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On a mission to drive pillion riders to wear helmets

Cops to focus on persuading people as opposed to penalising them

mumbai Updated: Oct 25, 2016 00:21 IST
Debasish Panigrahi
Debasish Panigrahi
Hindustan Times
Say yes to helmets,e-challans,Milind Bharambe
These riders refuse to wear a helmet despite carrying one on the Western Express Highway in Goregaon.(Pratham Gokhale/HT PHOTO)

Wear a helmet while riding a two-wheeler, if you do not already. In a month or so, the Mumbai police are planning a drive to sensitise riders and those on the pillion on the need to wear helmets.

Days after Hindustan Times launched the “Say yes to helmets” campaign in Mumbai, the city’s joint commissioner of police, traffic, Milind Bharambe, said his approach would be two-pronged: impose fines on riders who didn’t wear helmets and counsel pillion riders to wear them. In an interview, Bharambe explains how the traffic police will focus on public safety:

Mumbai, India - Oct. 18, 2016: A man driving a bike without helmet at Bandra in Mumbai, India, on Tuesday, October 18, 2016. (Photo by Satish Bate/ Hindustan Times) (Satish Bate/HT PHOTO)

Why hasn’t the rule that even pillion rider should wear helmets been strictly enforced?

Our drives so far were more directed towards enforcing the rule for riders. We have achieved fair success as is evident, statistics apart, from the fact that we see more riders wearing helmets these days. We will soon be launching the second phase of the drive to enforce the helmet rule for pillion riders.

Why the delay?

It was on account of a host of things. For example, people often complain two-wheelers lack space to store two helmets. Moreover, helmets for children are not readily available. Under these circumstances, if we start enforcing the rule at once, it may lead to malpractices and harassment of motorists. We have to strike a balance between enforcement and convenience in order to achieve the desired results. More than penalising people, our priority is public safety.

Throwing caution to the wind, this duo rides on the Western Express Highway in Jogeshwari. (Pratham Gokhale/HT )

How are you planning to go about it?

Through FM radio, NGOs and the media we have started educating pillion riders on the risks involved in riding helmetless. Our aim is to bring about a behavioural change among pillion riders. The transport department can also play a role in making it mandatory for two-wheeler manufacturers to create space for two helmets.

When will then the drive start?

Tentatively, within a month’s time. This will coincide with our drive to issue 5,000 e-challans a day as against the existing 2,000 e-challans.

There is a tendency not to wear helmets knowing well the dangers involved?

It’s a cultural thing; the climate is also to blame. Absence of awareness and peer guidance is the cultural aspect. People also blame the extreme humidity to justify not wearing a helmet. But these factors should not come in the way of disciplining riders through strict implementation of the law.

A constable spotted riding without a helmet in Thane. (Praful Gangurde)

Has the increase in the fine amount for riding helmetless helped?

The increase in the fine amount has certainly acted as a deterrent.

Is the recent spate of attacks on policemen linked to the hike in the fine amount?

That is precisely why we have introduced e-challans. With the evidence splashed on mobile phones and payment gateways available, physical interaction with motorists is eliminated.

Has the introduction of CCTVs across the city helped in enforcing traffic rules?

There has been a sea change in the scenario. Before the installation of CCTVs, we were generating about 6,000 (field) challans a day. After their installations, we have been creating more than 2,000 e-challans a day additionally. In about a month’s time, the e-challans would increase to 5,000 a day.

Often policemen ride helmetless. Why is this?

It is true that the ratio of challaning our own people have not been satisfactory. Our staff tend to go soft on fellow policemen. This gives room for criticism. We are aware of the problem and are initiating steps to address it. The CCTVs have come in handy in addressing the issue to a large extent. Henceforth, even vehicles having dome lights (mostly police vehicles) will not be spared for violating traffic offences.

First Published: Oct 25, 2016 00:20 IST