The helmet is a lawfully necessary accessory. And with the wide variety that has sprung up in the market - right from low quality to designer wear to the aesthetically designed ISI approved helmets - the two-wheel driver is pampered. Youngsters and even the elderly sport this contraption of all kinds and types. In fact, most of them cannot pass the BIS (Bureau of Indian Standards) as they are of inferior quality, providing no protection to the riders. Another distressing aspect is, some wear it on their hands, rather than on their heads while others put it only when they see a traffic cop.
It is estimated that 59 people have been killed till September 30, this year due to violation of helmet rules. Speaking to City Express, Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic), B Dayanand said, "There is a provision under Section 129 of Karnataka Motor Vehicles Act, Rule 230 followed by a government notification dated 29-06-2006 that all riders should wear helmets conforming to the standards of BIS. We have been holding campaigns to educate riders and in fact, one such campaign in May proved to be effective in enforcing the rule. Even the response from the community towards BTP's efforts to inculcate the habit of donning BIS helmets has been good."
He further stressed, "Till August this year, we have booked 4.83 lakh cases of violations and collected a fine of `4.83 crore, while last year, a whopping 7.5 lakh cases were booked against offenders."
City Express did a reality check in both the southern and northern areas of the city. Out of 10 riders, 6-7 were found to be wearing a kind of helmet that came in all shapes and sizes. If some were found to be wearing a full face helmet with a visor, others wore a semblance of a helmet that did not even cover the head properly. While some were found to be donning a kind of metal cap that is sported by workers at construction sites, some had covered their heads with a contraption that looked like a frying pan and a few had even passed off a glass visor as a helmet in the heavy presence of traffic cops.
The reasons for wearing such a plethora of helmets vary from rider to rider; affordability, health reasons, fashion statement and attitude. Nikhil, 24, who drives down daily on a 1000 cc bike from JP Nagar to Padmanabha Nagar does not even sport a half -helmet. "I am just in my twenties and I don't want to go bald so soon. I want to look good and sport a fashionable hair style. Once you wear a helmet, all this is gone and one looks so unattractive with your entire face covered."
In the city outskirts of Yelahanka, Mahadevpura, Kengeri or Konankunte, the incidents of riders zooming on without their helmets is pretty common.
With very little policing in the outer areas, youngsters, even if they possess a helmet, prefer to carry it or lock it up. However, police sources claim that the incidents of violation are the same, be it the city areas or its outskirts.
Nagaraj, a traffic cop said, "Despite imposing fines regularly, they don't adhere to rules and even if you increase the fine amount, it won't help matters."
Half the time, I am chasing these youngsters, studying in professional engineering colleges. Many a time, they give me the skip and avoid the main road and use the cross roads. Parents should make an effort to inculcate this habit in their children and not just buy them fancy bikes. What with rash driving and over speeding, accidents have become very common resulting in head injuries."
Increase in fines
Medical experts opine that one should wear quality tested helmets as they are more effective in shielding the head from serious injuries. "Only BIS standard helmets should be made mandatory and not the different kinds of contraption that riders wear today. High quality helmets will save them from serious head injuries while the number of riders being killed in the city, clearly demonstrates its poor quality," says Dr Praveen, a neurosurgeon.
With regard to making changes in the existing provisions of the rule, the additional commissioner refused to make any comments but however, said, "With a fine of `100 imposed on offenders presently, this amount will be increased after discussions with the government."