The traffic in Indian cities is quite turbulent. It is not uncommon for two lanes to become five, horns honking from all directions every second, and rickshaws and scooters squeezing through even the small gaps between cars and buses. In addition, there are countless people who travel either on bicycles or on foot and thus also do their bit to contribute to this orderly traffic chaos.
Awareness of traffic rules
Especially for children who often walk to school or ride bicycles, the road traffic of India, which with 1.42 billion inhabitants is the country with the second most inhabitants in the world, can be very challenging at times. A national study conducted on “Safe Commute to School” by Mercedes-Benz Research and Development India (MBRDI) in 2021 highlighted the lack of awareness regarding Road Safety, and enforcement of rules. It is therefore even more important to show the youngest road users at an early stage how to move prudently and safely on the road so as not to endanger themselves or other people.
Together with MobileKids, MBRDI has been committed to road safety education for schoolchildren for many years. Supplementing the program, 600 MBRDI volunteers spent close to 1600 hours with school students raising awareness and encouraging the importance of complying with traffic rules.
In the past twelve months, about 4500 children in 34 schools in the two metropolises of Bengaluru (Bangalore) and Pune were engaged thanks to the MobileKids program. As part of the special traffic education that is integrated into the timetable, the schoolchildren of the 4th, 5th and 6th grades are taught with the help of six tailor-made educational modules – each with the aim of lastingly changing their behavior on the roads.
Each child participates in a total of twelve hours of traffic education using interactive games and activities. Here, everything revolves around topics such as traffic signs and rules, travel safety and sustainable mobility. Collages were also created with the schoolchildren, street theatre plays about important traffic rules were developed, the safety features of the MobileKids school bus were presented, a road safety pledge was made and school bags were handed out.
More safety on India's roads
“I felt empowered spending time with the students of Government Higher Primary School, Belthur and having a dialogue with them on Road Safety. Through the various activities, the students were encouraged to critically analyze and share their own personal experiences commuting in the city. As daily road users, our goal is to get the students to think about solutions and ways in which they can contribute towards safer roads. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding experience and I’m looking forward to more such opportunities", said one of the MBRDI volunteers.
To date, the program has reached around 25,000 school children across India since its launch in 2018, making a huge difference to safety on Indian roads.
MobileKids is not the only organisation committed to improving road safety. With the SAFE ROADS initiative, Mercedes-Benz has been committed to increasing public awareness of road safety globally since 2015. "At the time, we were intensively analysing the number of road accident victims within the Group's own accident research department and looking at what the situation was worldwide," says Jochen Feese, head of accident research. "We realised that India had more accidents involving children than other countries. That's why we wanted to start there." SAFE ROADS was born. In the same year, Jochen Feese and his colleagues travelled through eight Indian cities with their own programme aimed at improving road safety. In addition to presentations on the topics of traffic and vehicle safety, this also included an exhibition with several experience exhibits.
SAFE ROADS was then further developed so that the format can be repeated every two years with a different focus at a different location. While the focus in 2017 was on children's road safety, in 2019 it was on the future of safety and in 2022 on data usage. "In addition to the multi-faceted programme, it is very important to us that we bring together many stakeholders involved in road safety with SAFE ROADS", says Feese. This also includes suppliers of safety and security systems, government and authority representatives, urban planners, and non-government organisations.
In addition to India, the Group's own SAFE ROADS initiative is now also active in China “to sensitise all road users to the challenges of road traffic”.