A helmet is the first and foremost means of personal safety, which could prove to be a lifesaver and bring just that minute difference between life and death, when it comes to being involved in an accident while riding on the road.
With India's appalling statistics of road accidents, where the country lost 17 lives every hour, or 413 people not returning home every single day in 2016, road safety remains a serious concern and a topic of debate, calling for purposeful action from all stakeholders.
Satoshi Uchida and Sajeev Rajasekharan with Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Delhi, Garima Bhatnagar.
The country's inequitable economic structure also means that close to 70 percent of the total vehicle parc comprises two-wheelers, with the majority being ridden by youngsters in the age group of 18 to 35 years, who also form 50 percent of the total fatalities. A large number of two-wheeler riders in India pay scant regard to safety and traffic rules. This attitude, when combined with poor road infrastructure and lack of safety gear, increases the chances of getting injured manifold. A sad fact is that 28 lives are lost everyday due to riders not strapping on a helmet.
Suzuki reaches out to riders
Japanese manufacturer Suzuki Motorcycle India, in partnership with our sister magazine, Autocar India, joined hands to drive a nation-wide road safety campaign in order to spread awareness about the use of helmets, employing a unique and compassionate approach.
Christened the Suzuki 'Helmet For Life’ campaign, the initiative reached out to 12 highly accident-prone cities to spread the message of road safety not through just hoardings or digital activities, but by tying up with the respective state traffic police departments and volunteering on the ground.
Unlike cars, two-wheeler riders need to take extra precautions to protect themselves and the most important place to start is by protecting the head
Part of Suzuki Motorcycle India’s CSR initiative, the company donated 1,000 helmets in each of the 12 cities – Gurgaon, Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad, Surat, Bangalore, Calicut, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Lucknow – with the campaign kicking off from the Gurgaon Police Commissioner's office on June 21.
Flagging off the initiative, Satoshi Uchida, managing director, Suzuki Motorcycle India, said, “Helmets are not just accessories but are very important safety gear that can improve the chances of survival. Suzuki has always invested in making riding experiences exciting and safe for its customers. We are pleased to join forces with the Haryana Police and kick-start the Helmet For Life campaign.”
The newly sworn-in Commissioner of Police, Gurgaon, KK Rao, lauded the initiative. He said, “We appreciate this noble gesture undertaken by Suzuki Motorcycle India and are glad to extend our support in this mission to improve road safety. We urge two-wheeler riders to always follow safe riding practices and ensure that they not only themselves wear a helmet but also encourage the pillion rider to do the same.”
Not just putting it on, but also safely strapping a helmet in place together ensures optimal rider safety. A helpful policeman shows how this is done.
While Suzuki volunteers were stationed at 5-6 handpicked traffic signals across each of the 12 cities, the aim was to talk to riders who were hoodwinking the law and, along with the traffic police personnel, issue a violation ticket, resolutely guiding them to adopt safer practices for their own safety and of others on the road. Each city saw the activity spanning over five days.
Suzuki Motorcycle India also extended a total of 60 customised Suzuki Gixxer SF motorcycles, five each to every city's traffic police department, kitting them out with a siren, beacon flashers, side panniers and a loudspeaker.
“As a responsible two-wheeler manufacturer, who is into the high-end segment of motorcycles and scooters, we decided that we should do our bit, in terms of inculcating safer riding habits. One of the important things was making riders aware as to how important wearing a helmet is,” said Sajeev Rajasekharan, executive vice-president, Suzuki Motorcycle India.
Traffic personnel intercepting law violators. A valid riding / driving license and thorough vehicle documentation are part of every motorist's legal responsibilities on the road
According to Garima Bhatnagar, Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic), Delhi, “Young people riding two-wheelers are very casual about their safety and security. I think there isn't much pressure at home from parents or among peers to adopt safety measures and treat road safety seriously.”
While the excuses from motorists were aplenty, the inherent lack of caution remained the same – a callous attitude, hurry, irresponsibility and even laziness to strap on the life-saving helmet as they were out just running errands.
“I think the best way is to not scare them, but to connect with them in a language they understand – in a fun and light-hearted manner, the way we are doing it by making helmet-wearing look cool,” said Rajasekharan.
The positive response to the Suzuki campaign was evident. Helmetless riders admitted their mistake, paid a fine and pledged to use a helmet each time they ride a two-wheeler, while also taking up the mantle to spread the valuable safety mantra among their friends and family.
(This article was first published in the 1 August 2018 issue of Autocar Professional)