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Riding without helmet most common offence on Delhi roads in last three years

The number of two-wheelers on the roads of Delhi is increasing every day, and with it, the number of riders plying the streets without helmets is also going up, shows police data.

In 2018, over 11.93 lakh riders were prosecuted for riding without helmets.(Sonu Mehta/HT Photo )
Despite provisions in law and sustained campaigns by the Delhi traffic police, helmet rule violation has remained the most fined offence on city roads over the last three years.

In 2018, over 11.93 lakh riders were prosecuted for riding without helmets. The prosecution figure stood at over 11.02 lakh and 9.88 lakh in 2017 and 2016 respectively. Both these years, helmet violation topped the list of the most flouted traffic rules in the city, followed by improper parking and driving without seatbelts.

The number of two-wheelers on the roads of Delhi is increasing every day, and with it, the number of riders plying the streets without helmets is also going up, shows police data.

Riding your two-wheeler with your helmet hung around your arm — planning to slip it on only when you spot a traffic constable — might seem like a convenient option but will cost you your life in case of an accident, say experts.

In a five-part weekly series on road safety, Hindustan Times will focus on most violated traffic rules in the city and suggest ways to remain safe on the road.

Implementing law

A 2016 study by IIT-Bombay found that for every 10 fatal road accidents in India, three people die due to the lack of helmets or seatbelts.

Despite traffic rules making it mandatory for riders to wear helmets, every year, hundreds in the country die as they fail to grasp the importance of wearing a safety gear.

Delhi traffic police officers say riders in Delhi are no different. Despite the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, making Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS)-certified helmets mandatory, most riders in the national capital do not comply with the rule. While many riders carry helmets out of fear of law, they choose wear it only when they spot a policeman ticketing violators, the traffic policemen said.

Traffic constables along Rajpath said bikers, especially youngsters, would rather dodge checkpoints or change their route than wearing a safety gear and keeping themselves safe in case of a crash.

“Several times, we have to give chase to the bikers and fine them. I have caught so many bikers who are fined for not wearing helmets despite carrying them. I tell these young men that helmets are to be worn and merely carrying it will not save them from an accident,” said a 52-yearold traffic constable, who did not wish to be identified.

Traffic cops also say that riders are seen wearing anything from hard hats worn at construction sites to low-cost variants of helmets that break easily.

Joint commissioner of police (traffic) Alok Kumar said that riding without proper helmets is among the most violated traffic rule and is a major safety concern on the roads of the Capital.

“You can see that almost every other two-wheeler rider on the road zooming through the streets either without wearing a helmet or wearing a makeshift helmet. Our message to riders is: wear helmets not out of the fear of law but for your own safety. A proper helmet can protect you from a fatal crash,” Kumar said.

Major hurdles

Police personnel said that it is difficult to force Delhi riders to wear helmets as they often turn aggressive and truculent. Traffic policemen are often threatened with violence or ‘high-level contacts’ when they try to impose the rule. Another impediment to their task is ensuring that only certified helmets are worn while on two-wheelers.

Interestingly, a low-quality helmet, which only fulfils the purpose of saving the rider from a traffic ticket, is easily available at any roadside stall for just R20.

The cushioning under the flimsy plastic is contained by a single layer of net that can be torn off without much effort. The straps can also be easily pulled out.

“Wearing these helmets is as good as not wearing them. The safety gear should guard your face, jaw and your head and should be sturdy enough to take a fall,” Kumar said.

Traffic officers said a helmet with a BIS mark signifies that it has gone through various safety tests. For example, the buckle of such helmets is tested with a load of 105kg. This, in comparison to a local helmet, will stay intact in the event of an accident.

Saved by the helmet

Dr Anand Bakshi, a neurosurgeon at a private hospital in Gurugram said the head, neck and the spinal cord are the most vulnerable body parts when you have a bike accident.

“In most cases, by the time the victims are brought to the hospital, they are either dead or have sustained such severe injuries that chances of survival and normal life are almost nil,” he said.

Bakshi also said that while the police initiatives concentrate on riders, those riding pillion are equally vulnerable during an accident.

“The brain, made of soft tissues, is smaller than the skull and is surrounded by a layer of blood and spinal fluid. In the event of an accident, a jolt to the head results in the brain moving inside the skull. This leads to multiple injuries,” he said.

Doctors said that in case of a crash, a helmet acts as a barrier for the head and shields the brain from any impact. Skull fractures and brain injuries are the most common causes of death in road accidents involving riders without helmets. But for those who survive a brain injury, life is much harder as the injuries affect a number of body functions.

Experts speak

Road safety experts agreed that wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle or a scooter should come as naturally as wearing clothes or shoes before stepping out of the house. Studies over the years have established that wearing a helmet reduces the severity of injuries by at least 70 per cent to 80 per cent and brings down fatality rates by almost 40 per cent.

A 2015 analysis of road accidents by the Delhi traffic police found two-wheeler riders were the second-most mortalityprone group on the city’s roads after pedestrians and cyclists. It was found that in most accidents, not wearing helmets resulted in instant death of the rider and also of those riding pillion.

Studies by the Bangalorebased National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) showed that nearly 60 per cent to 70 per cent of twowheeler riders who were injured or killed in road mishaps had become victims of head or neck injuries that led to disability or death.

Experts say that creating awareness about the disadvantages of not wearing helmets and controlling the sale of low-quality helmets could be of help.

Dr Arumukham Iyer, a senior scientist and researcher in technology driven road safety, said promoting the sale of colourful and jazzy helmets could attract youngsters to use them.

“There have been several successful initiatives to promote helmets not just in foreign countries but also in other cities in India. For example, in cities such as Ranchi and Kerala, massive drives were carried out where two-wheeler riders not wearing helmets were given free helmets by the traffic units,” Dr Iyer maintained.

He said such initiatives help in psychologically shaming violators into wearing the helmets.

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