In a city where 1,033 helmet-less riders have died in five years, many Puneites continue to display carelessness about their own safety. Thousands, especially youngsters, continue to ride two-wheelers without protecting their heads even as traffic cops expressed surprise at the apathy, bordering on contempt, of Puneites to this safety device.
On Saturday, a Newsline team went around Pune city and Pimpri-Chinchwad, to find many riders not wearing helmets despite a traffic cop drive.
The weekend is party time especially for youngsters in Pune. Scores zoom in top gear on roads, some with girlfriends as pillion riders. There were even some middle-aged seen riding without protecting their heads.
On Friday, police conducted a special drive on the Pune-Mumbai highway and fined 5,400 helmet-less riders.
More than 200 police constables were also fined in the city.
After Friday’s flash drive, traffic cops apparently developed “Saturday fever” and went into a shell. The contrast was visible. While traffic police were undertaking a special drive on Saturday, riders on Pune-Mumbai Highway, Yerawada, Vimannagar, Kharadi and Kalyaninagar moved around not seeming to care for their own safety or of their families. The scene was similar in Pradhikaran, Pimpri, Bhosari, Pimple Saudagar, Sangvi and Chinchwad. Even in cantonment areas, defiance was on display. A few did sport
Although Deputy Commissioner of Police (traffic) Sarang Awad said a special drive was being conducted, police constables were missing from roads. “We are not pushing per se for helmet compulsion but are fining people in a bid to enforce the helmet norm,” he said. “Today, we fined over 2000 riders. So it would be wrong to say we have let down our guard,” he said.
Records show that traffic police fined around 47,000 helmet-less two-wheeler riders in Pune city and Pimpri-Chinchwad after Police Commissioner Satish Mathur earlier this month announced that the police will enforce the norm for compulsory use of helmets. After the announcement, traffic police responded with alacrity, and started imposing fines. Even opposition from politicians failed to deter the traffic police led by DCP (traffic) Sarang Awad.
Awad said the number of people fined was not huge. “Fines imposed on 40-50,000 people from a pool of over 32 lakh two-wheeler riders is not a big deal. However, more than the fine, we are trying to raise awareness that helmets are a a must for safety of the rider,”
Awad said Puneites were not fully responding to the drive. “Very few are wearing helmets. With over 1,000 helmet-less riders dying over the years, Puneites should seriously think about their safety,” he said.
Awad said an impediment was the meagre Rs 100 fine for non-use of helmet. “For increasing the fine, the Motor Vehicles Act needs to be amended and it will be a long process,” he said. Awad said their drive will continue despite impediments.
Many youngsters came up with flimsy reasons for not wearing helmet. “I don’t enjoy riding a two-wheeler if I wear a helmet,” said Rohan J. Rahul Garg, an MBA student, said it was not comfortable for him to wear helmet and drive. “The police are conducting drives so when I see them, I take a detour or go through internal roads,” he said. Garg was aware of risks of head injury but said he was a conscientious driver.
Some, however, seemed to support the drive. Pankaj Sissodiya who wears a helmet while riding his bicycle said other than safety helmets ensure other road users take him seriously. “When I am riding with my helmet people know I am serious about road safety and they don’t try to mess with me,” he said.