Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Nudge to reduce rash-driving by RTC bus drivers

I have blogged earlier about the fundamental urge of a policymaker to regulate when faced with a problem. Rash driving by the government-run public transport system drivers creates a major road safety problem across India. Confronted with this problem, the regulators step in - fines and other punitive actions, coupled with awareness creation and sensitization. And as we all know, these solutions while easy to announce are difficult to enforce into outcomes.

Therefore, more sustainable and readily implementable policies may be more effective in addressing such problems. How do we get those drivers into driving safely by encouraging them, nudging them, to do so? Is it possible to either align incentives or structure an appropriate environment that nudges them into compliance?

In this context, there are atleast two examples, which all Road Transport Corporation's (RTC's) in India would do well to emulate. I had earlier blogged about minibuses in Kenya with posters that told passengers to speak up if the driver drove dangerously, which resulted in significant reduction in accidents. Meru cabs, one of India's largest Radio taxi services, have automatic speed control alert systems that warns "Please slow down you are crossing the speed limit" on a voice-over and nudges the driver to slow down.

A combination of both, deployed across all RTC buses in the country, may have the potential to dramatically reduce driver rage related accidents involving these buses. A bulb, prominently displayed, and a voice-over mocking/chiding the driver (say, using a dialogue from a popular movie and imitating the voice of a vernacular movie star!), both connected to the speed control governor, can be a cheap and much more effective substitute for blunt regulations.

On similar lines, other road safety related problems like drunken-driving, helmet usage, and driving while using cell-phone may be more effectively tackled using insights from behvioural psychology operationalized using technology and process innovations. Deterrent regulations involving fines and other punishments are difficult to enforce, especially when the volumes being regulated are far beyond the capacity of the regulatory system. In fact, such solutions may be more relevant and useful for countries like India than developed countries (with their smaller population densities and relatively more disciplined regulatory systems, both on the side of regulators and the regulated).


sai prasad said...

Can V design a similar nudge for govt servants to behave better and more ideally ?

Like an oath/song played every hour ?
To remind people of their duty to the country .....

Priya said...

Meru Cab Services do a great job at ensuring the safety of their drivers and customers,with the speed alarm,and the GPS tracking system.

Jayan said...

...you wrote..
Rash driving by the government-run public transport system drivers creates a major road safety problem across India.

Not entirely true. The bus drivers are visible form of bad driving. Every person on road is bad. Bus driver is struggling to cope up with stress - at least so with in city limits.

If you stand near any junction and observe closely you see pedestrian waiting for "GREEN" to turn "RED" and then crossing. Most autos park right inside the bus top. The bikers always ride zig-zag. None stops are RED signals. The list is endless.

Among all offenders bus drivers are better off. Many of them drive on correct lane, give way to ambulance etc.

On the topic -
Let us consider a bad driver. If a technology is introduced to 'warn' him, will it work? What is the motivation for him to obey the instructions?
The organisational structure should allow some one to control driver. I doubt if have some thing like that today.

If a voice is used to remind the driver about safety, it may be best recorded on his son/daughter's voice.

gulzar said...

sir, i like your point. maybe we could enliven workplaces by having musical drones, an oath being taken in an elaborate/salient manner everyday before they join duties and so on. am going to try this one out somewhere over the next few weeks!!

jayan, the point about controlling/regulating the driver is what I was discussing about. it is simply impossible. the motivation (or deterrent) for him to obey is the pressure generated by the observing passengers (who also view and hear these emoticons). and yes, recording the son's and daughter's voice is an even better idea. the point in all this is that such interventions do more to restrain drivers than regulations and supervisors.

Jayan said...

I agree. Regulation / supervisions does not work in govt controlled organization.

I wanted to stress the importance of better traffic sense (civic sense). Vaada is doing some good work in Hyderabad- http://www.vaada.org/traffic.htm. The problem is with mindset. It take more time than a week to improve civic sense. Let us hope for a better day!