Not by Accident but by (Intelligent) Design: Reducing Fatalities on NH 4 in Kolhapur

Swaniti Initiative has undertaken a data and technology driven project that has reduced the number of accidents and fatalities on National Highway 4. The idea leverages data analytics and technology tools to identify patterns and trends in accidents so as to prepare a mitigation strategy using the resources at the disposal of the district police.

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In August 2016, Swaniti Initiative in collaboration with Centre for Catalyzing Change (C3) had launched a mobile based application to help the Members of Parliament oversee the maternal health related indicators in their constituency. During the discussion with the MPs post launch, the MP from Kolhapur suggested that we visit his constituency and explore the possibility of launching a data-driven governance initiative in the district in collaboration with the district administration.

Accordingly, in September, a team of two Associates from Swaniti visited Kolhapur and interacted with multiple officials. As part of the meetings, we also met Mr. Harssh Poddar, the Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) of Karveer sub-division in the district. As he was explaining to us the concept of a SMART i.e. Strict and Sensitive, Modern and Mobile, Alert and Accountable, Reliable and Responsive, Techno savvy and Trained Force launched by the Ministry of Home Affairs of the Government of India, a constable came rushing in and informed him about an accident on the National Highway 4.

Harssh asked us if we would like to join him and we responded in the affirmative! As we reached the site of the accident, Harssh informed us that 46 kms of the busy NH4, which connected the important economic centers of Thane and Chennai, passes through the district. It is important to highlight that per a survey conducted by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, a total of 726 black hotspots or accident prone areas had been identified across the country. The NH4, which accounts for one percent of the total national highways network in the country alone accounted for approximately four percent of the identified black hotspots. As we started discussing the accidents on the stretch, it became clear that the police administration had a lot of data but the same was being maintained manually using pen and paper and more importantly, the data was not being used to study trends, find patterns and as a result, was not being leveraged for decision making!

The next day, during another round of discussion with Harssh, he proposed that we work on this very issue itself and he would provide us all the necessary support in terms of access to data, access to documents and existing accident reporting frameworks as well as depute a couple of officers to help us in conducting our study. We got started and over the next month, undertook a 3 step process comprising of identifying hotspots under each police station in the district using empirical assessment, conducting a drone based inspection of the identified hotspots and designing solutions based on the inferences from the previous two steps. The objective was to leverage the existing data with the Police and use technology and analytics tools to draw insights, which could help in designing a customized mitigation plan aimed at reducing the number of accidents and associated fatalities under specific police stations in the district. Moreover, Harssh also wanted to pilot this initiative in the district so that if this model is successful, it could be scaled up across the entire state. This was very important because, in the year 2015, Maharashtra had witnessed the second highest proportion of road accidents. In addition, it had the third highest percentage of people killed during accidents. The number of road accidents on the 16 NHs in the state increased from 10788 (2014) to 10839 (2015), while the number of people who were killed in these accidents increased from 3577 (2014) to 3789 (2015).

Therefore, four months later, when we finally rolled out a mitigation plan focused on active coordination between different stakeholders, planned patrols at specific time intervals and identified hotspots, it was a big step towards using data for drawing insights and reducing the loss of human lives in road accidents.

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Year: 2017
Level of government: Local government

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