Be safe, not sorry

Alisha Shinde
Sunday, 3 February 2019

Sandeep M Singh is committed to bringing awareness to the various issues affecting society through his public service films. The latest one is on road safety

Road safety has become a big concern in India. While many believe that it is only the governing body that can bring some discipline on the streets, filmmaker Sandeep M Singh is of the opinion that to be safe on the road, people themselves need to be responsible and sensible.

After listening to and reading heartbreaking stories of children suffocating and dying in locked cars, Singh, who is known for his international project with History Channel and advertisement, made a public service film called Headrest which is releasing this week since the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways, Govt of India has announced the observance of 30th Road Safety Week Campaign from February 4 to 10. The theme for this year’s campaign is ‘Sadak Suraksha — Jeevan Raksha.’

Singh explains that Headrest is a movie that guides how to tackle emergency situations in a car. He was really moved by one such incident where three kids in Mumbai were playing hide and seek and accidently got locked in a car in a warehouse. “After a search operation was conducted, the children were found in a locked car and the marks on the windows suggested that they were suffocating and were trying to break open the window but were unable to do so. When I came across this story, my daughter was really young. The thought that this could happen with her too, really gave me the chills. I decided that I had to figure out something to keep my daughter safe if something like this ever happened to her,” Singh says.
As for the headrest, he recalls, “I came across this video that was doing the rounds of social media. There were claims made that the headrest in a car is actually a safety tool. It got stuck in my head. I called up my friends from the automobile industry to verify if this was true, but they dismissed it,” Singh says. He started researching on it and made sure that he kept safety tools in his car and also taught his daughter how to use them. 

The film Headrest was created to bust the myth that the headrest in a car can be used as an emergency tool. “Through Headrest, I want to create awareness and educate not only parents but children as well, who might find themselves in such situations,” Singh says.

He points out that in Western countries, it is mandatory to keep emergency tools in the car so a person can break free in case of an accident, but in India, people are still stuck with the headrest. “Some cars do not even have a detachable headrest. What are you going to do then? It is better to be prepared than sorry,” he says. 

The filmmaker also hopes to bring a change in the mindsets of the people who lock their children in their car while they step out for a few minutes. “I find this behaviour so absurd. Although people say it’s hardly going to take any time and the AC vents will help the children breathe, it is simply not right. You might take longer than you expected, or something might happen to keep you away from the children and it may cause an accident that you will regret later,” he says.
Road safety is an issue that needs to be addressed by citizens themselves, believes Singh. “People need to be aware of such accidents so that they can prepare their children and themselves for such things,” he believes. Even though a lot is being done by government officials to bring about safety on roads, it is not completely effective because people in general do not cooperate and take things seriously, he adds. 

“If we point out to a person that what s/he is doing is wrong, be it over-speeding, wrong parking, driving on the wrong side or locking children in the car, the person will behave weirdly and answer you back saying, ‘what’s your problem?’,” he says. This attitude is very problematic because that is causing harm to people, often their loved ones, he adds. 

According to Singh, such public service movies can help bring a change in the way people look at things. “In India, emotions sell. So if you have to sell an idea, be it a good initiative or a product, people will listen to you only if you connect with them on the emotional level,” he points out.

Headrest will be released during the Road Safety Week Campaign by Maximus Films in association with Smile Foundation on their YouTube channel.

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