Our helmet woes never end. That’s because helmets are never on our head. Instead, it’s on our arm or tucked away in our vehicle’s luggage space.
Ever since helmet checking began, two-wheeler riders have turned into rats — they run helter-skelter, risking their own lives and putting the lives of others at risk trying to avoid the cat — the cop.
Now, with the drive against non-ISI certified helmets, this cat and mouse game has begun again and it has made Mysuru roads hell for other vehicle drivers.
Why don’t most two-wheeler riders wear helmets? It is for their own good. And by paying fines they are only making the State richer and some cops fatter.
It makes one wonder, why would someone who takes the trouble to wear a helmet not wear one that actually keeps their head safe? It looks like some people wear a shell on their head for protection from the cops, rather than a head injury.
A helmet is supposed to meet the requirements stipulated by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) which requires a helmet to have an inner layer of polypropylene foam and an outer layer made of plastic and other synthetic fibres. These materials reduce the chance of primary brain injury.
Last year, nearly 44,000 riders lost their lives on our roads, so it matters that we wear a helmet and wear one that is ISI-certified because it is a tested product. Let alone the strength of the helmet, even its buckle strength is tested.
An ISI-certified helmet buckle could take a load of upto 105 kg. The one from the street can take just about a 5 kg load. This means when you fall, if you are wearing a cheap helmet your buckle will snap, helmet will roll off your head and you could have a head injury, which could render you paralysed or dead.
We Indians are very cavalier when it comes to safety. Be it not wearing car seat belts or unfastening seat belts in airplanes before the sign is turned off. Be it precariously hanging off trains or running across Railway tracks. Yes, we love short-cuts. They save time. Whether or not it’s risky is not something given much thought to. So, we dash across Railway tracks and Highways rather than take the foot over- bridge. We go up a one-way rather than spend another two minutes taking a U-turn a little up the road.
In fact, Maruti Suzuki did a survey where they found that car buyers don’t care about safety features. The survey found that when the company offered an air bag for the passenger seat in the Maruti Alto for just an additional Rs. 6,000, only 5% of car buyers opted for it. Guess, they don’t like their spouse too much !
When we are headless enough not to keep our own heads safe, the Law must remind us. And why not? According to The Asian Development Bank, road accidents cost developing countries anywhere between 1 – 3 per cent of their Gross National Product in the form of medical care, insurance, productivity loss, etc.
Now, while the Police are seizing non-ISI certified helmets and conducting raids on road-side sellers of unsafe helmets, why doesn’t the government simply shut down the factories that manufacture them? It’s unfortunate that our government only tries to cure the symptoms instead of eradicating the disease.
Maybe, time has come for the government to explore a classroom project that two class 10 boys from Trichy, Tamil Nadu, came up with — they created a ‘Helmet Enabling Device’ that prevents the bike from starting until the rider is wearing a helmet.
It is ironic that the government has to hunt down citizens and force them to take care of themselves. Looks like we either have a Death wish or a Superman complex. Or, like everything else, we just leave it to Destiny — after all, it’s so much easier than wearing a helmet.