The Kerala government has finally decided to make wearing of helmets compulsory for two-wheeler pillion riders, but not without some prodding from the High Court. If it had its way, it would have excluded pillion riders from the mandatory helmet rule, but it had to fall in line when the HC ruled that law must prevail over other considerations. While it’s unfortunate that a government needed to be persuaded to enforce a rule concerning road safety, the news that it will not further stall its implementation and the rule will come into effect from December 1 is heartening.
Kerala is among the states with high road accident rates. In fact, as per 2018 data, the state topped the list in accidents involving two-wheelers. As many as 1,643 people died in those accidents and more than 13,000 people suffered serious injuries. According to an analysis of national accident statistics, nearly 75% of fatalities in bike accidents are due to not wearing helmets. In the face of such shocking figures, the government, on its own, should have implemented not just the helmet rule but all regulations that make our roads safer.
On the contrary, the Kerala government recently slashed the high traffic fines prescribed by the amended Central Motor Vehicles Act, dealing a blow to the efforts to make roads safer. The fine for not wearing a helmet was reduced from Rs 1,000 to Rs 500.
Strict enforcement is what is required to make the helmet rule effective. There’s an argument among vehicle users that the government must first improve roads before enforcing traffic rules. While the state is duty-bound to provide better transport infrastructure, the fact is having smoother roads cannot be a substitute for wearing helmets and driving safe.
Helmets can indeed help save lives, and there should not be any argument about the need for such a rule. Now, it’s up to the authorities to implement it effectively. They should also make sure that people wear the right kind of helmets—ones that can save lives in case of accidents.