According to the ministry of road transport and highways, even as road accidents in India decreased by 4.1% during 2016—the year saw 4,80,652 road accidents as against 5,01,423 in 2015—fatalities resulting from these accidents rose by 3.2% during the period (1,50,785 persons were killed in 2016 as against 1,46,133 in 2015).
According to the ministry of road transport and highways, even as road accidents in India decreased by 4.1% during 2016—the year saw 4,80,652 road accidents as against 5,01,423 in 2015—fatalities resulting from these accidents rose by 3.2% during the period (1,50,785 persons were killed in 2016 as against 1,46,133 in 2015). In a report from a year earlier, drivers’ fault was revealed as the primary reason for road accidents, accounting for 77.1% of total road accidents during 2015.
Clearly, driver training can go a long way in reducing the incidence of road accidents and, more importantly, fatalities, at least theoretically. “A few years ago, we realised the need for having quality driving schools in India to address the alarming number of accidents and casualties on the roads, predominantly due to poorly-trained drivers,” says N Raja, director & senior vice-president, Sales & Marketing, Toyota Kirloskar Motor. The company runs the Toyota Driving School initiative, which is a for-profit initiative and a business entity for Toyota in India. The pilot school was inaugurated in Kochi in March 2015, and today there are schools in Kochi, Lucknow, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata, Faridabad and Vijayawada. In an interview with FE’s Vikram Chaudhary, Raja adds that the company will launch 50 driving schools across India by 2020. Excerpts:
Many automakers operate driving schools. What’s unique about Toyota Driving School?
In line with the company’s vision of “safest car with safest driver,” Toyota Driving School is one-of-its-kind. It lays importance on making every student a safe driver. We believe that development of responsible road users with the right attitude (who respect and follow road discipline) effectively contributes towards making roads safer. With this focus, we have developed our driving schools with practical and futuristic training models, like the driver simulator mechanism where the learner simulates on a real car prior to training in real time. In fact, it is the first car simulator in India with full high definition computer graphics in an immersive curved projection environment, and the first with complete car cabin along with actual gear. It also offers local language support for effective training and students learn driving in different climatic conditions—rain, fog, day, night, hills, etc.
The Toyota Driving School, I must add, is not “just another driving school” for getting a driving licence, it’s a place that follows a comprehensive approach towards ensuring that every student becomes a responsible driver and a safety ambassador.
Is it a for-profit initiative?
Yes, it’s a business entity for Toyota in India.
How long is the training period and how much does a candidate have to pay?
We have two modules. START or the beginners programme with a training period of 21 hours, and SMART or the chauffeur programme that fine tunes driving skills of a person who already has a licence to drive—in SMART, we also focus on driving etiquettes, or discipline. The fee ranges from Rs 4,000 to Rs 6,000.
Who are the trainers and who has developed the curriculum?
There are four master trainers, including one principal recruited locally as per government norms and experience in relevant domain. The instructors are trained and certified by Toyota for quality delivery of content.
More importantly, we have learnings from driving schools run by Toyota Japan, in particular we follow the Chubu Nippon Driver School in Nagoya—it is a unique model in Japan for driving training and research and the same standards have been adopted here.
To make the experience as realistic as possible, we have incorporated features like instrument panel, steering and seats of an actual Etios sedan, and the curriculum covers traffic management, rules and discipline, manners and responsibilities of a driver, simulation of driving on a real vehicle before getting on the road, etc.
How have these driving schools grown and how many drivers has Toyota readied?
The pilot school was inaugurated in Kochi in March 2015, and since then we have come a long way. Currently, there are schools in Kochi, Lucknow, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata, Faridabad and Vijayawada. Till date, over 2,800 students have registered under the Toyota Driving Safety course, and we plan to launch 50 driving schools across India by 2020.