Two-wheelers form a big
proportion of vehicles on Indian roads. It is well-established that helmets for riders as well as
pillion-riders save lives.
Motorcycle crashes are a major public health concern which place economic stress on the healthcare system. Motorcycle helmets reduce both motorcycle-related fatalities and head injuries. There is considerable evidence to show that helmet use effectively reduces motorcycle-related head injuries.
Helmet use lessens serious injuries, lowers mortality rates and reduces the need for hospital resources. With the rapid expansion of motor vehicle use in low- and middle-income countries, road traffic-related death and injuries are increasing sharply. Projections show that, between 2000 and 2020, road traffic deaths will decline by about 30% in high-income countries but increase substantially in low- and middle-income countries. Without appropriate action, by 2020, road traffic injuries are predicted to be the third leading contributor to the global burden of disease and injury. More than one million people died from road traffic crashes in low-and middle-income countries in 2000; according to the World Health Organization, that number could nearly double by 2020. Every day thousands of people are killed and injured in traffic accidents. Millions of people each year spend many weeks in hospital after severe crashes and many will never be able to make a living, work or play as in the past.
More than half of the people killed in traffic crashes are young adults aged between 15 and 44 years and often individuals who support their family with their earnings. Motorcycle accidents account for a large proportion of road traffic accidents in India and the riders of these motorized vehicles have a high risk of injuries or death. Helmets are recommended for motorcyclists to reduce the risk of head injuries. They can lower mortality between 32% and 50%.3 India has a national helmet law that makes helmet use mandatory for both motorcycle drivers and pillion riders (co-passengers). However, the notification and enforcement of this law rests with individual states and is generally weak. “Wearing a good helmet and tying it properly can prevent loss of lives in 90 percent of accident cases. We call it helmet vaccine,” says Dr. MC Misra, Director and Dean of AIIMS. The chief purpose of a helmet is to absorb the impact of a crash and thus prevent primary injury to the brain, rather than preventing skull and face fractures. William D. Singer, M.D. from Harvard Medical School explains, “People who have an accident like that, and survive, often don’t fully recover. They may lose some intelligence, and the capacity to take care of themselves because of the damage to the system that controls their muscles. They may have a behaviour change – have difficulty dealing with other people, and having proper social relationships.” India has among the most unsafe roads in the world. In 2015, over 400 people were killed in road accidents every day. In the same year, two-wheeler accidents claimed 36,800 victims and left around 93,400 injured. Numbers that could have been significantly lower, if riders had proper helmets. A committee of Supreme Court on Road Safety has recently given directions that in case where law relating to use of helmet is violated by either the main rider or the pillion rider then they should both be subject to Road Safety Education and Counselling for not less than two hours before imposition of fine, it said. “During the drive for enforcing helmet laws, therefore, the Traffic Police after intercepting a two-wheeler with the main rider or the pillion rider without helmet then both the main rider and the pillion rider shall be subject to Road Safety Education and Counselling for not less than two hours before imposition of fine as prescribed in the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988,” said the statement.
To deal with this situation, the government has started taking strict action. For instance, earlier this year the Maharashtra government implemented a rule that two-wheeler riders would not get petrol at pumps if the rider and pillion are found to be sans helmets. In Nagpur, traffic cops attached with various police stations in the city adopted novel ways to encourage the two-wheeler riders – they gave roses to people wearing helmets and a challan to those without helmets.
Jammu and Kashmir Police has cracked a whip on the traffic violations by two wheeler riders and even asked fuel stations to deny petrol to bikers not wearing crash helmets. “In order to bring a sense of safety among the two wheelers, Police has launched a special drive against visible traffic violations,” police said. They said two wheeler riders who are not wearing crash helmet or are indulging in double pillion riding are being challaned and their bikes seized. “We are also seizing the bikes of those who indulge in doing stunts or rash and negligent driving. Within two days of the special drive, thousands of two wheelers were seized and challaned in different offences like not wearing crash helmet, indulging in double pillion riding, plying without documents and stunt or rash and negligent driving,” the police said. Traffic Police would soon launch a special drive in Jammu and Kashmir to enforce helmet rules according to which it would be compulsory for both the driver and the pillion rider to wear helmets.
“Even the pillion rider of two-wheeler would be required to wear helmet. Violation would result in imposition of fine under relevant section of Motor Vehicle Act,” said a communiqué issued by the department. “Every year scores of teenagers riding two wheelers without crash helmet and resorting to double pillion lose their precious lives bringing gloom and despondency to otherwise happy families. Cooperation of petrol pump dealers in this regard is highly appreciated by way of denying filling of petrol to such wayward motorcyclists and also bring such violators to the notice of the nearest traffic police post,” the Traffic Police advisory reads. “The general masses are requested to cooperate with Traffic Police in order to bring the visible change in traffic management system in the state,” they said. Stringent laws and a strict implementation are the only way ahead to make India’s roads safe. The author like to conclude this article by this worth reading quotation, “SAFETY IS GAINFUL – ACCIDENT IS PAINFUL”. “Wear Helmet for Personnel Protection” not for, “Police Protection”.
(The author is Sr. Faculty & Warden- GCET, Jammu (J&K)