AFTER several failed attempts in the past to implement the compulsory helmet rule in the city, the Pune City Traffic Police has again launched an intensified drive, with the largest possible resource allocation and specific goals. Since the launch of the drive, every day, Pune police has nabbed thousands of two-wheeler and pillion riders who have violated the rule. On Saturday, as many as 6,204 motorists were fined for not wearing helmets.
Experts say that this time, the drive must be conducted with a concrete game plan, and it should achieve the desired result: a significant reduction in the number of fatal road accidents involving two-wheelers. Police are also confident that this time they would be able to achieve maximum compliance and the current drive has already started showing results.
On an average, Pune sees 170 deaths of two-wheeler riders every year. But, in a city with such a high number of traffic mishap fatalities, authorities have failed to implement the compulsory helmet rule. The authorities’ reluctance to implement the unpopular rule and rider’s refusal to adhere to basic traffic safety norms, were among the main reasons behind the lackadaisical implementation.
Both traffic experts and police, however, have always stressed the need for continuous and planned enforcement of the rules, accompanied by sustained awareness efforts.
A perusal of numbers pertaining to road accidents over the years shows that on an average, Pune sees 350 deaths in road accidents, almost half of which involve two-wheeler riders. In 99 per cent of these mishaps, the deceased didn’t wear helmets.
A study, conducted by city-based NGO Parisar in May 2017, had revealed a grim picture of the helmet rule compliance in the city. The sample survey done by the organisation had found that while only 16 per cent of all riders and eight per cent women riders used helmets, only two per cent of pillion riders followed the rule.
Ranjit Gadgil, an expert on urban transport who works with Parisar, said, “The enforcement of the helmet rule has to be a constant and everyday affair. The aim must to be achieve 100 per cent compliance. But even for the drive to be deemed a success, it has to result in significant reduction in the number of fatalities. So, while an intensified drive is certainly a good start, we need to ask if police have a defined game plan to achieve the goals, and if they are measuring the outcome of their efforts. They will have to decide the compliance rate at which they will end the ‘drive mode’ and go back to regular enforcement. They need to decide which are the tough target groups they will focus on more.”
The traffic branch of Pune City Police has about 1,000 personnel, and almost 500 are being allocated to enforce the helmet drive. Officials say that dedicating half the staff to one single task does affect the implementation of others,but they plan to continue with the drive till at least 90-95 per cent compliance rate is achieved. They also say that once the majority of riders start wearing helmets, zeroing in on those violating the rule and penalising them would become a much easier process.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (Traffic), Tejaswi Satpute, says, “This action is part of a well-planned set of actions being undertaken to reduce road accident fatalities. We plan to continue the current momentum till we have 90 to 95 per cent compliance. The number of people being penalised is much, much more than what it usually is during a normal routine. We are seeing positive results day by day.”
When asked if police were keeping a track of the outcome of the drive, DCP Satpute said, “On Friday evening, during peak hours, we conducted a photograph-based survey at the main traffic junctions across the city. Though this was not a comprehensive study, we did get a solid 63 per cent compliance at main junctions. We will continue measuring the results in future.”
She added, “But there are still some areas of concern. The use of helmets in pillion riders, women and senior citizens, and even on smaller roads, is still very low. As we achieve compliance on main roads, we will be conducting dedicated drives for these groups in the future. We have also observed that people who do not use motorcycles on a daily basis are also the ones who are not likely to use helmets. We are determined to change these scenarios.”
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