TAMIL NADU

A persuasive campaign on the beachfront

Visitors to the Elliot Beach, Chennai, taking a look at helmets, put on display as part of a road safety campaign. — Photo: N. Balaji

Visitors to the Elliot Beach, Chennai, taking a look at helmets, put on display as part of a road safety campaign. — Photo: N. Balaji  

Visitors to the Elliot Beach, Chennai, taking a look at helmets, put on display as part of a road safety campaign. — Photo: N. Balaji

CHENNAI AUG. 26. The city traffic police cornered scores of evening visitors to the Elliots beach, near Besant Nagar, here, as part of a road safety campaign and made them take a look at crash helmets, with the hope that they would start wearing them voluntarily.

Steering clear of any attempt to make helmet-wearing compulsory in a city of 14 lakh two-wheeler riders, the police told sceptical questioners that they did not believe in making it compulsory.

According to police statistics, 185 individuals on two-wheelers lost their lives on city roads, and till June, the number of those killed stood at 87, against 96 for the corresponding period last year.

Leading the campaign was the Joint Commissioner, G.U.G.Sastry, who told the crowd that of the approximately 14 lakh two-wheeler riders, less than one per cent wore helmets, according to a survey.

Even among the 185 persons, who were killed in accidents last year, more than 110 rode their vehicles without helmet. Last year, of the 1,357 persons injured in accidents, some of them to the point of becoming cripples, only 43 wore helmet.

Youth, who gathered round the helmets on display on the beachfront, wanted to know why the police were fighting shy of making helmet wearing mandatory. "It is compulsory to carry all documents, so why exclude this alone," asked Badri.

"If the Government was genuinely concerned about the lives of road-users, wearing of helmets should be made mandatory," remarked another youth, who was asked to attend the meeting by the policemen after he was pulled up for rash driving. The Joint Commissioner reasoned that public resistance was the most important factor preventing enforcement. "Liquor and cigarettes are also dangerous and are available with only a warning," he said, adding that riders complained of discomfort, among other problems.

Further, there were complaints of fake and inferior quality helmets flooding the market. However, the police were discussing the problems with the Bureau of Indian Standards and other research organisations. The safety campaign on helmets would go on for three months, he added.

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