Dropping your kid off at school? Wear a helmet and make sure your kid has one too. Making a quick trip to the grocery store on your scooter? Grab a helmet. Riding pillion? Use a helmet.
Wearing a helmet while riding a two-wheeler should come as naturally as wearing clothes or shoes before stepping out. Several studies have established that wearing a helmet reduces the severity of injuries by at least 70-80% and brings down fatality by almost 40%.
A recent study by IIT-Bombay found that for every 10 fatal road accidents in India, three people die due to lack of helmets or seat belts.
Despite traffic rules making it mandatory for riders to wear helmets, every year, hundreds die on the city’s roads as they fail to grasp the importance of wearing a helmet.
In the second of the three-part series, ‘Say Yes to Helmets’, Hindustan Times talks to experts and doctors about how dangerous it is to not wear a helmet and why you must not leave home without it.
“The head, neck and the spinal cord are the most vulnerable during an accident. In most cases by the time the victims are brought to the hospital they are either dead or have sustained such severe injuries that the chances of survival and normal life are almost nil,” said Dr Anand Bakshi, neurosurgeon at a private hospital in Gurgaon.
- 1. Hit on the frontal lobe (Forehead): Responsible for consciousness, emotional response, expression and language. An injury to this part results in the victim losing the ability to make simple movements (paralysis), changes in behavior and personality and the inability to express language
- 2. Hit on the parietal lobes (the back and top of the head): Plays a role in voluntary body movements, integrating different senses to understand concepts. Injuries to this part of the brain lead to inability to find words, name objects, read, draw or calculate, lacking awareness of certain body parts and the surrounding space, finding eye and hand coordination difficult
- 3. Hit on the occipital lobes (the lower back of the head): This is the brain centre responsible for processing visual senses. Injuries here affect vision, the ability to identify colours and the possibility of hallucinations
- 4. Temporal lobes (side of the head, above the ears): Injuries here lead to short-term memory loss, issues with long-term memory and an increased or decreased interest in sexual behavior
- 5. Cerebellum (base of the skull): The injured can lose ability to coordinate fine movements
- 6. Brain stem (area leading to spinal cord): Problems with balance and movement
Bakshi also said that while the police initiatives concentrate on drivers, people riding pillion are equally vulnerable during an accident.
“The brain, made of soft tissues, is smaller than the skull and is surrounded by a layer of blood and spinal fluid. In the case of an accident, a jolt to the head results in the brain moving inside the skull. This leads to multiple injuries,” he said.
The helmet acts like a barrier for the head and shields brain from any impact. Skull fractures and brain injuries are the most common causes of death in road accident cases involving riders without helmets. But for those who survive a brain injury, life is much harder, as the injuries affect a number of body functions.
Joint commissioner of police (traffic) Garima Bhatnagar said that most traffic drives this year focused on offences like riding without helmets.
“When a rider is caught without a helmet he comes out with all kinds of excuses. To throw cops off, some riders also wear poor-quality helmets. Such drives are not for us, they are for the safety of the rides,” Bhatnagar said.
She said that wearing a good quality helmet and strapping it on properly is also equally important. In many cases riders are injured despite wearing helmets as the helmets had not been strapped on properly. Traffic cops are also advised to not just check helmet violations but also check whether the helmets are of prescribed standards.
According to an analysis by Dr R Ravikumar, the head of the department of forensic medicine and toxicology in Rajarajeshwari Medical College (Bangalore), out of 245 cases of deaths in road accidents analysed 23.7% were of pillion riders.
As women are the largest segment of pillion riders who seldom wear helmets, the Delhi Traffic Police have turned focus on this group. Last year, a month-long awareness drive was conducted in the residential neighbourhoods of the Capital to inform women about the dangers of not wearing helmets. According to a police analysis, following the drive the percentage of women riding pillion with helmets on increased by at least 40%.
Road safety experts say that, in fact, pillion riders are at more risk compared to the drivers.
“I have come across many cases where the riders were wearing helmets but the pillion riders were not. When the bike rams into another vehicle or a barrier, the impact makes the pillion’s head hit the helmet of the rider with great force causing death or severe injuries,” Dr Ravi kumar said.
Experts agree that the only way to reduce deaths among two-wheeler drivers is a public campaign to promote the importance of wearing helmets and introducing ways to ensure that riders buy helmets that are certified.
Read Part I of our #SayYesToHelmets series here . Join the conversation and tell @htTweets which is the best helmet you have used.