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Wear a helmet, get a rose!

National, Sat, 25 Oct 2008 IANS

Bhubaneswar, Oct 25 (IANS) Wearing a helmet while riding a two-wheeler now gets an added incentive in the Orissa capital - a rose from a girl!


This is part of a new scheme by the traffic police who want to create awareness about the importance of wearing helmets. Helping them are students of engineering colleges, who have volunteered to offer the roses to drivers using helmets.



On the flip side, those with found without helmets should be prepared for a 'rakhi' - a thread symbolising a brother-sister relationship - as opposed to the whiff of romance that a rose carries with it.



'I will surely use a helmet now onwards,' said Rabindra Mohanty, who was caught in the city's Rajmahal square while riding a scooter without a helmet on. 'A girl tied a rakhi on my hand to remind me how unsafe I am,' he added.



'I will feel offended if I am caught again by the same girl. That is why I have started wearing a helmet,' he said.



Abhimanyu Mohapatra, a 20-year-old college student, said he was thrilled to get a rose from a girl.



'I felt very happy when a beautiful girl gave a smile and handed me a rose because I was wearing my helmet,' he said.



The traffic rule applies to women drivers too, with male students offering roses or tying rakhis instead in appropriate cases. The college students are posted at traffic signals.



'I really felt insulted when a young man tied a rakhi on my wrist,' said Rukmini Sahu, a college student. 'I will wear a helmet from now on to avoid this unpleasant behavior,' she added.



Orissa has a high mortality rate in road accidents. According to officials, at least 10 people die in the state every day in road accidents.



Police said offenders do not wear helmets even if they are fined several times and that's why they had to think of a unique method.



Bhubaneswar-Cuttack Police Commissioner B.K. Sharma said traffic police collect fines of Rs.100 each from at least 200 to 300 people every day for not wearing helmets, but the number of offenders had not come down.



'Some do it as a fashion statement and some as a matter of habit even if you fine them,' Sharma told IANS. 'This is why we introduced this new method to motivate them,' he said.



'We introduced this method Thursday and saw that the response was good,' said Bhubaneswar Deputy Commissioner of Police Himanshu Lal.



He said police would organise surprise checks twice a week.



'On Thursday, the girls gave at least 4,000 flowers and tied rakhis on the hands of 2,000 riders who were not wearing helmets,' police said.



'It (the campaign) will positively have a psychological impact on offenders,' said Ranjan Mohanty, secretary of the People's Cultural Centre, an NGO that has organised several traffic awareness campaigns in the city earlier.


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