The historical perspective:
On the 30th of May, the Government of Delhi introduced a landmark ruling proposed to make helmets compulsory for female pillion riders on 2 wheelers. This invoked mixed reactions from the public at large with some welcoming the ruling and some decrying it as an insensitive move on the part of the Government. This decision was taken after much dilly-dallying by the Government who had earlier refrained from taking a say in the matter due to pressure from feminist and religious pressure groups. However, the Government ended up finally issuing a notification in the gazette (a rather sensible move we say) making it’s intention clear on the matter. According to this decision, the existing Delhi motor rules will be amended and re-classified as the Delhi motor vehicles(amendment) rules, 2014. This amendment makes non compliance a cognizable offence attracting a fine from the traffic police.
Opposition to this enactment has come in two forms, covert as well as overt. For example, the Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management committee and other organisations representing Sikh interests have come down strongly on the ruling, citing religious norms would prevent Sikh women from complying with this requirement. Feminist organisations have also opposed this move earlier stating that it would ruin women’s hairdos and it would not be practical and feasible to always wear a helmet especially when a woman is set to attend a social function or a party. On the covert side, we have the typical Indian commuter who simply refuses to comply with traffic rules and takes great pride in breaking the law if only to defy authority. We have all seen examples of this, right? All those daredevils who indulge in lane-cutting, going against the flow of traffic etc. These are the ones who are the hardest to control.
Such reactions are not new however since there has always been resistancewhen it comes down to change one’s habits in an effort to inculcate more discipline. In a country which boasts higher numbers of 2 wheelers compared to any other form of transport, it is but natural that proper laws be implemented to ensure adequate safety for all those using 2 wheelers as a form of transport. It is even more important that those laws be complied with and enforcement be very strict. Especially when it comes down to protecting one’s head by wearing a helmet. In a two wheeler accident, the pillion rider is more at risk since he/she quite literally is putting their lives in the hands of the rider. Gearing up safely and putting on a helmet is what being responsible is all about. Fact is, helmets do save lives. The way they are designed and the way they work is primarily by absorbing the brunt of the impact and protecting your head from being squished like the coconut in the advertisement. A well fitted and good quality helmet can cushion your head in the event of an impact and help you avoid becoming another statistic on the roads. Many riders and commuters across the world can give you at least one story on how they managed to walk away from an accident thanks to a helmet that saved their life.
Let’s talk numbers- a recent World Health Organization report made our nation infamous by giving us the somewhat dubious honour of having the world’s highest number of road deaths. Staggering indeed is the number that follows- 1,05,725 per year. Next up are China (96,611), the US (42,642) and Russia (35,972). Going by some more numbers put together by the transport department around 35,767 two wheeler riders lost their lives in road accidents in 2012 many of which were women.
The Sensible view:
Internationally, many countries have also passed legislation making it compulsory for 2 wheeler riders to wear helmets. In most states in North India, it is compulsory for 2 wheeler riders and pillions to wear a helmet or risk paying a fine. Unfortunately until now, no one had given a specific thought to women pillion riders also wearing helmets and thus they were exempted. Can you imagine the amount of risk that entails? Speaking from personal experience, this author has seen many accidents where women pillion riders have been grievously injured simply because they were not wearing a helmet. This move on the part of Government is a smart step in the right direction.
But again, compulsion is not the solution. The solution lies in being more well-informed, more sensitive and more disciplined. Disciplined for no one else’s sake but one’s own. After all, women are the driving force behind every family and losing such a powerful driving force can literally shatter afamily. Be smart, think smart- put a helmet on!!