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Tuesday, Dec 10, 2019

Say Yes To Helmets, Part 2: Why, how no helmet over short distances is death ride

While two-wheeler riders find wearing helmets for short distances more a burden than a blessing, experts call for awareness to underline its importance.

pune Updated: Sep 16, 2017 15:21 IST
Jui Dharwadkar
Jui Dharwadkar
Hindustan Times, Pune
People riding two-wheelers without wearing helmets is a common sight in Pune.
People riding two-wheelers without wearing helmets is a common sight in Pune.(SANKET WANKHADE/HT PHOTO)
         

Ignoring the rising number of road accidents in the city, Puneites have been consistently giving reasons to justify their not wearing of helmets. 

The main reasons that have been put forth include driving for short distances, helmets causing back pain and neck pain, hairfall problems and the inconvenience to carry the helmet around. Out of these, the most common reason that people tend to give for not wearing helmets is of driving for short distances, for which they claim that wearing helmets is unnecessary. 

Speaking about the issue, assistant regional transport officer Chandrashekhar Chavan said, “Accidents can happen anytime. They can occur even while driving for short or long distances. Hence, the reason given by most riders of not wearing helmets because they are driving for short distances has no merit.” 

The transport official said that many riders tend to drive rash and at a higher speed even for short distances and due to this they might face serious head injuries if they unfortunately meet with an accident. “Taking all this into consideration, wearing helmets every time we ride a two-wheeler is important,” he said. 

Your guide to finding the right helmet
Wearing a helmet reduces the severity of injuries by 72% and the likelihood of death by 39%. But that is only when you pick the right one. Here’s a five-step guide:
The anatomy of an injury: how the brain reacts to injury
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 behaviour 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. 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 behaviour
4. Brain stem (area leading to spinal cord)
Problems with balance and movement
5. Cerebellum (base of the skull)
The injured can lose ability to coordinate fine movements
6. 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

Helmets aren’t so bad
What doctors say

 Pune deputy commissioner of police Ashok Morale too stated that not wearing helmets is a negligence on the part of the rider which can have serious consequences. 

“It should be understood that whether for long or short distances, wearing a helmet is compulsory. There needs to be greater awareness about wearing helmets. We have been regularly taking action but the attitude of people needs to change,” he said. 

With road accidents threatening one’s life, the city police have been making efforts to consciously bring in the compulsory helmet rule for two-wheeler riders.

But traffic officials say that it is time the bike riders themselves realise the importance of wearing helmets while driving, for their own sake and for their dependant family members.

‘One can also see bikers wearing designer helmets for looks and comfort, without thinking twice about its functionality and safety,” a police official said.

Dean of BJ Medical College and Sassoon General Hospital Dr Ajay Chandanwale also stressed the importance of wearing helmets for anybody who uses a two-wheeler. 

 He said, “People need to be made more aware of the consequences of not wearing helmets. Today, one of the main reasons for accidental deaths is the head injury. Hence, giving reasons for not wearing helmets can have serious consequences when one meets with an accident. All two-wheeler riders should know that helmets save lives. ” 

Dr Shrikrushna Joshi of Lokmanya Hospital said that even while driving at low speed, if the rider meets with an accident and the head hits the ground or the vehicle, the impact can cause injuries that can be averted by wearing a helmet.

Dr Ajay Chandanwale, dean of BJ Medical College and Sassoon General Hospital

Wearing helmets for long and short distances is in the interest of the people riding two-wheelers. Even if one is driving for a short distance at a lower speed, someone else driving at a higher speed might come and hit and the head injury during such incidents can be averted by wearing helmets.

Dr Fiyaz Pasha, Jehangir Hospital

Importance of helmets needs to be understood by people which can help in changing their mindset. Public awareness on the importance of wearing helmets even for short distances is essential. Hence, awareness programmes should be conducted in schools and colleges by enforcing authorities and NGOs.

Need to teach the young to become responsible on the road

Various studies have shown that youngsters constitute the maximum number in road accidents.

A recent report released by the government has stated that even as the overall road accidents in the country have declined by 4.1 per cent this year, the fatalities during these accidents have failed to reduce and have instead gone up by 3.2 per cent.

 According to a report released by Union road transport and highway minister Nitin Gadkari, in 2016, close to 46 per cent of fatalities in road accidents constituted those in the age group of 18-35 years. 

With experts claiming that fatalities in two-wheeler road accidents can be reduced by 60 per cent to 90 per cent just by wearing helmets, the need to inspire the youth to wear helmets has become necessary. 

City-based road safety activist Ajay Aggarwal said, "Usually the reasons given by people for not wearing helmets is that they do not find it comfortable or their vision at the right and left side is obstructed. These reasons are not true and hence making people understand the importance of wearing helmets is necessary.” 

“For this, reaching out to school and college students and making the youngsters aware of the importance of wearing helmets can help to a great extent. Also, very young children should be enlightened about the importance of wearing helmets. They should then be told to make sure that their family members who drive a two-wheeler wears a helmet. This way, a whole family can be made to wear helmets,” he said. 

 Founder of the NGO Mission Safer Roads, Kalyanaraman Venkatesan too shared similar views. 

He said, "Through our NGO we have been reaching out to the youngsters and making them realise that once they have a serious head injury little can be done to reverse the effects completely. Sensitising the youth with facts can help them understand the importance of wearing helmets." 

He further stated that apart
from wearing certified helmets, people must also ensure that they wear full face helmets that are not too small or
too large.

“People tend to buy helmets which are loose so that they can easily remove them. Also, many avoid wearing the helmet strap or wear it loose. During accidents, if the helmet is loose it will tend to come off and it will fail to serve its purpose,” he said.