A Road Accident Left Him Paralysed; He’s Now Fighting For Road Safety
If India has to project itself at world level as a disciplined country then we as Indians need to change our behavior on roads. It’s our responsibility to drive on roads with care. My appeal is to everyone from officials to general public – do your bit towards road safety.Harman Singh Sidhu, Founder Of ArriveSAFE
Meet the road safety crusader, Harman Singh Sidhu, who survived a fall of about 50 feet after he met with a road accident in 1996. He has been bound to a wheelchair for 20 years now. After the tragic road accident, Harman’s only motto in life has been to make a difference, help educate people and spread awareness about road safety. He works with the goal – People should return home safely and work on how to prevent what happened to him. The accident took place back in 1996; young Harman was only 26-year-old then. The car skidded on the way back from a holiday and the friend who was driving lost his control over the wheels, resulting in the fall of some 50 feet.
“I loved travelling and going to the hills was my favourite past-time. On my way back to Chandigarh after a visit to the Renuka Lake in Himachal, I met with an accident. The car spun in the air many times before it finally landed on the ground. All my other friends were fine; I was the one who suffered injuries. Those 2 seconds, changed my life forever,” remembers 46-year-old Harman Singh Sidhu, who was left paralysed from neck down.
“My body was paralysed and I was put into a plaster jacket with just my face out for nearly 4 months,” added Harman Singh Sidhu.
The battle continued for Mr Sidhu; he had to be in a rehab for nearly 2 years just so that he could sit on a wheelchair.
The realisation that he was not alone and that there were many others who have faced such tragedies, was a turning point in Mr Sidhu’s life. It gave him the mission for his life – road safety.
“For two years, only outings I did were going to the hospitals every now and then. Sitting next to the emergency ward, all I saw was people coming to fight the battle of survival. Many cases reported were of road mishaps, most of them were youngsters like me. I wanted to make a change and that’s when the idea for fighting for road safety triggered,” said Mr Sidhu.
He started with placards to educate the masses about road safety. Then he graduated to the digital medium. Sitting at home, Mr Sidhu started learning about website and software designing, he found it to be easy and the only way to learn and do something new in life.
“One day for the cause of road safety only, I met with the then SP of traffic officer, Amitabh Singh Dhillon. He suggested that just by holding placards I won’t be able to educate many people and asked me to use my skills and design the website for Chandigarh Traffic Police. I thought this way I will be able to reach out to a lot more people and this was true – within 3 months, the website got some 1 lakh visitors. It was unexpected but a welcoming move!” added Mr Sidhu.
Next, Mr Sidhu founded his NGO ArriveSAFE in 2005 which works in the field of road safety and aims to increase knowledge and awareness among all kinds of road users. He also started working with other organisations like World Health Organization and United Nations for the cause of better roads in India.
In 2007, he was also selected as the protagonist of the UN documentary, Collision Course, which was released during the Global Road Safety Week. The documentary was about road crashes and showed what economies similar to India were doing for safer roads.
Mr Sidhu is also the man behind the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that resulted in the recent Supreme Court judgement banning liquor sales on all state and national highways. He realised back in 2012 that liquor shops along the highways pose a serious risk to human lives, he filed a PIL in the Punjab and Haryana High Court the same year, pleading that all liquor vends on national and state highways should be closed down as they were a major cause of drink driving that result in fatal accidents.
Currently his focus is on issues like road designs in India which are just not up to the mark. Mr Sidhu has recently filed a PIL for making officials/engineers accountable for not complying with safety standards. Currently, in case of any tragic road mishaps officials are not being held accountable.
Harman Singh Sidhu is the recipient of the prestigious Prince Michael International Road Safety Award and has also won the Volvo Sustainable Mobility Award for his efforts on road safety. The hard working road safety activist signs off by saying –
“If India has to project itself at world level as a disciplined country then we as Indians need to change our behavior on roads. It’s our responsibility to drive on roads with care. My appeal is to everyone from officials to general public – do your bit towards road safety.”
According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 1.42 lakh people died and another 4.78 lakh were injured in road accidents in India in 2014. This implies that more than 387 people die in road crashes every day in India. What we need are more people like Harman Singh Sidhu, who are deeply committed to the cause of safer roads in India, and even more of the people who pay heed to these efforts and safety norms on the roads in this country.