Head of pillion-rider is fragile too

The Karnataka government’s proposal to make it mandatory for two-wheeler pillion riders to wear helmets is worthy of appreciation. In fact, this should have been done long ago when helmets for riders were made compulsory.

The rationale is simple. If riders need to protect their heads, shouldn’t the same apply to those riding pillion? The rider at least has the opportunity of anticipation giving a few valuable seconds extra while the passenger on the pillion is, more often than not, taken by surprise in a crash. In two-wheeler accidents, a Delhi hospital reported, at least 40 per cent of those hurt were on the pillion. Accidents involving two-wheelers have gone up exponentially. From 200 deaths in the year 2000, over a decade later the figure had doubled, according to a study by the Bengaluru based-National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences. Two-wheeler accidents also came in the second highest category with 38 per cent deaths and 51 per cent injuries. 

Many riders prefer not to wear the helmet and if they wear, helmets are not strapped or are not of required quality, even if it means being fined by the traffic police. Pillion-riders are no better. If having to lug the helmet around is one reason, the hot sweaty weather is often touted as another excuse for not wearing them. The absurdity of these excuses often stand exposed in the event of an accident when all that made a difference between life and death or a life-long disability was a simple helmet. Going by statistics, one would get the impression that more riders died than ones riding pillion. This is because the number of people riding solo on two-wheelers is far more than with a passenger, and not because of any inherent safety on the pillion. Ideally, two-wheeler riders and their pillion shouldn’t have needed laws to force them to wear helmets. The very thought of the risk involved should be enough. Unfortunately, laws have needed to be mandated to make something necessary compulsory. Despite promulgating laws, many riders try every method to trick the traffic police and get away without wearing helmets. Governments, doctors and the traffic police need to campaign through films and the social media the adverse effects of not wearing a helmet and increase consciousness regarding their usefulness.

It is in this context that the Karnataka move to make it compulsory for pillion riders to wear helmets is a timely, sensible step. In fact, the Central government must examine whether it is possible to promulgate such a rule across the country, including in remote villages. Such a move will prevent many a heartbreak and the avoidable loss of near and dear ones.

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