Road conditions around the Laxman Public School in India leave lots of room for improvement. This is generally an issue that only authorities can deal with, but the students found a way to take matters into their own hands.
A quick look around the community of Laxman Public School reveals numerous problems with road safety. There are potholes all over the roads, causing drivers to take risks as they maneuver around them, there are various places with a high concentration of pedestrians and very little regulation of their movement through crossings and stoplights, and most people on two-wheelers and bicycles ride without helmets.
The students confirmed that these were the most pressing issues by investigating through reliable internet sources and through a questionnaire given to 50 random students. They also identified an additional (less visible) problem – ineffective authorities who don’t regulate road conditions or driving behavior.
Teachers and students explored this issue further, discussing the role of government bodies in making and enforcing road safety norms, the role of local actors and road users, and the influence of external factors like drugs, bad infrastructure, use of phones etc.
They concluded that even though government bodies may try to enforce laws, the main responsibility lies with the people themselves. If people are encouraged to adopt safe road habits, many accidents could be avoided. Therefore a people centric approach to counter road safety problems was chosen as a means to make roads in the community safer.
The students designed a campaign to highlight the message that a large part of road safety responsibility lies with the people themselves, and they make a change in themselves they will make a change in the entire community – and even beyond.
To achieve this, they undertook various activities. For one, they organized a special awareness assembly in their school which was attended by over 800 students. At the assembly, they shared important information about staying safe given the conditions around the school, and they performed an interactive play that they had written and rehearsed.
It was about two careless drunken youths on a motorbike without helmets who a third to ride with them. They cross several red lights and are hit by a car occupied by an executive, who was talking on his mobile and driving recklessly, and his PA. A court case is filed and the audience helps the judge in deciding who is responsible for the accident.
The students developed an oath campaign for safer roads with a focus on two-wheelers, and a poster campaign that resulted in many creative and informative posters that the students hung in high traffic areas around town. They also created a road safety blog, which has received nearly 1000 hits from around the world.
Finally, they combatted the problem of pot-holes using a highly effective and simple approach - circling the pot-hole with fluorescent red paint. This meant that drivers automatically became aware of the pot-holes and avoided them from a distance; and the holes called the attention of passers-by to them therefore creating awareness. This created embarrassment for the civic authorities, and most of the pot-holes were covered within a fortnight!
All in all, it was a great initiative with even better results!