A drive through the city roads brings us face to face with shocking sights of gross negligence and scant regard for life by a majority of road-users. Abandoning the helmet or the seat belt, conversing on the mobile phone while driving, jumping the traffic signal … and what not! More people are killed or disabled due to road traffic injury than a heart attack or terminal illness, rues a neurosurgeon. And doctors are also of the view that more often than not, head injuries are the cause of death or serious life-altering situation in two-wheeler accidents, and helmets are the best protective headgear.
While the traffic police are conducting spot checks and penalising errant riders and drivers, it has become easy to predict their regular spots and avoid them by using by-lanes. The unsuspecting would of course cough up the fine and ‘wilful ignorance’ would continue the next time around. It is high time people are sensitised to the fact that a ride with a disregard for road safety rules could be their last ride.
Rotary Bangalore Rajarajeshwari Nagar Centennial (RI District 3190) in its tenth year of charter decided to use a completely different approach to ensure adherence to the basic road rules for safe driving. It was felt that the best way to motivate an adult is through their children. And the Rotarians did just that.
The Rotarians planned to address the children in their respective school assemblies and empower them to bring about this change in the incorrect habit practiced by their parents. A pledge was constructed with a strong emotional appeal, which would be taken as an oath by the children on November 14, Children’s Day. The pledge simply stated that the child would refuse to sit with their parents on a two-wheeler / car if their parents do not wear a helmet / seat belt and would urge them to move to the roadside to take/make a call while riding/driving. It requested them to follow these basic road safety rules even when the child was not travelling with them. The initiative got titled as ‘Come Home Safe.’
Schools were identified in the vicinity and the school managements readily agreed to allocate time for the Rotarians in their respective school assemblies to address the students and administer the pledge.
Pledge sheets were distributed to the schools in advance with a request to the class teachers to explain the initiative to the students and get them to personalise the pledges that they would eventually read out on Children’s Day. Teachers were also requested to monitor the effectiveness of the campaign through regular follow-up with the students. Support was also garnered from the Board members of three Interact Clubs who reached across to each class and explained the need for change and how each student can play an active part in this initiative.
In a collaborative effort Rotarians spread across the schools at the appointed time and gave a motivational speech to the students urging them to enforce their pledges and switch roles to becoming a parent to the errant child (the parent who is not following road safety rules). In most schools, the pledge was administered by the accompanying spouse. Twenty-one schools with a combined strength of 16,500 students partook in this exercise within one and half hours (varied assembly timings) to bring about a culmination to this overwhelming campaign.
Principal Vijaykumar Koujalgi of Baldwin Co-Education Extension High School shared an incident with us. On the day, the pledge was administered in the school assembly, the security guard at the gate was a witness to a drama that unfolded at the gate after school. A student of the junior grades, refused to get on the two-wheeler behind her mother, insisting that she wears a helmet. Now, the mother had not carried the helmet with her and no amount of pleading or cajoling the child worked. She had to return home, wear the helmet and ride back to school to pick up the child.
Sarita Sharma, the mother of a 9th grade child, of another school shared her experience with us. For over eight years now, she has been using her scooter for running local errands, besides dropping off/picking up her children from school. She was aware of the dangers of riding the two-wheeler without a helmet. But now, with her daughter insistent, she has started using the helmet for all trips.
The club intends to drive home the point further by requesting the school to enlist the support of the school staff in patrolling the school entrance and to inform errant parents about the pledge taken by their children and to honour them always.
Join the ‘Come Home Safe’ group on facebook; like, share and comment to take this initiative forward.
Rtn Suresh Warrier
RC Bangalore Rajarajeshwari
Nagar Centennial, RI District 3190