BANGALORE: Helmet manufacturers and sellers are all smiles, for obvious reasons. But in the mad scramble to buy a helmet, does one get the right helmet that fits one's head perfectly?
"No," says Gyan Prakash, a Jabalpur-based traffic expert and founder of the Forum for Traffic Safety and Environmental Sanitation, urges everyone to choose the right helmet from a range of 15 sizes prescribed by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS).
Although Mr. Prakash insists that globally no survey has been undertaken on head shapes for helmet manufacture, the BIS does list these sizes based on head form: 500, 510, 520, 530, 540, 550, 560, 570, 580, 590, 600, 610, 620, 630 and 640 mm. Yet, helmets are not customised for different head shapes, such as long head, extra-wide head, wide head and medium head. But BIS scientific director and head of the Bangalore office R.C. Mathew feels the prescribed sizes are of only technical interest and people choose helmets that fit their head.
"The sizes, prepared after many scientific studies, are displayed inside the flap of the helmet. They are only for marking requirement," explains Mr. Mathew.
In 2004, Pune-based Automotive Research Association of India published a series of specifications for protective headgear.
The specifications were prepared under the Central Motor Vehicle Rules by the Automotive Industry Standard Committee (AISC) set up by the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
People are apparently unaware of these standards and often go for the "one size fits all" formula dished out by helmet sellers.
"Although there are different sizes, consumers don't know about them and so don't demand. Because there is no public demand, manufacturers don't make helmets of different sizes," explains Mr. Prakash.
To help consumers choose the right size, the rules stipulate that the size, weight and date of manufacture should be printed with indelible ink inside the helmet. But in many cases, these details are not visible and not asked for either, points out Mr. Prakash.
The AISC had specified the material for each part of the helmet: The outer shell has to be made of a non-metallic material; the protective padding must be made of expanded polystyrene or any other material with similar properties and the comfort padding has to be of expanded polyurethane foam, polyethylene or any other suitable material with similar properties.
The committee has made specifications even for the helmet's retention system (chin strap): It has to be sweat-resistant, non-irritant and not to be known to cause skin diseases.
Here's what the AISC had to say on the manufacture of helmets: "The protective helmet may be fitted with earflaps and a neck curtain. It may also have a detachable peak, a visor and a lower face cover."
If fitted with a non-protective lower face cover, the outer surface of the cover should be marked `Does not protect chin from impacts.'
This was another key specification.