Tamizh Mani, son of Minister Sellur. K. Raju, died on Sunday. He was only the latest casualty in a series of deaths of those who ride without helmets and succumb to road traffic accidents in the city.

Though the Chennai Traffic Police has fined over 2.85 lakh motorists for helmet-less travel and collected a fine amount of Rs 1.83 crore up until April 21 this year, motorists still seem to be constantly flouting the rule that makes it compulsory for all motorcycle riders to wear a helmet while riding. According to the State Transport Authority’s statistics, a total of 5,133 accidents occurred in the city in 2011. Out of these, 1,506 fatal accidents involved two-wheelers.

Realising that this was a critical issue, the Tamil Nadu government made wearing a helmet compulsory in May 2011. The fine for flouting the rule is Rs.50.

In 2007 too, the State government had introduced the rule, but relaxed it soon, following opposition from the public and others. The then chief minister M. Karunanidhi instructed the officers concerned to ensure that rigorous enforcement of the helmet rule did not pose any hardship to the public. Mr. Karunanidhi had then received several requests with regard to the collection of fines and registering of cases for non-compliance of the rule. Having sympathetically considered these pleas, the former Chief Minister said that wearing helmets as per the court order should be treated only as a necessity to safeguard lives and that its enforcement, in no way, should cause hindrance to the public

However statistics prove that helmets are essential to saving lives. “Of all the fatal accidents that occur in the city, 25 per cent involve two-wheelers and in 96 per cent of the cases, the rider was not wearing a helmet,” said Sanjay Arora, Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic).

V. Deiveegan, professor of Neurosurgery, Madras Medical College, said that every day, 60 to 80 cases of head injuries due to helmet-less travel were reported at the Government General Hospital. Of these, 10 to 15 were taken in for surgery and of these, three to five cases were usually critical.

This is a figure reported by just one hospital in the State — experts believe that if other hospitals too are taken into consideration, the number would be significantly higher.Doctors also say that the people who succumb to head injuries are generally in the age group of 20 to 39 years.

According to traffic police; there is a lot of debate around the implementation of the helmet rule. “Should we concentrate our resources on those who endanger their lives by not wearing helmets or those who cause danger to others? While some say that we should focus on those who drive dangerously, others emphasise the need to strike a balance,” said a senior police officer.

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Law & OrderSeptember 24, 2010

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