Chocolates and wrist watches were awarded as part of the Road Safety Week campaign to two-wheeler riders with helmets on

For the first time, since I started riding, I am glad I have my helmet on! For, a stranger walks up to me and hands me a bar of chocolate saying “Thanks for wearing a helmet”. He is student K. Deepan Kumar, who’s part of a team that distributes chocolates to two-wheeler riders wearing a helmet and car drivers with seatbelts on. The drive, a part of the Transport Department’s Road Safety Week campaign, acknowledges riders and drivers who abide by traffic rules.

The Tamil Nadu Police Traffic Wardens Organisation, Coimbatore City, GVK EMRI-108 Ambulance Services, along with students of SNS College of Engineering, and Junior Chamber International Coimbatore Indcity have organised the drive.

The helmet is heavy, makes you sweaty and is sometimes uncomfortable. But, it can save your life. “We want to make people aware of this,” says Deepan. He and his friends, all of them final year mechanical engineering students, are gathered at the LIC Road signal with a card that says, ‘Congratulations! Thanks for wearing a helmet. You are safe. We appreciate your concern for your family’.

“We also ask them to tell their friends and family to wear a helmet,” says volunteer V. Ravi Kumar. “Even if two people listen to us, we will be happy,” he adds.

Deepan and Ravi Kumar are part of ‘Friends of 108’, a team of students trained by 108 Ambulance Services to become the first responders in case of an accident. The team has been taught CPR and other procedures that are crucial to saving the life of an accident victim.

On an average, about 30 road accidents are attended to by the 108 service per day across the district, explains Mohan. H, Regional Manager, GVK EMRI-108 Ambulance Services. Usually, the fatal accidents were those where the rider was not wearing a helmet, he says.

Duty planning officer S. Siva Ramakrishnan who is overseeing the drive with his colleagues says some lucky riders who have all their documents in order are even awarded wristwatches! “We impose a penalty on you if you break a traffic rule. So shouldn’t we appreciate you if you abide by them?” he asks.

Wearing the reflective jacket worn by traffic policemen, student volunteer S. Manoj Prabhu zips through the traffic to reward helmet-wearers.

“There are very few riders who wear a helmet with the straps fastened,” he says. “Since morning, we spotted only 25 people out of 100 with helmets,” he adds. “Some riders thought we were stopping them to check their licence,” he laughs. “We tried to tell them we were giving them chocolates. But they scrammed!”