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Pamphlets given to two-wheeler riders in place of fine challans

Ajai Sreevatsan
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Not a single motorist was fined

for failing to use helmet

Instilling sense:A traffic policeman advises a motorist about the benefits of using a helmet, on Anna Salai on Saturday.— Photo: R.Ravindran
Instilling sense:A traffic policeman advises a motorist about the benefits of using a helmet, on Anna Salai on Saturday.— Photo: R.Ravindran

On Saturday, the day from which the helmet rule was to be stringently enforced, policemen stopped motorists for not wearing helmet but handed them awareness pamphlets instead of fine challans.

Throughout the day, not even a single motorist was fined for failing to use the mandatory protective headgear. No cases have been registered for a week now, ever since the May 28 deadline was announced by the Chennai City Traffic Police.

When a similar announcement was made in June 2007, over 600 cases were booked on the first day. The drive was, however, relaxed a few days later, after the then Chief Minister, M.Karunanidhi, asked the policemen “not to harass” motorists in the name of enforcement.

On Saturday, Sanjay Arora, Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic), said, “We are trying out an experiment. If the helmet rule is strictly enforced, we might jump to 95 per cent compliance, but how long will it last? Rather than creating a dramatic show which will last for a few days, our aim is to build a sustainable campaign. We will also be reviewing our strategy continuously.”

Acknowledging that it is debatable whether this is the right approach, Mr.Arora said that the simple message that the traffic police was trying to convey is: “Please do not wear a helmet because you are afraid of us or because of the fine. Wear it for your own safety.”

He added that the public must make the use of helmets their own campaign, instead of it being just a police campaign. Whether the solution lies in education or enforcement or a blend of both, the serious nature of the issue is highlighted by the fact that 94 per cent of all two-wheeler fatalities are due to head injuries. Of 621 road accidents that were recorded in Chennai in 2010, 255 involved two-wheeler riders and 246 of them were not wearing helmets.

C.Lakshmi Narain, secretary of the Accident Victims Association, whose petition in the Madras High Court resulted in the 2007 mandatory helmet use rule, says, “Only strict enforcement will make people obey. If lenience is showed, no law will be obeyed. Also, colleges and educational institutions must mandate the use of helmets by all students. Two-wheeler fatalities are primarily because the rider does not use a helmet. So many families suffer because a young and earning member is careless.”

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