Notwithstanding the opposition from some groups, the Pune Police seems to be determined to stringently implement the provision related to mandatory use of helmets by two-wheeler riders under the Motor Vehicles Act. “This time, the drive will continue till we achieve maximum compliance… and it will be for a longer period of time,” Deputy Commissioner of Police (traffic) Tejaswi Satpute told The Indian Express.
The police believe that two-wheeler deaths could be avoided if city residents became serious about using helmets while riding a two-wheeler.
According to the data from the traffic police, in the last five years, more than 1,000 two-wheeler riders have died on roads in Pune city and Pimpri-Chinchwad. Only three of them were wearing helmets at the time of accidents. Many of them suffered serious head injuries. They either died instantly or went into vegetative state, say police officers.
In 2018, as many as 182 two-wheeler riders died in Pune, of which only one was wearing a helmet. Figures from Pimpri-Chinchwad police are not available as the police said they were still collating the information.
In 2017, as many as 212 two-wheeler riders were killed in accidents in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad. None of them had worn a helmet, said police. A total of 417 riders also suffered serious injuries in 2017. In 2016, 185 two-wheeler riders had died and 369 suffered serious injuries, said police. None of them was wearing a helmet. In 2015, 240 riders had died and 401 were grievously injured. Only one of them was wearing a helmet.
Similarly, in 2014, 218 riders had died, of which only one was wearing a helmet. “The figures show as to why there is need for the police to strictly implement the MVA Act,” said Satpute. Regarding the opposition from a certain group after the “campaign for helmets” was announced by the Pune Police, Satpute said: “We had not actually announced any campaign. We had said that we will be stringently implementing the Motor Vehicles Act, which was already being implemented,” Satpute added.
The police are taking dual measures to tackle the problem. On one hand, they are penalising two-wheeler riders without helmets, while on the other hand, they are spreading awareness through counselling sessions.
From January 1 till Monday evening, the police have fined more than 50,000 two-wheeler riders Rs 500 each. “We have collected on the spot fines from some of them while some have paid fines during the counselling sessions,” said Satpute.
Counselling sessions, a concept adopted by the Pune police, are being held in Shivajinagar area. “The counselling is conducted by specialised doctors, traffic experts and senior police officers, among others. Also, the counselling sessions are sometimes addressed by family members of those who had lost their lives or were in a vegetative state after road accidents,” Satpute said.
The doctors, Satpute said, highlight the dangers of not protecting one’s head and how some of the accident victims lost their lives even after a simple fall. “The experts explain about kinds of standardised helmets and how to tie them tightly so that they don’t fall off during accidents,” the deputy commissioner of police said.
Dr Anand Jagdale, who headed YCM hospital for two decades, said: “People who oppose helmets should see the plight of two-wheeler riders who suffer injuries. Either they die on the spot or they lose their mental balance if they survive. Only a few recover, but several of them remain in vegetative state. Helmet haters should meet the the families of such people. Only then they will realise the importance of helmets.”
Meanwhile, the group of people opposing the helmet drive by the police are gearing up to intensify their agitation. Welcoming the statement of District Guardian Minister Girish Bapat that helmets should be made mandatory on highways and not in narrow lanes and bylanes of the city, Vivek Velenkar of the Helmet Sakti Virodi Kruti Samati, said: “This is what we are demanding. Helmets should be made mandatory on highways where the speeding vehicles are threat to the lives of two-wheeler riders. In the narrow lanes and bylanes of the city, where the speed of vehicles is not high, helmets should be made optional.”