Helmets- Objections and SPTM's response

June 14, 2012

Before we discuss to objections that many citizens have to making helmet compulsory for 2-wheeler riders and SPTM’s response to these objections, here is some extremely important data on fatalities in Pune, that you should go through.

Frequently raised objections

SPTM's response to the objections

1. My Safety is my problem.

  • A person who attempts suicide not only tries to kill himself, but also his parents’ child, and his child’s parent. That is why attempting suicide is a crime. And that is also the very reason why helmets are mandatory. You owe it to your family to protect yourself.
  • Every person is a national resource.  It is the Govt’s responsibility to provide a traffic system and make rules that protect this national resource.  Imposing helmets is one of the measures taken to do so.  When a person gets a driving license, s/he has agreed to honour the rules of the system before using it.  If a person doesn’t agree with the rules, s/he should surrender the license and use other options.

2. There are so many other problems which cause accidents. Solve those problems first.

  • Yes, there indeed are so many problems due to infrastructure which make us vulnerable. Authorities must resolve them and SPTM puts pressure on authorities for that. But there also are factors like environment (e.g. rain, fog etc.), behavior of other drivers etc. which can make us vulnerable despite condition of infrastructure. All said and done, you are vulnerable today and you must become serious about it and protect yourself.
  • If your young child tells you, “Why do you give me pain of injection? First, solve those environmental problems, eliminate those viruses and reasons which cause the diseases”, what will you tell the child? Surely you will say, “Ok, ok, we will look at that, but first you need to get innoculated because we can’t wish those viruses away.”
  • There is no doubt that the governing authorities must resolve infrastructure issues and NGOs including SPTM will keep pushing them for this. But neither are the authorities saying that they will resolve issues only after citizens start wearing helmets, nor should citizens say that they will wear helmets only after authorities resolve the issues. The fact that there are infrastructure issues is all the more reason that it is in our interest to wear helmet right from this moment.

3. Many statistics show that accidents in a city increased after making helmets mandatory.

  • There are no such conclusive statistics which show this kind of effect consistently and there are no studies which established that ‘helmets made compulsory’ was the root cause of increase in road accidents.
  • On the other hand, see this recent data for Pune itself, given at the end of this page for reference. It is a hard and harsh reality.  Among the total accident victims, more than 50% casualties are of 2 wheeler riders and only 1-2% of those victims were wearing a helmet. This will give you a very loud and clear message!
  • There are other cities similar to Pune in terms of traffic patterns, such as Bangalore, and citizens there have been using helmets for many years now.

4. Helmets anyway don’t guarantee 100% safety.

  • YES! Helmets DO NOT guarantee 100% safety, just as there is no medicine or inoculation that can protect you from all diseases in the world! So, do you stop taking medicine? Will you refuse a critical operation, in case it unfortunately becomes necessary for you or your near-&-dear-one, because doctors are not giving you any guarantee and are in fact making it mandatory for you to sign a paper that you would not like to do?
  • Seat-belts, air-bags, crumple zones, anti-lock brakes are all safety features in cars, but people still die in car accidents. It’s all about REDUCING the probability of death. Nobody can ensure that it can be made ZERO.
  • Again, look at this recent data for Pune itself, given at the end for reference. It shows that helmets increase the chances of survival very significantly.
  • Yes! It does NOT guarantee you 100% safety, so you need to still drive carefully despite wearing helmet for your own safety, as well as safety of others.
  • One senior citizen had said, in a letter to a news paper, that speeding two wheeler riders wearing helmets, appear like ‘Yamadoots’ (messengers of death) to me. So, even if you wear a helmet and improve your own safety, DO NOT become a ‘Yamadoot’ for others. Respect pedestrians’ right to cross the road and slow down for them, DO NOT honk and scare them.

5. Helmet limits the Vision and makes you vulnerable.

  • Helmet limiting vision is notional, not actual. This is simply because the opening in the helmet for the eyes i.e. the field of Vision, provided by the helmets, is wider than the eye-span. So, helmet actually does not block your side-ways glance. Moreover, a little turn of the head will provide complete view that a rider needs, say while changing the lane.
  • Moreover the two side mirrors on the handle of the two wheelers also provide a side-rear view for the rider, just with a quick glance. Many twowheeler riders do not use these mirrors effectively. One needs to ensure every time before riding that they are adjusted properly.
  • So, all in all, this is more of a psychological than real issue. Scientific studies have shown that helmets do not limit the Vision of the two wheeler riders.

6. Helmet interferes with hearing and makes you vulnerable.

  • Again, this is also far from the fact. There is enough gap between the ears and the helmet. This column of air is sufficient to ensure that rider does not have any loss of hearing. Scientific studies have shown this to be a fact.
  • Loss of hearing is caused at high speeds due to wind noise. So, one should not drive motor cycles at high speeds, especially in city limits, though the engine may be powerful enough to allow that.
  • Major factor that causes loss of hearing in city riders is listening to FM radio or music by plugging the jacks into ears, while driving. Other objects which can interfere with hearing are the special bands which fit tightly on ears used by two wheeler riders especially during winters. In fact, the helmet can give protection from the cold wind without causing loss of hearing. 
  • High end cars like BMW and Mercedes that boast of very low level of outside noise also do not have this problem. Helmet is not even insulated like these cars.

7. Helmet can cause or aggravate neck pain

  • Many people have neck pain whether they drive a two wheeler or not and/or whether they wear helmet or not. This is mainly due to sedentary lifestyle, sitting for long hours in wrong posture etc and not taking proper exercises. So, one needs to do the needful to prevent the neck-pain and treat it irrespective of helmet usage.
  • But when you are riding two wheeler on road, what is at stake? Your life! Protecting your head and hence life is of primary importance. If there is a jungle which is infested with deadly animals, either you will protect yourself or you will not go there. Please realize that roads today are as deadly and your prime need is to protect your head.

8. Helmet causes hair loss!!

 (Yes, there indeed are people who oppose helmets due to this reason!)

  • Again, you should be clear about priorities. Protecting your head and hence life is the first and topmost priority. So, there can’t be any choice about that.
  • After understanding that not wearing helmet is not the solution, look for other solutions to this problem. Some people suggest covering head with soft cloth before wearing helmet.

9. You can’t drive at more than 20 / 30 kmph on Pune roads. So why is helmet necessary?

  • Oh, really? Will you accept it if you are asked to install a governor that will limit the speed of your two wheeler to 20 / 30 kmph? There are many roads today on which vehicle speeds easily exceed 50 kmph or more. Police and PMC have been helping private vehicles to accelerate by making one-way and rotary schemes.
  • Other significant point to note is that even if you drive at a slow speed some other vehicle can hit you and resultant impact can be high. e.g. If two vehicles going at 30 kmph collide head on, result will be equivalent of hitting a wall at 60 kmph.
  • Moreover, you may slip on the road due to some object or spilled oil or sand. So, you are vulnerable not only because of the speed.

10. Why are pedestrians not forced to wear helmets, since they are also vulnerable on roads?

Most of the deaths of pedestrians are not due to head injuries, but because of being hit and/or run over by a speeding vehicle. Hence, pedestrians wearing helmets will not make major difference to their fatality rate due to road accidents. Solution for that lies in better and safer facilities for walking and road crossing. On the other hand, majority of two wheeler victims die due to head injuries.

11. Police, who enforce rules, must wear helmets themselves first

  • Yes, SPTM fully agrees with this and we have formally communicated this to DCP Traffic already. DCP Traffic has confirmed that they have made this mandatory for all police staff, who use two wheelers and that they have in fact started taking action (‘karwai’) on defaulters.

12. Police should wear helmets first for few months before making it mandatory on others

  • It must be compulsory for police themselves and they must face action if they violate any rule including this. However, it should be compulsory for citizens also right from now, simply because we can save some lives and unparalleled loss to families every day.

13. Helmet is very inconvenient to carry, after I reach destination

  • Yes, Helmet is indeed inconvenient to carry. Most steps that ensure safety (e.g. Security check at the airport) are inconvenient. But, they are MUSTs. 
  • However, very easy way to circumvent this issue regarding helmet is to use a helmet lock. Specialized helmet locks are available. or one can use a chain lock.

14. It should not be necessary to wear helmet when I have to go just around the corner

  • Regarding safety, you cannot afford to cut corners 🙂  Even if you may be going just nearby, but as soon as you are on the road there can be danger lurking in any form, and so you must wear helmet before you start your two wheeler.
  • Please keep in mind, there are cases when one gets to hear heart-wrenching cries from family members, “He used to always wear helmet. Only this time he did not……”.
  • Consider walking when you have to go just around the corner.
  • There are studies done which indicate that about one-third of accidents happen close to home (within couple of kilometres)

15. Helmet blocks air circulation around head and it becomes very hot in summer or whenever there is bright sun

  • Yes, it is true that helmet can become hot especially when it is hot outside. One can sweat and it is uncomfortable. One should choose a helmet which is not very tightly-fitting. You should be able to comfortably wear it. However, obviously, it should not be very loose. This will ensure that there is a scope for air circulation. You may find it useful to cover head with a soft cloth before wearing helmet.
  • As with everything in life, helmets have pros and cons, but the pros outweigh the cons by a huge huge margin.
  • Safety First… excuses can be very costly!
  • No helmet, No two-wheeler ride!

Analysis of road crash fatalities in Pune

SPTM has been collecting data on road crash fatalities in Pune for several years, by annually filing an RTI application to Pune Traffic Police.  The analysis below is done using the responses received under RTI.

Fatalities in Pune

Typical number of annual road crash fatalities in Pune.  Note that more than 50% of the fatalities are 2-wheeler riders.  Wearing helmets can easily save 50 or more lives every year, in Pune alone.

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