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HomeOpinionDashboardDear social media influencers and advertisers, stop encouraging dangerous driving habits

Dear social media influencers and advertisers, stop encouraging dangerous driving habits

Aamir Khan and Kiara Advani featured in an ad for a bank and raised heckles of many. But the main issue with the ad was that the actors promoted a bad riding habit.

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The recent advertisement for a bank that features actors Aamir Khan and Kiara Advani has raised the heckles of some people. Frankly, that is not what bothered me about the advert, but the fact that the two actors are sitting in the back of the car not wearing their seat belts. Yes, the advert was shot much before the accident involving Cyrus Mistry brought the issue of not wearing seat belts to the spotlight. Today, in Delhi and Mumbai, you can be challaned for not wearing a seatbelt in the rear, even if your wedding finery gets crumpled in the process. And that is why it is important, in my opinion, that the advertising industry and influencers on social media highlight safe driving habits.

Last Friday, there was a tragic accident on the Purvanchal Expressway. Minutes before the accident that killed four people, the occupants of the vehicle, a BMW sedan, were shown speeding, hitting speeds in excess of 200 kilometres per hour and recording the act on a Facebook Live video. I know ‘selfie-itis’ is a terrible disease plaguing India that kills far too many young people every year, all in the quest for likes. But how can social media platforms, with their capable Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms, allow posts by influencers and celebrities that showcase bad driving habits? These include posts such as standing out of the sunroof while on the move — the Motor Vehicles Act states that all occupants should be secure in their seats—or those where children are seated on the lap of an adult who is driving. This is illegal too and can easily be classified as ‘child endangerment’. Incidentally, in many countries if you pulled off such a stunt, your child would be taken away from you.

Unfortunately, many of my own creed of automotive journalists are not innocent. There are far too many posts where they are shooting photos and videos while behind the wheel, which, in case you were not aware, is not quite legal. As are images showing off how fast the car was going, invariably above the speed limit. By the way, this is self-incrimination. Even that Facebook Live video spoken about above, the police or courts can take suo moto of such a video and any post on social media where traffic laws are being brazenly flouted and prosecute you.

Also read: Just seat belts and airbags won’t protect you. India’s deadly roads need to be fixed too

Make influencers and advertisers responsible

The government wants to tax social media influencers, but they should actively get social media influencers to promote safe driving and riding habits. Yes, it is cool to be showing off how fast you’re going, but unless and until you are on one of India’s few racetracks or a private road, and there are very few of the latter, posting such instances on social media is both morally and legally wrong.

Now, the posts by popular influencers that show children standing out of the sunroof or sitting on the lap of the driver inspire people to actively endanger their children for a few likes, because they do not know any better. And this is why not only should the IT Ministry (MEITY), the Women and Child Development Ministry and the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) must take cognisance of these posts.

I do not want to sound like a spoilsport, but we have to take life seriously and not be obsessed by likes on social media. Yes, I know this sounds ironic coming from someone like me who spends far too much time on Twitter, but posts on social media cannot encourage dangerous driving or riding. And the advertising industry can make a start, even a disclaimer, that some motorcycle companies such as Bajaj Auto and TVS put and the barely legible text can be enhanced to what the mutual fund industry is forced to do. And that includes all adverts that feature a two-wheeler or a car. On the whole, the industry has been fairly good, but as the Aamir and Kiara advert proves, they can do more.

@kushanmitra is an automotive journalist based in New Delhi. Views are personal.

(Edited by Prashant)

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