After a series of campaigns and enforcement drives did not raise helmet rule compliance significantly, the Salem City police have resorted to the innovative approach.On December 16,2019, the Salem City police barred entry for two wheel riders without helmets into two key arterial roads and without fining the violators the cops made them listen to heavy dose of message about the benefits of helmet wearing and the harms of avoiding it.
When cops stop a rider without a helment they turn preachy telling the violators that they should not forget to take the helmet while leaving the house just as they would in case of the mobile phone. Though the enhanced fines under the new Motor Vehicle Act 2019 has not been implemented in Tamilnadu enforcement on helmet wearing was tightened across the city in the last couple of months. Salem City Police has been going intensively on its social media cell in spreading awareness andhad made about a dozen short films to persuade road users on traffic rules. Several off line campaigns and enforcement drives were pursued. Yet when it came to helmet use, compliance levels in Salem was only about 65 percent according to S.Senthil, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Salem City.
The approach seems to work as one rider who was on an urgent work, parked his vehicle on the road side, rushed to a nearby shop and bought himself a helmet and rode off through the barred road otherwise he would have had to take a roundabout route through narrow lanes. Another man who came with his wife on the pillion was prodded by her to buy a helmet immediately after she was persuaded by the preachy cops about the consequences of an untoward accident on the road while riding without wearing a helmet,” says S.Senthil the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Salem City.
The two roads that have been closed for entry without helmet are the Cherry Road and Trichy Road stretch from Annadhanapatti to Periyar Statue.While Cherry Road is crucial to reach Salem Collectorate, Salem Corporation Office, Government Hospital and the old bus stand from the northern and eastern entry points of the city, blocking Trichy road will prevent reaching the main market, old bus stand, Collectorate, Corporation, Government Hospital and to Four Roads and the new bus stand from the western entry point. Barring entry and engaging the riders with messages on road safety would acts as a forceful deterrent during peak hours when people are ina singular purpose of reaching their desired destination say police men. The no entry will be in force from 8.00 am to 7.00 pm.
” We are thinking of penalising riders in the helment zone after 11.00 am in the two roads. Enforcement drives will continue as usual in other parts the city. We will periodically shift roads for no entry without helmet once a certain level of compliance is achieved in one area,” said the Deputy Commissioner.
Salem is one of the major Tyre – 2 cities in Tamilnadu with a high two wheeler density which poses an enforcement challenge for the police. It is in the upper bracket, among the top ten accident prone cities in Tamilnadu and as of January 2019, Salem figured third in the state in terms of number of accidents, seventh in terms of accident deaths and ranked fourth in terms of grievous and minor injuries. Salem does not find place in the lists of eight districts where fatalities are decreasing despite a rising trend in number of accident. So along with capital city Chennai and nine other districts, Salem will be crucially watched for the state to achieve the target for the Sustainable Development Goal on Road Safety for the year 2019 with a reduction in the death to 9182 (as against the 12, 216 deaths in 2018) and total accidents for the year to 49,089 said police officials.
(Reported and edited by G.Rajasekaran)
(Centre for Community Media)