean Todt wanted to give Mumbai. Todt was a special guest at the flag off of the Western India Automobile Association (WIAA) women’s car rally on Sunday March 8, which was a Speed Distance Time (SDT) rally from Mumbai to Amby Valley.

(From l) Gautam Singhania, Jean Todt and Nitin Dossa at the WIAA headquarters yesterday. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi
(From l) Gautam Singhania, Jean Todt and Nitin Dossa at the WIAA headquarters yesterday. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi

Yesterday, the Frenchman addressed a press conference at Mumbai’s WIAA office at Churchgate where he spoke about road safety which he said was priority and touched upon motorsport.

Women competitors at a car rally flagged off by Todt on Sunday, had a dual message to give, safety in the city for women and safety on the roads. Pics/Shadab Khan
Women competitors at a car rally flagged off by Todt on Sunday, had a dual message to give, safety in the city for women and safety on the roads. Pics/Shadab Khan

Todt made several points, looking at Mumbai and India through a pan-global lens and stressed that road safety is an initiative where there can be no let-up. It is an extremely difficult route where several arms have to work together to ensure that conditions improve. Here are the points he made:

>> Todt said we have a number of global challenges. Numbers and figures show that India is right up there within the top nations of road fatalities in the world.

>> What can one do about road accidents? Education and information runs in tandem with the laws. Laws alone will be toothless. Awareness without law enforcement equally ineffective.

>> On Sunday, March 8, at the car rally for women there were lots of women with modern, top of the line cars but not enough stress on putting the safety belt on. Any reasons given for not wearing safety belts are just that inane and bad reasons.

>> About airbags, Todt was asked a question about car manufacturers in India not putting airbags in cars, though airbags are quite cheap. Todt said he agreed that airbags were very cost-effective and added that one could only urge the Govt. to make car manufacturers accountable if they do not have air bags in the cars. Nitin Dossa, executive chairman, WIAA, stated that in the new Motor Vehicles Act it is mandatory for cars to have air bags.

>> To a question of whether Formula One promotes speeding, Todt stated that it does not. F-1 is done on a specific circuit by specific people. Look at the F-1 circuit as a laboratory, he stated. It is a bit like flying to the moon. Not everybody can fly to the moon. The technology used there may help us understand flying better. In the same way, the technology for F-1 may help us understand cars better.

>> Todt stated that automobile organizations cannot do much without Governments, which have to be roped in on a strong programme on road safety.

>> Todt added that road infrastructure and vehicles go side by side. He gave the example of Japan where cars are not supposed to be used after 10 years. Then, these old cars are brought here (in India) to be used, he explained.

>> One must have better roads to go in sync with all the programmes that are being conducted, stated Todt. The FIA has given the WIAA a van fitted with eight cameras to assess road conditions in the country. The van is currently in Chennai. The WIAA claimed the last time around the Maharashtra Govt. did not seem keen to work with the body on assessing road conditions. The WIAA is eager to focus on the Mumbai to Goa stretch where there have been a number of road accidents. The WIAA claimed that they will see if they get a better response from the current government.

>> Todt stated that the United Nations (UN) calls this the decade of action. Rather than just a ear-pleasing sound bite, he says there is a lot of action on road safety, with awareness being key. There has been emphasis on safety on Children’s Day, Pedestrians Day has also been marked.

>> Todt says it is wrong to dub automobile issues as elitist, as they are sometimes, especially in India. After all, road safety is not just those behind the wheel or inside the car. It is for the man on the road too. When we ensure safety on the road, we ensure safety of the pedestrian too, he stated.

>> In the end, Todt said that road safety was a very long and often thankless journey. Most of the results of education and awareness were intangible as they took place in the person’s mind. The only way organizations like the FIA would discern if their messages had hit home would be by going through global figures of road accidents and fatalities. In this case of course, they aim to hit a new low.

FIA action for road safety

Belt Up
All passengers are my responsibility.

Respect the Highway Code
Rules are there to protect us all.

Obey the Speed Limit
My car is made of metal, pedestrians and children are not.

Check my tyres.
Both for wear and for correct inflation, including the spare.

Drive Sober
When I am drunk or on drugs, I am a danger on the road.

Protect my Children
Keep them safe in car seats.

Pay attention
Calling and texting make me dangerous.

Stop when I'm tired.
Getting there late is better than not at all.

Wear a helmet
Motorbikes and bicycles don’t protect my head.

Be courteous and considerate.
Respect other drivers.

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