Fifty-five. That is the number of two-wheeler riders who were killed in accidents in the City Beautiful this year. The police said in most of these cases, the riders died immediately after the fall. According to traffic marshals, most of them had suffered injuries to their head or neck, and were not wearing helmets.
Two-wheeler riders are the most vulnerable to fatal accidents in the city. There are more than 5 lakh two-wheelers registered with the Chandigarh registration and licensing authority, and this number is rising.
Although residents of the city are known for abiding by traffic rules, the maximum number of traffic violations are recorded among the two-wheeler segment. It is commonplace to see youngsters riding without helmets. Women and girls seldom wear a helmet taking advantage of the exemption accorded to Sikh women. In 2000, the UT Administration had tried to make helmets compulsory for women, but their efforts fizzled in the face of protests by several Sikh religious organizations.
Figures with the Chandigarh police show that around 40 women two-wheeler riders have died in accidents in the last five years.
The figures tell a tale of rampant violations. Until November 30 this year, 33,476 two-wheeler riders were challaned for driving without helmet against 38,036 during the corresponding period last year. During the same period, a total of 857 motorists were also challaned for not fastening the helmets, thus defeating the very purpose of wearing headgear, as compared to 731 last year.
While there has been a slight dip in helmet-related traffic violations this year, the number of accidents until November 30 has gone up to 394 as compared to 375 in the corresponding period last year. Two-wheeler riders suffered the maximum casualties, followed by pedestrians and cyclists.
UT IGP Tajendra Singh Luthra said: “From time to time we have been organising campaigns, at times with celebrities. We also distribute helmets in our traffic week. Challaning is done throughout the year. Motorists also need to drive in a responsible manner.”
Inspector Paramjit Kaur Sekhon, Traffic Police, fumes that youngsters zip around the city roads on their two-wheelers without helmets, jeopardising their life as well as that of others. Often, they speed on seeing traffic cops and end up having a fall.
She adds: “Minors should not be given two-wheelers. Parents should encourage children to use cabs and buses as these are safer modes of transport. We try to raise awareness among youngsters and even hold drives but they continue to ignore our warnings.”
The Chandigarh Traffic Police officials say the Motor Vehicles Act (1988) mentions that bikers should wear helmets certified by the Bureau of Indian Standards. The cops admit that most of the two-wheeler riders carry a helmet out of fear of law, and wear it only when they see a cop.
Experts feel the police and other NGOs should launch awareness drives to encourage youngsters and women to use helmets. The Chandigarh police have been organising such drives and have even roped in celebrities to drive the message home.
Even though the Chandigarh police claim to be keeping a data of the accidents, it does not have detailed data of deaths due to helmet-less driving. The first information report seldom mentions whether the victim was wearing a helmet or not.
PILLION RIDER VEENA KUMARI DIED, JUST TWO MONTHS BEFORE HER DAUGHTER WEDDING
Chandigarh: It was just another day when Veena Kumari went to the market with her son to make purchases for her daughter’s wedding slated for October. The 56-year-old government school teacher had come home after attending the Independence Day school function. Soon afterwards, she headed for the Sector 35 market, riding pillion on her son Abhinav Sharma’s Activa. As they neared the Sector 34-35 light point, a rickshaw driver suddenly veered in the middle of the road, causing Abhinav to lose control of the scooter. Veena, who was not wearing a helmet, fell on the road and her head hit the pavement leaving her in a pool of blood. She was rushed to the Sector 16 general hospital but was declared brought dead. Her husband Tarsem Chand Sharma says, “I used to drop her to work every day and pick her up in the afternoon. I had never imagined I would lose her when we were preparing for our daughter’s wedding.” He adds: “After her death, I realise how important it is to wear helmet even for pillion riders. I keep thinking she may have been alive today had she worn a helmet.”
DHRUV HAD A MIRACULOUS ESCAPE, THANKS TO HELMET
It’s almost been a year since the fateful accident, but life has never been the same for Dhruv Sharma. The 21-year-old was waiting to cross the VIP road in Zirakpur on his Activa scooter on December 31 last year when a Swift car rammed into him. Sharma suffered a broken leg, but he was saved from head injuries as he was wearing a helmet. Sharma has undergone four surgeries in his right leg ever since the accident. The youngster says he would not have been alive had he not been wearing a helmet. “After the accident, I noticed the helmet was broken into pieces.” Sharma, who is still struggling with a painful leg, says: “I feel all two-wheeler riders should wear helmets regardless of their gender. This is essential as it is protects us in case of an accident.”