Mumbai

‘Only 46% two-wheeler riders in Pune wear helmets’

Choose wisely: Students stop traffic and create awareness of the helmet rule on a busy road in Pune.

Choose wisely: Students stop traffic and create awareness of the helmet rule on a busy road in Pune.   | Photo Credit: JigneshMistry

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Study says the Pune traffic police had to bow to political pressure after achieving compliance rate of 66%

While Maharashtra witnessed over 13,000 road fatalities in 2018, two-wheeler riders not wearing helmets led to more than 3,500 of these deaths, according to a recent survey.

The study conducted by Parisar, an NGO working on urban safety, shows that only 46% of two-wheeler users in Pune city, which has the highest number of two-wheelers in the country, wear a helmet. This is despite the efforts of the traffic police in strictly enforcing the helmet rule earlier this year.

The study was conducted at 10 of the busiest junctions in the city and covered nearly 5,500 two-wheelers, including 995 vehicles with pillion riders. Over 700 photographs were analysed in the survey, which found that a mere 3% of the 995 pillion riders caught on camera used protective headgear.

Sujit Patwardhan, founder member and trustee, Parisar, said, “After some strict measures earlier this year, police authorities had themselves claimed that the compliance rate had shot up to 66% in just a few weeks. At the time, the enforcement drive was supported by the medical community, professional groups, victims and survivors, and road safety activists.”

Mr. Patwardhan, however, said the compliance rate dropped by 20% after political pressure groups led by elected representatives from Pune and other anti-helmet outfits compelled the then chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to direct the police to go easy on the enforcement of the helmet law. In May last year, a similar survey by the NGO showed that a mere 28% of two-wheeler riders and only 1.1% of pillion riders wore helmets. Though the present usage figure is higher, helmet advocacy groups are disappointed.

The study also pointed out the inefficacy of enforcing the helmet rule by capturing offenders on CCTV cameras and imposing fines in the form of e-challans. Ranjit Gadgil, programme director, Parisar, said most e-challans remain unpaid by traffic offenders, while the police lack any mechanism to track them and ensure fine collection.

Mr. Gadgil said, “Often, many e-challans fail to get delivered and on occasion, even get delivered to the wrong people. The world over, it has been observed that only consistent on-road enforcement by traffic police works as a deterrent and can ensure high rates of compliance. While the Pune traffic police were doing a good job, they had to bow to political pressure. The results of this survey prove that they must begin the compulsory helmet campaign in earnest again.”

As per the latest Road Accident report published by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, fatalities in Maharashtra had risen to 13,261 in 2018, making the State the second-highest in the nationwide tally of road fatalities. The Ministry also reported that 43,614 of the fatalities in the country involved those who did not wear a helmet at the time of the mishap.

“Helmets can reduce the risk of a fatality by 40%, and that of severe injury by 70% in the case of a crash,” said Sandeep Gaikwad of Parisar, who conducted the survey. “Hence the Ministry has taken a very serious view on the mandatory use of helmets and increased the fine for not wearing one to ₹1,000 with a mandatory three-month suspension of licence. The clause that allowed States to give exemptions to the use of helmets has also been removed,” said Mr. Gaikwad, urging the police for stricter implementation of the helmet rule.

Citizens’ groups in Pune continue to remain fiercely divided over the city police’s compulsory helmet rule, which saw enforcement this year from January 1. While nearly 8,000 two-wheeler riders were penalised for violating the rule on New Year’s Day, several more bike riders remained hostile to it despite Pune Police Commissioner K. Venkatesham warning that offenders would be taken to task. Over the past 11 months, with mounting pressure from anti-helmet outfits and politicos, even the police have seemed ambivalent about enforcing the rule too rigidly.

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2019 9:00:17 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/only-46-two-wheeler-riders-in-pune-wear-helmets/article30153683.ece

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