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Accident victims don’t get help in time. Here’s one reason.

November 22, 2006

After a spate of road accidents in Mumbai, the need to get victims to the hospital in time is being discussed in the media. Actually road accidents in India are very high overall (see table at end of article) and what is needed is some sort of “Accident relief” which can save lives. It is a proven fact that relief within one hour saves a lot of lives. In fact, there was one such venture in Bangalore, but it failed miserably. Here is one reason for the failure. Perhaps we can learn from the mistake.

The end of a good thing
The Accident Relief Information Service (ARIS) which had taken on a task that the overworked and understaffed traffic department of the city could not perform, downed it’s shutters quite a few years ago. While it existed, it had worked around the clock, receiving and relaying post-accident information to the victim’s family within minutes of the mishap. Not only were the victim’s families informed quickly, the medical particulars on the ARIS card came in for critical use.
Such a service, first of it’s kind in the country, was available for an annual fee of Rs 48 – and Rs 27/- as an initial registration fee. A free accident insurance policy worth Rs 10,000/- was thrown in for good measure.
An unbelievably good deal eh? Well, it sounded good to those who were interviewed as part of the research conducted over a period of five months by the ARIS Foundation before it commenced operations. The project seemed to be not only sorely needed, it seemed financially viable too as long as ARIS could enroll just a minuscule 3 per cent (18,000 at that time) of the vehicle owners as it’s subscribers. Research revealed that over 60 per cent of vehicle-owners were eager to join and it looked like ARIS was going to be a roaring success. However, inspite of their best efforts ARIS was able to garner just 6000 members instead of the 18,000 they required to keep the operation going.
What went wrong?
Mr. Roy Joseph, managing trustee, ARIS Foundation, could not quite conceal the disappointment and yes, a sense of loss that he felt. Not only was over Rs 4 lakh invested in the project, he conceived ARIS after two friends died in two separate accidents as they did not receive medical aid in time. ‘Perhaps our society was not ready for the concept,’ he says candidly, pointing out that though large numbers of vehicle owners showed interest, only a few actually came forward to enroll. ‘When we found that subscriptions were not coming in, we conducted a survey to find out why,’ says Joseph. ‘When we interviewed those who had not yet filled in their forms, they said, ‘Who says we don’t want to join?’ They were simply delaying it, they said.
No one really believes that he will meet with an accident and with time, the desire to sign up can diminish. The people interviewed did not feel any sense of urgency. Soon the flood of inquiries slowed to a trickle.
ARIS tried desperately to muster support for their sinking ship. Free insurance cover of Rs 10,000/- was given as a bonus to ARIS subscribers. Petrol bunks were roped in to sell their subscriptions. If a member was able to get another membership, he was given an additional facility free of cost. An advertising campaign too was set in motion. However, this turned to be far less effective than it could have been. According to Joseph, ‘We wanted a strong emotional approach but the agency recommended a subtle approach,’ he explains. Mr. A.R Infant, the former DCP (Traffic) who was involved with the project right from the initial stages, and helped in designing it, feels that it is partly because of inadequate publicity that ARIS failed. ‘Advertising should have been a constant effort and the media should have given better coverage,’ he says.
The door-to-door approach was an option examined by ARIS. It might have worked as people were not reluctant to enlist; the hurdle was inertia. ‘To over come this we would have had to make two to three calls to each household contacted,’ says Subramaniam, Chief Executive, ARIS, ‘ and that did not make financial sense.’ In fact several enlistments fell through because of lack of follow-up.

Companies were reluctant to sponsor
After enlisting of sufficient members had failed, ARIS tried to get corporates to sponsor the project. It was proposed that if a company took care of the operative costs, they could, in return get advertising space on the ARIS sticker as well on other publicity material. However, that itself seemed to discourage the companies! ‘They did not want to be associated in case ARIS slipped up,’ admits Joseph. Companies felt that in case ARIS was unable to reach an accident victim in time, it would mean bad publicity for them.
Why not insurance companies then?
Insurance companies would have been a better bet for ARIS. It would have been in their interest to have ARIS subscribers become their policy holders. This approach too failed. The innumerable delays that took place (perhaps because inability to communicate quickly with the head offices of the insurance companies, many of which were not located in the city) hampered the efforts of ARIS. Also, insurance companies talked to were looking at greater numbers and were not too happy with the slow subscription rate.
Perhaps ARIS membership could have been made compulsory for all vehicle owners. But this would have meant making an amendment in the Motor Vehicle Act. But it might have given a fresh lease of life to this organisation and helped it extend it’s services to many more people in other parts of the country.

(Published in the Times of India, Bangalore)

Note: After searching the internet I found that one such Accident Relief Info Service (ARIS) does exist in Bangalore today. I do not know if the same one was revived, but what I do know is that it is an ambulance service and that no one picks up the phone number given ( +91-80-221 4038 ). In fact I sent in a complaint to the Bangalore Yellow Pages Directory. Hopefully they will check if the number is defunct.

(14th Dec 2006: The Bangalore Yellow Pages responded to my complaint and are correcting the telephone number.)

Given below are some statistics given on the website of The Department of Road Transport and Highway, Government of India:

Year

 

Total No. of Road Accidents (in numbers)

Total No. of Persons Killed (in numbers)

Total number of Registered Motor Vehicles (in thousands)

1970

114100 14500 1401

1980

153200

 

24000

4521

1990

282600 54100 19152

1995

351999 70781 30295

2000

391449 78911 48857

2003

406726 85998 67033

As it says here:“Incidentally, India holds the dubious distinction of registering the highest number of road accidents in the world. According to the experts at the National Transportation Planning and Research Centre (NTPRC) the number of road accidents in India is three times higher than that prevailing in developed countries. The number of accidents for 1000 vehicles in India is as high as 35 while the figure ranges from 4 to 10 in developed countries.”

Related Reading: Why people drive recklessly
Road Rage
Is it the duty of citizens to help accident victims?

8 Comments leave one →
  1. kshipra permalink
    January 10, 2007 12:55 pm

    Hi Nita,
    I witnessed an accident take place yesterday night on my way home, it was a freak one, the guy was speeding and he and the pillion rider fell off the bike after hitting a speed-breaker.
    The rider was unconscious and bleeding. The pillion rider crawled to the footpath but before we could offer water to him, he too became unconscious.
    the was a hospital just a stone throw away, but they provided no immediate relief, when my friend try to call an ambulance we were given a number to call up closet to the area of the accident and after that call we were again given the ambulance driver’s mobile number to call up, but then people were already picking up the both the victims and taking them to the hospital. The police arrived and then the doctor, probably an intern came to check the situation.
    I want to do something, i don’t know what, i am really disturbed about the hospital’s and emergency medical system’s lack of respect for the human value.
    This happened in Bangalore on one of the major roads called West of Chord road.
    Could you please provide me more details about the Accident Relief Information Service (ARIS) which you had published in Published in the Times of India, Bangalore)
    Any contact numbers of the managing trustees or place where i could get more information from?
    thank you,
    kshipra

  2. January 10, 2007 1:08 pm

    As far as I know this particular ARIS closed down…in fact that was why I wrote that article. I do not have the contact numbers of those people as I met them in the office.
    However there is one place you can check out:
    http://yellowpages.sulekha.com/bangalore/health-services-medicine/ambulance-services/21.htm
    This might have the info you need.
    I wish I could help you more with this as I understand exactly how you feel. It’s terrible to see someone suffering and not be able to do anything about it.

  3. Prem permalink
    June 27, 2007 4:12 am

    Just heard that my wife’s closest friend died when he and his wife met with an accident. Poor guy did not get any medical help for an hour. This is sad! Is life so cheap in India that we can afford to loose 50,000 people every year? Why people do not do anything about it? Or are thet waiting for something to happen to their close ones and then act? I propose we do something about it! Please suggest some solutions on how we can get medical aid to accident victims as quickly as possible. I know there are traffic issues, police harrassment, public indifference and all but we can atleast give it a try.

  4. June 27, 2007 7:49 am

    I am sorry to hear about your wife’s friend Prem. It is indeed tragic that such deaths occur. As to the solution, a major organisation needs to invest heavily in this and put up an ambulance service that works. It needs money, a committed lot of individuals and a lot of hard work…basically the will.

  5. vidya permalink
    November 28, 2007 9:28 pm

    i want to mention regarding a incident that i witnessed today. When i got down at a bus stop on the busy marathalli-outer ring road, i saw a lady lying there and she was unconscious. her clothes very muddy. It seemed that she was lying there since some time.

    she was in fact in front of a hospital Apollo Clinic .
    My immediate instinct was to get her some help. So i went to the hospital reception and told them about this.
    I requested them to help her and told them that i would pay for her treatment/firstaid.
    they were not at all helpful and said some excuses that she was lying there as she was drunk .
    they asked me if i knew her and if i would take her responsibility .
    without even bothering to look at her condition they had a very indifferent attitude.

    many people were passing by, But when i returned from the hospital reception, i noticed a good samaritan who infact held up my trust on humanity. He was a a person dressed in plain clothes . He walked up to that lady and put her on the foothpath so that the busyily moving vehicles would not run over her . He did his bit .

    are hospitals only for the priveliged and the rich?
    Is there any ambulance service / or helpline number in bangalore that can be called if i come across anybody in need of help .

  6. November 28, 2007 10:06 pm

    @vidya:

    You are indeed the good samaritan that our society needs. As far as I know every city has homes for destitute women and this information may be found in the bangalore telephone directory. But no hospital will pick up a patient, only a social service organisation will do that.
    There are hospitals which give subsidized or even free treatment but patients have to approach them on their own, and often medicines have to be purchased by the patients.
    We are a poor country Vidya and poor people suffer.

  7. S H Kulkarni permalink
    October 27, 2008 10:12 am

    Sir,

    I happened to read all the articles.
    I am a rotarian and thought of doing something for accident victims from our club in Yelahanka which is rotary district 3190.

    Can any one come forward and promote the idea of reviving ARIS.
    Some how we need to contact original promoters of this novel idea and help them to revive.

    Rotary club to some extent help and can garner the support of other rotary clubs in the city.

    S H Kulkarni
    phone 9972520698

  8. Guru Dass permalink
    June 20, 2011 10:59 am

    Yesterday (19th June 2011) we decided to take our kids to MacDonald’s on Mosque Rd, Bangalore. It was around 1:15 in the afternoon. We parked our car near the drain opp Mac’s. We then heard a man screaming, we saw two young boys (looked like teenagers) smash into two young girls (also in their teens). These boys were racing and doing bike stunts (wheelies) on Mosque Rd, lost control and smashed into these young girls, we rushed over only to see the girls in very bad shape, both were unconscious, one was convulsing very badly, with all her teeth knocked out and blood gushing out from their head. It looked very bad. An elderly man caught hold of one of the boys while another boy riding on the bike ran for his life. Both the boys were unharmed. We stopped an auto and put the girls into the auto. We heard that they were rushed to Santosh Hospital nearby and that they were in serious condition. What followed was more horrible. The Muslim community quickly gathered around and instead of taking the boys to task, the community members were trying to find an escape route for the young culprit. The cops took ages to come and when they finally came on a two wheeler they put the boy on the bike and a man from the community stood in front of the cop bike not allowing the cop to move. The cop spat at him and roared away. It was shocking to see the elders in the Muslim community immediately making hushed plans to remove the boys’s bike (which was evidence and should not be moved from the site). I wonder how they would have reacted had the victims been their daughters, sisters or wives??? We felt so very disgusted at this behavior as eventually the crowd dispersed. We continued on into MacDonald’s to hear laughter and chatter and music. We noticed many young girls were gathered having fun unaware of the fact that just outside their circle of fun, the lives of two young girls in their same age group were hanging between life and death.

    I came out of the restaurant as I could not eat. As I watched the traffic, I noticed many young boys racing on their bikes – no helmet, appeared like they never had a driving license, on bikes that looked like it will never pass a fitness test. Racing around on Mosque road endangering further lives, maiming people for life.

    This is a request for all sensible citizens to rally around and enforce discipline on our roads. Do not condone or hush it. Do not leave it for the police alone.

    Our children, our seniors, our loved ones are endangered by this reckless madness and don’t care a damn attitude. People wake up! Do something!!! No use crying later…

    We pray for comfort upon the family’s of these innocent girls, we pray for the family of the boys that they will understand the irreparable damage done by their reckless indifference, we pray for the elders in our community to understand the fact that religion demands justice, not cover up.

    Is there a blog or website where we can encourage eye witnesses to accidents to render their account and details?

    Thank you for this comment. It moved me very much. It is indeed sad that people make communal issues out of such terrible tragedies. But ofcourse the communal issue are a disguise, a way for those who are close to the victim or his parents or relatives to try and save him. Usually after such accidents the families of the victims pull strings and try by hook or by crook to save their children. I do not know of any website which collects such data. Maybe you can start one yourself, or even better try and contact an NGO which is concerned with road safety and traffic problems. All cities have them. – Nita

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