Center for Injury Research and Prevention

Improving Road Safety in India

March 6, 2017
Sara Jacoby, PhD, MPH, RN

A note from Flaura Koplin Winston, MD, PhD, CIRP@CHOP scientific director: Today we are pleased to welcome a guest blog post from Sara Jacoby, PhD, MPH, RN, who recently completed her doctoral studies at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing (Penn Nursing) and is currently an interdisciplinary postdoctoral fellow in the Penn Injury Science Center. Dr. Jacoby led a study recently published in the International Journal of Injury Control and Safety Promotion that investigated employee perceptions of road risks and strategies to reduce road traffic injuries in India.

It is one thing to know that a disproportionate number of road traffic injuries occur in countries with rapidly developing economies, such as India. But it is another thing altogether to experience what it’s really like to travel on these high-risk roadways day in and day out. To an American like me it can feel quite disorienting as an array of motorcycles, cars, trucks, bicycles, and even animal-drawn carts weave past in seemingly unpredictable directions and speeds.

Even more dizzying is the speed with which the technology sector has transformed Bangalore in just the past few years. The streets that had once been lined with flowering trees and lush greenery are almost unrecognizable. There are now kilometer-wide office parks and half-finished roadways at every vantage point, reflecting how India’s once “garden city” has become the “IT capital” of the South Asian subcontinent.

Partnering with Industry

I recently returned to India to work with a major US multinational (MNC) corporation that employed hundreds of thousands in the country. The MNC had approached researchers from CIRP@CHOP and Penn Nursing to strategize evidence-based interventions that could be delivered to a global workforce. We often think about MNCs in their impact on economic development, but they may also help fill an important, though nontraditional, role as a partner in global public health initiatives.

As a first step in this partnership, Flaura Winston, MD, PhD, Therese S. Richmond, PhD, FAAN, CRNP, and I aimed to investigate employee perceptions of road risks and strategies to reduce road traffic injuries in some of the highest road traffic injury environments in the world. Our findings were recently published in the International Journal of Injury Control and Safety Promotion.

Take a ‘Glocal,’ Not ‘Global,’ Approach

Through a series of interviews, focus groups, and surveys of local employees in the cities of Bangalore and Pune, we learned that there was a need to balance custom prevention efforts to the local environment with an overarching, evidence-based corporate strategy to protect employees. These employee-endorsed strategies for road traffic safety in high-risk environments like urban India include:

  • implementing corporate traffic safety policies
  • advocating for road safety with government partners
  • providing employees with education and access to safety equipment and safer transportation options

In addressing the global road traffic epidemic, we know what works to improve traffic safety, such as consistent seat belt use and driving attentively. However, how these strategies play out and whether these behaviors are adopted has to be adapted 'glocally'. This 'glocal' approach takes global issues and adapts them to a local context.

Read the study abstract.

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