‘India loses about 3% of GDP due to road crashes per year’

Every year, 1.25 million people are killed in road crashes and 90 per cent of deaths occur in the developing world. India is leading the global death toll by reporting 1,50,000 deaths each year. SaveLIFE Foundation (SLF) is an independent, non-profit organization working for the road safety and access to emergency medical care across India and abroad. Over the past few years, SLF has facilitated the enactment of key legislations in India such as the Good Samaritan Law and now has adopted one of India’s deadliest highways to transform it into a zero-fatality corridor. Piyush Tewari, the founder and CEO of SaveLIFE Foundation shares his journey with Anuradha Shukla of BW Businessworld.

How the idea of setting up an organization for road safety came up in your mind?

It all happened in 2008. Then, I was working as Managing Director of Calibrated Group, which was a US-based private equity firm. One of my cousins, just 16 met with a road accident and died. What troubled me the most was that he could have been saved, but no one came to his rescue. It deeply impacted me and that is how I started SaveLIFE foundation with the aim of improving road safety emergency care across India.

How has the journey been in the last 10 years? 

While, I was studying the space of emergency care, I discovered that over 50 per cent of all road crash deaths in India can be prevented if the victims receive timely care. Also, people never come to rescue the victim due to unnecessary hassles by the policemen and the hospital staff. Also, there was a need to train the police personnel in basic trauma and life support skills. We have strongly advocated for stronger road safety and emergency care laws and an accident prevention training program for high-risk commercial drivers. Currently we are operating in over 10 states and union territories across the country. I am happy that we have been able to enforce Good Samaritan Law, which can prevent road fatalities in India.

Now apart from the policy level changes, we are also working towards the implementation. In India Implementation of the road traffic laws is all the more difficult. Now we are building on our capacity so that we can assist various states in implementing these policies. We have adopted the state of Goa, on the request of the state government to be developed as India’s First Road Traffic state. For Instance, we have adopted a stretch in Maharashtra to be transformed as a Zero Fatality Zone. This will be our pilot project

What is this Zero Fatality Corridor?

The Zero Fatality Corridor (ZFC) is our attempt to build a model for road safety that can be replicated and implemented on any road. For this purpose we have selected the Mumbai-Pune Highway, which is considered the most fatal highway. The aim of the initiative is to reduce the number of road crash fatalities from an annual average of 140 to 0 by the year 2020, which marks the end of the UN Decade Of Action For Road Safety.

And how are you going to achieve this?

The ZFC initiative is executed by implementing a 360 degree road safety solution across the 4 E’s of Road Safety - Engineering, Enforcement, Emergency Care and Education. The aim of our engineering interventions is to create road infrastructure and design which cause minimum damage in case of a collision and minimize damage due to loopholes in infrastructure. We have identified 2,150 spots with 15 infrastructure risk factors. Till date work is completed at 922 spots. Road crash deaths due to Object Impact have been reduced by 76 per cent and road curvature on the express-way by 66 per cent. Under Emergency Intervention we aim to develop an effective ‘Chain of Survival’ on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway by placing well-equipped ambulances at key locations that are prone to road crashes. We also work towards training and equipping first responders and upgrading clinics and primary health centres along the expressway. Till now five 108 ambulances have been deployed on the Mumbai-Pune Highway. If we are able to achieve it on the deadliest highway of the country, we can do it on the rest of the country as well.

What is your learning regarding road accidents and traffic chaos in India?

India loses close to 3 per cent of its GDP due to road crashes alone and various factors have established that including the burden on the cost of legal system, burden on the cost of police system, burden on the cost of insurance section and then the direct loss of life and injury and the per capita income loss due to death and injury. A lot of productive lives are lost. Also many families are pushed into poverty due to the loss of life of the bread-earner of the family. A large number of families every year are pushed into poverty. So there is a considerable of social and economical impact.

How supportive were the various stake holders? 

There is an increasing interest among Government and businesses towards road safety. So the responses were very encouraging. What is best is that we are also getting businesses to support the cause through the CSR activities. So Mahindras are helping us with the ZFC project and we are looking to partner for the Goa project and are confident to find one soon.