Use your head, wear a helmet

Data emerging from Pune powerfully underscores a fact that is so obvious yet consistently missed

The National Crime Records Bureau statistics for 2019 shows that motorcyclists account for 38 per cent of the victims of road accidents. They are followed by drivers/users of trucks or lorries, cars and buses, which accounted for 14.6, 13.7 and 5.9 per cent of road accident deaths, respectively.

Every road-safety expert worth their salt agree that the most effective approach to reducing motorcyclists-related accidents is to enforce the helmet rule.

Sandeep Gaikwad, coordinator, Road Safety Network, a national coalition of NGOs, activists and citizens, shares how the Pune experience illustrates this.

He points out that through data they were able to bring about a change in people’s mindset, getting them to appreciate the fact that wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle can reduce serious head injuries.

The one-year-long study was carried out by Parisar, a Pune-based NGO working on road safety. Helmet compliance rate was 28% when the survey was first carried out in 2018. After a period of six months, the percentage rose by another four percent. Later, in 2019 when the traffic police started enforcing the rule, the usage rate went up by 67%.

Traffic awareness campaigns and strict violation control also helped achieve this rate.

“Enforcement followed by compliance does make a difference. Vietnam, for instance, took its road safety very seriously and a case study shows that only after enforcement did the compliance rate go up from 6% to 90%,” says Gaikwad, senior programme associate, Parisar.

He says consistent on-road enforcement works as a deterrent and the traffic police has seen a dip in the number of fatalities in Pune. Helmets can reduce the risk of a fatality by 40%, he says referring to a WHO report.

Gaikwad says these studies have shown that using CCTV cameras to nab offenders who are speeding, jumping traffic signals and not wearing helmet is not of much help. “We filed an RTI covering Pune, Aurangabad and Nasik to find out how many offenders were paying the fine and it revealed that 94% did not pay,” says Gaikwad. Road Safety Network has been working with various stakeholders to safeguard other vulnerable road users like pedestrians through advocacy and research.

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