The helmet debate

The Hindu deserves to be congratulated on its editorial "Moving forward on safety" (Feb. 15). The proactive measures the newspaper has continuously been taking to create awareness and influence public opinion regarding the use of helmets are commendable. It is reassuring that most readers have realised that effective compliance can only be ensured by not making helmet use optional. It is a fact of life that a carrot alone is insufficient. The stick is often necessary. How many would pay income tax or keep to the left of the road if they were optional? It was the death of Lawrence of Arabia in a motorcycle crash that led to the design and use of helmets.

Sir Hugh Cairns who introduced the helmet once remarked "a neurosurgical unit should be judged not by the number of successful surgeries but by the number of deaths prevented by the use of helmets." The Neurological Society of India is grateful to the Tamil Nadu Government for conceding the necessity for mandatory helmet use. We sincerely hope and pray that the rule is implemented in letter and spirit. Two-wheeler users must realise that small sacrifices and minor inconveniences have to be accepted in the larger interest of the individual and the community.

Dr. K. Ganapathy,

The proposed re-introduction of the helmet rule is welcome. It must be realised that a two-wheeler rider is not always at fault. Even when he is knocked down by another vehicle, he is exposed to head injury. Wearing a helmet is compulsory even for cyclists in the U.S.

S. Rajagopalan,
San Ramon, California

Helmets not only reduce injury and fatalities, but also eliminate the lifelong pain and suffering of the families of accident victims. When two-wheelers are competing for more space on the roads, wearing of helmets becomes imperative.

Sriram Varadharajan,
Pasadena, California

The issue has been broached many times in more than one State and there is no reason why a common rule should not be considered for the country as a whole. Manufacturers should provide standard certified helmets along with two-wheelers. Designers should minimise discomfort to the user.

A.M.M. Chary,

Helmets may bring down the number of fatal accidents but they will certainly increase the number of accidents, given the weather in south India, especially during summer. Most of those who advocate compulsory wearing of helmets travel in air-conditioned cars and hardly have any first hand experience of wearing a helmet and riding a two-wheeler.

In any case, what is the need to wear a helmet in cities where the roads are in such a pathetic condition that speeding is impossible?

Ram Gulrajani,

People who suffer from chronic headaches, cervical spondylitis, and severe cold should be exempted from wearing helmets. They can be asked to produce medical certificates from authorised doctors to policemen who should also be instructed not to harass people.

R. Arun,

The condition of roads in India is so bad that anybody wearing a helmet persistently will end up with spinal disorders. Priority, therefore, should be given to laying of good roads. Helmets can be made optional.

J.J. Vellara,

Many riders, though aware of the benefits of using a helmet, are reluctant to use it. Is it comfortable in a tropical climate? Hearing is affected when the helmet is on. Vehicle manufacturers and scientists should first modify the design of the helmet to suit our climate.

L. Gregory,

The Government's intention may be noble but the proposed rule is a blow to individual freedom. One can only be advised to wear a helmet, not forced.

The Government and the judiciary cannot assume that they are more concerned about an individual's safety and well being than the person himself, and his family and friends.

G. Parthasarathi,

Fatal accidents take place not because people do not wear helmets but because traffic discipline is neither observed by motorists nor enforced by the police. If roads are maintained properly and traffic violations such as rash driving, use of mobile phones while driving, drunken driving, and driving without a licence, especially by minors, are checked, accidents can be prevented.

Helmet-wearing need not be made compulsory though its importance can be emphasised by educating the people.

I.V. Prabhakara Rao,

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