Book Review: Heads You Win

Helmet rule for pillion riders in Bangalore

Early this month, the rule to make it mandatory for pillion riders of two-wheelers to wear helmets became mandatory in Bangalore (or is it Karnataka?)  Police gave users 10 days time before they started fining violators.   As per newspaper report, over the last two days, Police have penalised about 5000 for violating.

Like many other rules, helmet for pillion riders make a lot of sense.   Most of the deaths in accidents involving two-wheelers could have been prevented if the riders were wearing helmets.  In fact, even if there were no rules, one would think that riders would think of protecting themselves when travelling on the road.

One could argue that with the traffic in today's roads, chances of accidents due to speeding vehicles are rare.  But then accidents can come in many forms.  In Bangalore (as in many other places), popular accident causes are potholes and road bumps.   Reversing vehicles banging into you is common as well.  Just because your two-wheeler does not speed does not mean, other speeding vehicles cannot knock you down.

What is hard to understand is people wearing helmets only because it is mandatory or to avoid being caught/punished by police.  ("You can disagree with the law, but not disobey it") Is that police have nothing better to do than catch helmet-less drivers? Overworked as they are, this just adds to the things that they need to do!   Each day I come across drivers having the helmets on the fuel tank of their bikes.  They wear it when they near some major roads where they know police will be standing.   Once they pass that, the helmet is taken off.

There are many related things when we talk about helmets and pillion riders.

Helmets for children - it appears that the law is grey on this.  Helmets for children apparently do not meet quality standards - I have not researched, but have bought one for my 4 year old.   Are children pillion riders, if they stand or sit "before" the driver?   Legally they may not, but do they need protection?  No doubt.

What about cyclists?  There are plenty of cyclists on the road.  Leave alone helmet, most do not have lights or reflectors.  Why is there no "rule" for them - if, as it appears, only rules and enforcement can force people to be safety-conscious?

Then there are practical considerations when you have a family (of three or four) with a helmet for each.  Where do you keep your helmet when you go out to say, a temple or a movie?   Most scooters can store a helmet and "helmet lock" can take care of another one or two!  In other cases, the wearer can carry them around, but it is inconvenient.  Also, there is every chance that it would be misplaced.  I wish establishments provided "cloak room" to safeguard helmets!

Then you have people to whom you give a "lift" - colleagues and friends to name two.  Do we carry a spare helmet in anticipation of this?  Again, the helmet size does vary based on the pillion rider and for safety purpose, the right size is important!   Who is penalized in this case - the driver or the pillion rider?

And you have occasional visitors like my parents.  For their own protection (if not to comply with the rules), I need to "stock" an additional helmet if I need to take either of them out.

Will this rule result in many (who have both two and four wheelers) resorting to car instead of two wheelers?  If so, that would be an undesirable side-effect!

Then there is this angle - drivers (and pillion riders) are responsible adults - why create rules.  Let them wear helmet if they want - let them be injured (mortally as the case may be), if they don't.  Should the Government and Court not worry about other things?   How about insurance companies adding a clause that they would not settle claims due to deaths in two-wheeler accidents where the victim did not wear helmet?


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