Published: 06th August 2018
This NGO got students to cosplay Batman, Superman at traffic signals for road safety
Thozhan's Traffic Awareness Campaign (TAC) has been out-of-the-box and this is the latest in the series of campaigns. Check out how they got the idea and how their NGO came to be
What if Spiderman and Superman were to swoop down and tell you to wear your seat belt or tell you off for jumping a red light? Would you listen to them? Commuters in Chennai experienced something similar on June 24 when Batman, Spiderman and Superman descended upon the roads of the city at traffic signals — to save the day from accidents. Thozhan, an NGO in Chennai started in 2007, which is known for its out-of-the-box ways to educate people on road rules organised this unique cosplay campaign using young students. Their mission? To sensitise young and old people on traffic rules and road safety.
"We conduct seminars and workshops in schools, colleges, and corporate offices on road safety. Influenced by these workshops, people suggested that we come up with a campaign. Thus we enrolled a bunch of young lads from schools and colleges who then spent their summer vacations this year by educating others. They made people aware of the importance of road safety not only for one or two days but for an entire month. Every day starting from April 2018, this traffic awareness campaign was held at the Anna Arch signal where the students held safety placards, banners and requested motorists to wear helmets, seat belts and follow traffic rules," says Radhakrishnan M, founder of the NGO.
Cosplaying to road safety: Spiderman and Superman descended upon the roads of the city to teach people about traffic rules
And the superhero spurt? "As this was a special campaign for us, we decided to make it a memorable one for the public by cosplaying Batman, Superman and Spiderman on the last day of the campaign, who were also interacting with commuters and creating the awareness. It turned out to be a successful attempt in garnering the public's attention and we could also spread our message in a fun manner," he adds.
However, cosplay was not a new thing for Thozhan as they had already made volunteers cosplay as Yamadharma Raja (the god of death) at 100 traffic signals in April 2016.
Thozhan was started by a group of four like-minded friends, who since 2005 have been spending time in orphanages and old age homes during weekends, and then decided to form a group named Thozhan (which means friend in Tamil). Eventually, the group grew in number and many of their well-wishers joined hands with them, involving themselves in various social activities like arranging blood donation camps, tree plantation drives, organ donation awareness, beach clean-ups, plastic awareness campaigns, speech workshops, traffic awareness camps and so on. Currently, Thozhan has more than 2000 volunteers working across Tamil Nadu for various causes in their respective localities.
Traffic Awareness: Thozhan's members from other parts of Tamil Nadu also began campaigns in Coimbatore, Bangalore, and Pune
Thozhan's Traffic Awareness Campaign (TAC) was initiated when one of the members witnessed a gruesome accident in OMR in December 2012, in which a college student died at the accident spot. "Have you ever come across any newspaper or TV channels or social media without noticing some kind of an accident news on a daily basis? They may seem like just news to us, but to the victim’s family, it’s a shock and a loss that words can’t describe. This thought led to the formation of our organisation with the ultimate aim to sensitise people on road safety," explains Radhakrishnan. "Several people from the public have joined hands with us during the camps and continue to contribute to the awareness. Currently, weekly TACs are being held every Thursday at Tidel Park, Thiruvanmiyur, Sholinganallur and so on," adds Radhakrishnan.
Apart from Chennai, Thozhan's members from other parts of Tamil Nadu also began campaigns in Coimbatore, Bangalore, and Pune.
"According to several surveys we have conducted through the years, fatality rates in the state due to road accidents have only been increasing. I feel we have to change ourselves first and then go out and educate people. Once we start following the traffic rules, we can teach others how to do the same, that's been our motto throughout," says Radhakrishnan.
Leading to safer roads: Thozhan's aim is to create an accident-free nation
Every year, the organisation conducts a mass campaign in August to mark Independence Day. "This year, being the 72nd year of Independence, we’ve planned a mass traffic awareness campaign in 72 parks across the city,” states Radhakrishnan, adding, "These campaigns that we’ve done have had good response and support from the common people in Chennai. In the past five years, the number of road accident deaths that I’ve heard from my circle of friends has been nearly zero. We really hope soon this is the case for everyone in the city,” he concludes.