In March 2020, WHO declared COVID-19 a worldwide pandemic and since then, every country across the globe is fighting to handle outbreaks of the virus. The virus has impacted every aspect of our lives and work. Road safety is no exception. According to statistics, road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death of children and young adults aged 15-29 years. Nearly 1.3 million people are victims of road crashes every year, an additional 20-50 million are injured or disabled.
Although we are fighting with an existing virus pandemic, we cannot ignore the dangers of the road safety pandemic that has been taking many lives for years and this calls for an immediate step towards prevention. It is pertinent to note that both COVID-19 and road safety share an unfortunate trait – they hit the most vulnerable people the hardest.
Globally, schools fall under the vulnerable road user zone. With Unlock 5.0, the central government has asked the state government to decide on the timing for reopening schools. Given that schools can open anytime in the near or immediate future, it becomes important for us to take this window of opportunity to build safer road conditions around the school.
In India, road safety programs exist in many forms, however, there is a need for a more structured and consistent approach. Addressing the concern of road safety around school premises, 3M India under their community initiative ‘3M Young Change Agents for Road Safety’ (YCARS) developed a robust program in partnership with Concern for Road and Pedestrian Safety (CoRPs) and United Way of Bengaluru (UWBe) and launched the first School Safety Zone at St. Joseph’s School Bengaluru in 2019.
Commenting on the initiative Pawan Kumar Singh, Country Head, Transportation & Electronics Business Group, 3M India, said, "Covid-19 has not been able to control road accidents. Road safety is a global pandemic that claims over 1.3 million lives every year. India, which has less than 1% of global motor vehicles, sees 11% of people killed every year due to road-related fatalities. With YCARS, we are not only safeguarding our kids with safe school zones but also aiming to sensitize future drivers by instilling responsible driving practices in them. We have successfully been able to cover 12 schools during 2019-2020 and we strive towards increasing the number in coming years across the country."
In its first year working this program, 3M is aiming towards covering 15 -20 schools across five cities - Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and Pune. In the subsequent years, the company aims to reach out to over 50- 100 schools in over 30 cities. 3M has created #ScienceOfSafety for this campaign to encourage people to spread the message of school safety and can also reach out to the company to enrol their schools. In 2019-2020, 3M has undertaken this initiative across Maharashtra, Karnataka, Delhi and Chennai wherein, school children across five school from Pune, five schools from Bangalore and one school each from Delhi and Chennai were trained and educated on road safety issues.
"We value our partnership with 3M to co-create this program given their expertise in road safety and learnings from global markets that can implemented here in India. Road safety in India needs immediate attention and proactive measures to reduce the loss of human lives in roadkill. It is high time move the need from awareness to action. This is exactly what we aim to achieve through our partnership with 3M," said Sunish Jauhari, Founder, Concern for Road and Pedestrian Safety (CoRPs).
"United Way Bengaluru strives to collaborate with organisations and institutes of global repute to bring innovative and unique solutions to resolve social issues. We are happy to collaborate with 3M who brings in scientific and technical expertise in road safety and CORPS in designing and executing an impact driven Young Change Agents for Road Safety program. The program aims to inculcate responsible road safety behaviours among school children in India" said Rajesh Krishnan, Executive Director, United Way of Bengaluru.
With the successful implementation of YCARS initiative, 3M has created an outstanding blueprint for organisations and authorities who plan to work towards a more sustainable road safety model. In countries around the world, 3M has been leading road safety education initiatives especially around safe school zones.
The program focusses on creating young change agents by inculcating a sense of responsibility towards roads and empowering them to act as ambassadors of road safety.
The 3M YCARS program includes four hours of interactive theoretical engagement with students between the age group of 10-15 years over a period of three days. The program structure broadly entails- understanding the road and road-users, and important road safety signages; observing road and road-risks and school road safety audit. They also experience road hazards, through a simulated module are then encouraged to illustrate a wish list of Safe Zone for their own schools. On completion, students are certified as 3M Young Change Agents for Road Safety and must take a pledge to commit to spreading the learnings to their families and friends.
3M being the overall sponsor of the program, is responsible for working with local authorities to put up the road safety installations which are an outcome of the recommendations of the school workshops.