The city police have declared that they will begin cracking down on pillion riders for not wearing helmets from January 12. But experts see an ulterior motive in the police pushing the rule through. The pillion riders should be given at least 60 to 90 days to buy helmets. Requiring a large number of helmets to comply with the new rule, will the city of Bengaluru, saddled with around 40 lakh two-wheelers, see confusion prevail on city roads?
Are helmets available? Astounded experts ask. According to RTO statistics, there are nearly 40 lakh two-wheelers in the city, and assuming that most of these riders already have helmets, the number of helmets to be purchased for the pillion riders, within a week’s time, is a huge task.
“There isn’t any dispute about the fact that helmets save lives. The rider and the pillion rider should both wear helmets, but the timing of this law is alarming and seems suspect,” says Vivek Menon, an urban land transport expert . “These kind of rules come in on and off where somebody comes and decides that helmets are needed and someone else decides helmets are not needed.”
“This is the same scenario, when the Supreme Court stepped in and told motorists to remove all their vehicles’ sun films. Five years from now, they might come back saying to put back the sun films. This only helps the manufacturers of sun films or helmets,” Mr. Menon reiterated. “I hope that there are no vested interests in this, but that being said, if there aren’t any vested interests, then the helmet rule is an extremely important rule as both the pillion person and the rider falls during a mishap, and it’s very rare that only one person falls off the bike. It was foolhardy that previously only the rider was asked to wear the helmet and the pillion rider was spared,” Mr. Menon said.
Experts feel that 10 to 15 days are definitely not enough for implementation of such rules. “The court should at least give 60 to 90 days’ time to implement the helmet rule. If it has not happened for about six decades in our country’s existence, I do not see why the urgency in 10-15 days suddenly, because what tends to happen is that demand spikes up so much and the supply is so limited, the prices are going to go up. The supply is going to be limited because there are only a handful of helmet manufacturing companies and if one mandates it within 15 days, the prices are obviously going to shoot through the roof and everybody is not going to even procure a helmet.”
Mr. Menon said since a bike is always ridden by a person of middle-class or below middle-class, having to suddenly burn a hole in their pocket by paying Rs 600 to Rs 2,000 for a helmet, is big for them. “So give them at least 60 days’ time and after that any offenders should be penalized.”
Pillion riders to be hauled up
Come January 12, riders of two-wheelers will be penalized by the city traffic police if the pillion riders fail to wear head gears. “The committee that was constituted by the Supreme Court on road safety had written a letter to the transport department on December 28, stating that within 15 days’ time, the department should submit an implementation report to the committee failing which it will amount to contempt of court,” Transport Commissioner Rame Gowda told Deccan Chronicle. “We have intimated the city traffic police that they can start with their enforcement and penalization from January 12, the commissioner added.
M.A. Saleem, Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic) said “We will start booking cases like any other offences from January 12. The two-wheeler rider will be penalized if his pillion rider is not wearing helmet and the fine for the first offence is Rs 100. For the second offence, it is Rs 300 and if it’s third time, the rider’s licence will be sent for suspension.” We have already initiated education and awareness programs for helmets for the same, added M.A. Saleem. However for children, infants or pets who ride along with their parents on two-wheelers, we have received no suggestions from the transport department, the top traffic brass hinted.
“Two wheelers are meant for two riders. No children/infants or pets will be allowed even with helmets on,” said Rame Gowda adding “Be it infants or minors, if three people are riding on a bike with all of them wearing helmets, will it not amount to triple riding offence,” he asks. The transport department had declared that the helmet for pillion rider rule has come into the fore from December 31 onwards, but due to non-availability of helmets, and the letter from the Supreme Court committee on Road Safety offered some time relaxation until January 12, we are working our best for implementation at the earliest, said a senior officer from the Transport Department.
‘ISI Mark’ mandatory on helmets
Wearing headgear is not just for fun. It’s for the safety of riders, and hence the cops will be instructed to check for the product to see that it will conform to the Indian Standard with an ISI mark on it, Mr. Rame Gowda stated.
Spurt In Helmet Sales?
Sales of helmets are expected to rise in the coming week as most Bengalureans are not fully aware of the new rule. There is confusion on the date of implementation and enforcement by both transport department and the city traffic police respectively. “We were told that the rule is coming into existence by January 20. We sell around 25 helmets on an average day, and with this new rule coming up, we are selling 10 helmets more,” said Padmanabhan, owner of a helmet shop on HAL road. “The sale of helmets is as usual at our shop and we sell around 20-25 helmets per day, but we heard that the rule is coming into force only in the month of March as there are elections coming up in February,” said Srinivas from Gupta Helmet Paradise in Hosur Road