Helmets protect children travelling on two-wheelers, but why are they not popular here?
Scan the heads of children under 10 who travel by two-wheelers. Most will not have helmets. Is non-availability of kids' helmets the reason? “No. Helmet stores don't stock kids headgear, as there is little demand,” says Jawahar Arora of Pioneer Scooter Centre.
While many parents are stupidly blasé about their child's need for protective headgear, some decide their kids are safer not wearing helmets. For, not many kids' helmets made in India have ISI certification.
“There are not many branded kids' helmets in the market. Most of the time, a choice has to be made among unbranded helmets. Many parents decide to walk out of the store empty-handed,” says Kaushik Murthy, father of six-year-old Karun who is known for performing stunts on pocket bikes.
The correct choice
When it comes to kids' helmets, size is a big issue. “Use of oversized, heavy helmets can harm the child. As there are not too many sizes available, some parents are worried about making the wrong choice,” says Arora.
“Wearing helmets at an early age does not interfere with brain growth, but can cause physiological problems. Heavy helmets are a strain on the child's neck, spine and shoulders and can result in wrong posture,” says Saras Bhaskar, psychologist.
Helmet manufacturers have understood the problem, and have addressed it. But, there's still one issue unsolved. They make helmets for children aged four and above — none for those younger. Don't three-year-olds and infants need to be protected against head injuries?
The more realistic solution will be making available helmets of varying sizes and weight aimed at the age-four-and-below group. At present, kids in this age group make do with helmets made for their seniors.
Karun started riding pocket bikes when he was three, and has worn helmets since – luckily, he always found helmets of the right size. “Local or imported, Karoon's never had a neck or a shoulder pain because of his headgear,” says Kaushik.
Are imported helmets easier on children? “It is wrong to assume that all imported helmets are lighter. They tend to be heavy because they are made for roads with fast-moving traffic and vehicles that are more powerful. Also, children there are bigger; their helmets too. So, they can't be used by Indian children in the same age group,” says Arora.
As they consider bike helmets too heavy, many parents get their children to wear headgear meant for cycling, and skating, while travelling by bike. But it is debatable if these are sturdy enough to tackle high-speed crashes.
An ideal solution lies in sensitising parents to the danger their kids face from not wearing helmets, and manufacturers to the need to treat kids' helmets as a priority.