Meera Naran after being made an MBE by Princess Anne, Princess Royal, earlier in February (Steve Parsons/WPA Pool/Getty Images)
DEV’S LAW is a legislation that Meera Naran would rather have not been associated with, but tragic circumstances have made it an important part of her life and one that she is proud of.
From Wednesday (6), all cars all new cars across mainland Europe and Northern Ireland will have to adhere to Dev’s Law, which means they will have to be fitted with automatic emergency braking (AEB).
AEB slows down or stops a vehicle if it senses a threat of collision and the driver fails to respond to the threat.
The rule change has been named after Naran’s son Dev, who was killed in 2018 when a lorry struck his grandfather’s car from behind on the hard shoulder of the M6 near Birmingham, which was being used by moving traffic.
“I started campaigning in memory of Dev because I just don’t want any other family to go through the pain that we have to go through every single day. There are no words to describe the pain of losing a child; it completely destroyed me,” Naran told Eastern Eye.
“All I could do was ask the question, what are the learned outcomes? What can we do? I can’t bring him back. I can’t bring that world back for us. But I can make sure that no one else goes through that.”
Naran, who is a senior lecturer in Clinical Pharmacy at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU), has urged the UK government to implement Dev’s Law, which will make it compulsory for all vehicles to be installed with anti-tailgate technology.
“I’m just urging the government to do the right thing. The UK has been part of looking at this law already. They were involved in the evidence of this technology before Brexit. So now it’s just an extension of what we have already been involved in and now taking the next step and actually implementing it,” said Meera.
It is estimated that 27,300 people are killed or seriously injured on UK roads in 2021. Research has shown that AEB could prevent 12,300 casualties and 110 deaths.
The AA has been lobbying the government to make AEB compulsory for 10 years.
“The adoption of Dev’s Law mandating the fitting of AEB on all new vehicles, including vans, would be a massive milestone in road safety akin to major safety advances such as seat belts, breathalysers or air bags. It will be compulsory across Europe from July so the UK shouldn’t be left behind,” said Edmund King, president of the AA. “AEB is a proven technology and lifesaver.”
For Naran, the AEB proposal is just one part of a campaign she’s been on to ensure there are “zero” deaths on UK roads.
The 38-year-old’s work has led to a number of advancements in road safety, including changes to the Highway Code, a £900 million commitment of government funding, 18 national policy changes, including £5m for ongoing education.
Her campaigning has also led to the Department for Transport to pause the smart motorway roll-out until five years of safety data is available.
Smart motorways do not have a hard shoulder, so drivers who have a vehicle break down can be trapped in speeding traffic. There were 63 fatalities on stretches of smart motorway between 2015 and 2019, according to the National Highways, which operates England’s motorway network.
“In 2020 when I proposed 19 policy changes, there was some reassurance with the 18-point action plan, which implemented 18 out of my 19 proposals with a £500 million commitment,” said Naran. “To see this additional amount being added to a total of nearly £900 million is absolutely welcome and I think it’s really reassuring.”
She added: “I will not see a victory until we have zero deaths on our roads. Whether that (means) I campaign for the rest of my life, so be it.
“It’s been incredibly emotional losing Dev, it’s so hard. There’s no words to ever explain how that feels. Campaigning through grief is no easy task either,” she said.
Not only did Naran lose Dev on that day in 2018, but she’s also seen the life of her other son changed forever.
On the day Dev died he had been to see his older brother Neel, 13, who suffers from severe epilepsy and was in a critical condition in hospital.
“Since hearing the news (of Dev’s passing), he (Neel) slowly started deteriorating. He’s got drug resistant epilepsy and that’s why he was in hospital at that particular moment in time. But after hearing about his brother’s death, slowly, over time, he stopped speaking and walking as well. He is now in palliative care,” said Naran.
“It’s incredibly difficult to look at Neil without thinking of Dev, because they were always together. They did everything together. And their bond was so incredibly special.
“Dev loved his brother fiercely. He wanted to be a doctor when he was older, a brain surgeon so he could help children like his brother. Everything I’m doing is in memory of Dev, but Neel gives me hope, he inspires me. He just showers me with all this love to just keep going.”
Naran was awarded an MBE for services to road safety in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in June last year. She collected her medal from the Princess Royal at Windsor Castle in February.
“It was very emotional. I was very touched with how invested the Princess Royal was on the work. “I don’t want anyone to ever feel what we had to feel. Our eight-year-old little boy didn’t reach home and I don’t want any parent to lose their loved one in such a sudden and tragic way.
“Road deaths are tragic and that’s exactly what I will continue to campaign for – everyone reaching home.”
An emotional Naran said her campaigning for safer roads is “all the unspent love I have for Dev”.
“He was a wonderful little boy. He was so kind, so thoughtful. The work that he would have done if he was still here would have been incredible. What I am doing is nowhere near what he would have done if he had lived and become older,” said Naran.
“But I can only try. I can only try my hardest. And I know one day I will be with my son again. And I just want to say I tried my hardest. I hope and pray that he would be proud of the work I’m doing.”
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “Our thoughts remain with Dev’s family and we welcome Mrs Naran’s continued work to improve road safety.
“We’re currently considering the vehicle safety provisions within the EU’s General Safety Regulation, which includes advanced emergency braking (AEB), to determine requirements that are appropriate for new vehicles in Great Britain.”