On Rajiv Gandhi Salai, you are likely to encounter volunteers swooping down on a traffic intersection and exhort motorcyclists to wear a helmet, and pedestrians to use the foot-overbridge. They are employees of organisations on the IT Corridor who have signed up with the Chennai Road Safety Council, which is working to improve road safety through volunteering.
The Council was launched last year following a corporate round-table conducted by iVolunteer. One of the main aims of the initiative is to encourage companies to take ownership of a traffic junction or a stretch near them. The companies that sign up for the programme will be expected to effect a change in the attitude of motorists and pedestrians.
Towards this end, member-companies would conduct sensitisation programmes for their associates with the support of NGOs working in the field of road safety. These employees are also encouraged to volunteer on the road at least once.
“We have eight corporates and four NGOs on board and we want more companies to join us,” says Gazal Raina, CSR Lead, Ford Motors.
Though Rajiv Gandhi Salai is the main focus area as it has many companies, the Council will be looking to extend the programme to many other areas of Chennai.
Under the traffic awareness programme, one can see employee-volunteers from each of these organisations visiting important junctions, some on fixed days of the week.
Cognizant employees, for instance, conduct their awareness drive every Thursday at multiple junctions on OMR. Donning reflector jackets and blue caps, Ford volunteers descend on the Sholinganalur junction every Friday between 9 a.m. and 10.30 a.m.
Similarly, Navis India Technologies employees can be spotted at the Tidel Park signal. Tech Mahindra, PayPal, L&T, Royal Enfield, TVS Sundaram Fasteners and Groupon are other partners in the Council.
These trained volunteers politely advise motorists who are seen breaking traffic rules — such as those waiting on the zebra line and driving on the footpath and those engaging in motoring behaviour that can easily lead to accidents.
They do not perform the role of traffic police personnel.
“We seek to present the Munna Bhai style of positive reinforcement and avoid reprimanding them,” says Gazal, adding that the initiative has received good feedback. When people abide by the rules of the road, traffic chaos is regulated to some extent.
Many of the volunteers themselves saw a need to change certain behaviours. A lot of other initiatives, she says, have come up at Ford.
Associates are getting trained in batches by Alert on how to offer first-aid care during an accident.
“We don’t have a fixed team of people volunteering on the road. In fact, we encourage teams to go with their managers,” she says.
The forum also meets once a month to brainstorm about collaborative campaigns. Aarti Madhusudan, consultant, iVolunteer, says share autorickshaw drivers are also an important stakeholder in ensuring safety.
“Why not have a biryani party with them and see how they can play a role?” she asks.
Those keen on being part of the Council can write to Thozhan, one of the NGOs helping implement various activities, at email@example.com