Mercedes Inaugurates ‘Safe Roads’ Initiatives For Road Safety

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KOLKATA: Mercedes-Benz and its group companies Mercedes-Benz India (MBIL), Daimler India Commercial Vehicles (DICV), Mercedes-Benz Research and Development India (MBRDI) and Daimler Financial Services India (DFS) inaugurated their unique Corporate Social Responsibility initiative, ‘Safe Roads’ in New Delhi recently.

Safety is a core competency and a core value for Mercedes-Benz and its automotive brands and the company is renowned worldwide for developing highly sophisticated safety systems. However, implementation of effective safety systems remains a challenge, as the road users often do not comply with traffic rules or do not use the safety systems onboard their vehicles.

On Indian roads, approximately 140,000 people die every year of road accidents, largely caused due to ignorance of safety norms and rules. ‘Safe Roads’ was hence conceptualized by Mercedes-Benz, in an effort to reduce this startling fatality rate on Indian roads, by creating more awareness on road safety.

Mercedes-Benz is convinced that such initiatives can begin an era of road safety awareness that supports a new culture of road safety for Indians. Over 70% of the fatalities can be reduced in the next 10 years through education and enforcement of safety rules and by creating awareness.

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This unique initiative was flagged off by Jochen Feese, head of accident research, sensor functions and pedestrian protection, Mercedes-Benz Cars, in the presence of Eberhard Kern, managing director & CEO, MBIL, Erich Nesselhauf, MD & CEO, DICV and Manu Saale, MD & CEO, MBRDI.

The event took place at Pragati Maidan in the capital here today and will continue its tour across the country. ‘Safe Roads’ is a road show that spreads the message of road safety through physical demonstration, visual aids and research reports. The physical demonstration will be undertaken with the use of exhibits that have been brought from Germany providing a real life experience of safety measures that can potentially save lives during road accidents:

The Belt-Slide exhibit enables visitors to experience the impact of seat belts in a simulated crash environment at low speed. The aim is to increase the percentage of seat belts usage for front row passengers including driver. Airbags will also be on display (driver and passenger airbags, curtain airbags, knee bags, etc).

A ‘Body in White’ (BiW) passenger car exhibit highlights some of the core elements of a car structure which have high tensile strength that can absorb most of the energy during a crash and minimize passenger car intrusions.

Alcohol goggles on display also provide a unique experience. Wearing these special types of glasses simulates the common ‘walk-the-line’ activity which causes loss of balance and delayed reaction times. Visitors will feel their susceptibility to impairments and realize the potential severe consequences due to alcohol consumption.

A highlight is the original ESF (Experimental Safety) vehicle. The ESF 2009 will be on display to showcase a glimpse of future of safety. The ESF illustrates trailblazing innovations in the field of safety like PRE-SAFE, Braking Bag, Interactive Vehicle Communication, etc, some of which have already found their introduction into current products.

‘Safe Roads’ is a collaborative initiative of Mercedes-Benz group companies along with JP Research, Apollo Hospitals and IIT Delhi. The partner organizations have supported the initiative with in-depth research information and data on the existing scenario of road safety in India. These research reports also provide indicators of how the scenario can be improved through education and enforcement of traffic rules.

IndiaCSR_CSR_Training_Workshop NewAccording to the World Health Organization (WHO) India had seen the highest number of road traffic fatalities in 2010, and this made up about 15% of global road traffic fatalities. There has been some good work undertaken by the National Road Safety Council (NRSC) and WHO’s Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020, where a declining road traffic fatality trend was observed in India for the first time, since 2012.

However, road traffic injuries remain a concern as about half a million are reported each year. According to Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MORTH), during the period 2003-2013, India’s reported road traffic fatalities grew by 60%, with around 137,572 fatalities in 2013. When compared with other emerging market country, China saw a 43% fatality reduction was observed during 2004-2012.

If 2011 is taken as base year, the fatality trend will reach about 250,000 by the year 2025 if business-as-usual continues with respect to road safety. However, 38% fatality reduction could be achieved with strong enforcement on drunk driving, overloading and load protruding and 80% fatality reduction could be achieved with strong enforcement on driver related factors – including over-speeding. By 2025, the projected number of fatalities could be reduced to about 50,000, following the above enforcements.

According to a sample study, in 50% of the accidents, there were no accident avoidance manoeuvres from the drivers. Only in 30% of the accidents, drivers performed a brake or swerve manoeuvre or a combination of both. Also, the percentage use of seat belts by car drivers and front passengers is low (about 16%). There is a need to show case and make road users understand the impact; a typical seat belt will have in a crash scenario.

Jochen Feese, head of accident research, sensor functions and pedestrian protection, Mercedes-Benz Cars said at the inauguration: “Safety is a core value for Mercedes-Benz. Therefore all our business units stress safety as a priority for the user as well as for the environment they are operating in. When we learned about the accident and fatality rates in India, we decided to develop the ‘Safe Roads’ CSR initiative.

This is also in line with our spirit of good corporate citizenship – meaning that we like to contribute to the society we do business with. We hope that our initiative will kick-start an era of road safety awareness and will support a new culture of road safety among the people in India.”

Eberhard Kern, managing director and CEO, Mercedes-Benz India commented on the initiative: “At Mercedes-Benz, safety is of utmost importance and precedes all our innovations and development. Mercedes-Benz’s contribution to global automotive industry is well recognized and has an enduring influence on safety development.

Our numerous innovations, particularly in the field of protection for vehicle occupants and road users, have saved countless human lives over the years. Our latest contribution to customer safety is that, all Mercedes-Benz vehicles in India now comes equipped with new rescue stickers with QR Codes, which assists rescuer to find out where to exactly position the rescue tools on the cars- making occupant rescue harmless and safer, in case of an accident.

Mercedes-Benz India is the first luxury car maker to implement this in India. We are confident that initiatives like ‘Safe Roads’ will enhance the understanding of a vehicle safety systems and spread the awareness on creating safer roads for vehicle users in India.

Considering the alarming rate of accidents on Indian roads, we strongly need to address not only various behavioral aspects of the vehicle users and the related infrastructure measures, but also consider making our vehicles safer and smarter by introducing advanced safety features and driver assistance systems. We strongly believe ‘Safe Roads’ initiative will be able to underline all these aspects comprehensively and make Indian roads, ‘safer’.”

Erich Nesselhauf, managing director and CEO, Daimler India Commercial Vehicle commented  “We are concerned by the rate of accidents that happen on Indian roads and with the rapid growth of industrialization and movement of cargo. With the ‘Safe Roads’ initiative we hope to educate road users on the availability of technology that helps to reduce the number accidents in the future.

And this is not only relevant for Passenger cars, but also our truck business. For instance, BharatBenz had already implemented ABS ahead of the mandatory requirement. It was also a conscious decision to offer a full built cabin, LED tail lamps and driver ergonomics for safer driving conditions. We also offer driver training assistance to sensitize drivers. As infrastructure in the country improves, the need for powerful trucks will increase. At BharatBenz, safety, reliability and quality are of prime importance.”

Manu Saale, Managing Director and CEO, Mercedes-Benz research and development India added: “Technology and innovation are key factors that have helped reduce accident rates in the past. Accidents and resulting fatalities can not only be greatly reduced through innovative technologies but also through responsible driver and passenger behavior.

Mercedes-Benz has developed state-of-the-art safety features that have proven to be effective. In MBRDI alone there are over 100 engineers contributing to these technologies in active and passive safety of Mercedes-Benz vehicles with 54 patents filed on automotive safety.

While there are some policy and regulatory hurdles that exist in order to apply them in India, we hope that the ‘Safe Roads’ initiative will enhance the road user’s awareness of such technologies and will help persuading the legislators to ease these norms for the greater good of society.”

(First appeared with Times of India)

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