Arm-twisting people for their own good!

A few days back, a friend commented that India must be the only country where two-wheeler riders wear helmets not to protect themselves but to avoid being fined by the police!

That day, and on a couple of other days, I made it a point to check how many two-wheeler riders wore helmets. I was shocked to find that less than 2 out of 5 two-wheeler drivers wore helmets, while no pillion rider wore a helmet!

Unfortunately, two-wheeler drivers and pillion riders do not understand that it is in their own interest to wear helmets since they protect them from head injuries. Hence, there must be some way of ensuring that they wear helmets.

It is clear that the police in most parts of India do not strictly enforce the rule that makes it mandatory for all two-wheeler riders to wear helmets. Is there some way in which we, as private individuals, do what the police should be doing without actually ‘taking the law into our hands’?

As I had mentioned in my post Does the red light mean STOP or not?, I rode a 2-wheeler for the first few years of my sales career. Despite the fact that it was not compulsory at that time, I always wore a helmet. Later, as a manager, I always insisted that every member of my team wore a helmet while riding a 2-wheeler. I ensured compliance by announcing that I would not authorise monthly fuel reimbursement vouchers of those persons who did not use a helmet every working day. Most people complied willingly. Some persons resisted, but eventually complied.

I believe that each one of us can act similarly without much, if any difficulty.

First of all, each one of us must wear a helmet when (s)he drives a two-wheeler or rides pillion. Secondly, we must use friendly arm-twisting to make our employees, juniors and children wear helmets when they ride two-wheelers. Thirdly, we must try to make other two-wheeler riders known to us aware of the need to wear helmets.

We may think that doing this may make us unpopular with the people around us, but I know from experience that most people eventually realise that they were arm-twisted for their own good!

Related posts:
Which is worse: a badly damaged helmet or a badly damaged skull?
Law-enforcers and law-makers, or law-breakers?

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Law-enforcers and law-makers, or law-breakers?

The following figures were reported for traffic violations in Pune from January 01, 2014:
Cases registered:
Helmet violations: 22,140
Seat belt violations: 70,989
Signal jumping: 1,24,995
Riding triple seat: 11,364
Total number of traffic violation cases: 6,84,692
Total fine collected: Rs. 7.67crore

From these figures, it appears the Pune traffic police are sincerely trying to ensure that the citizens of Pune follow traffic rules.

However, Mid-Day, which reported the above figures, also reported that, on November 11, 2014, around 300 police officials were seen visiting the Commissionerate on Pune Station Road without wearing helmets (on two-wheelers) or seat belts (on four-wheelers) that the traffic police has deemed mandatory for all. However, the traffic cops did not fine them, but simply denied their vehicles entry inside the premises.

The Mid-Day report adds that, once the news of this ‘action’ became known to other police officials, several had found a way to bend the rules. Those who had helmets were made to wear them as they turned up at the Commissionerate gate. Officials who did not have their own helmets simply borrowed helmets from others just to pass the traffic cops. In fact, some of the policemen kept a few common helmets at the gate itself, which were then recycled amongst all those who needed to enter the Commissionerate. The helmets were immediately removed once they were inside, and promptly sent back to be used by other cops.

What about our law-makers? The Times of India reports that Nitin Gadkari, Minister of Road Transport and Highways rode his two-wheeler in Nagpur without wearing a helmet on October 25, 2014. The report adds, “This is not the first time Gadkari was seen driving helmetless. After winning the Lok Sabha elections, he was driving ‘triple seat’ and recently a TOI reader shared a photo of him, his wife Kanchan and granddaughter on a scooter coming out of an ice-cream parlour.”

How can laws be implemented when our law-makers and law-enforcers are law-breakers themselves?

Don’t we see this in our homes and workplaces as well? Parents expect their children to follow certain dos and don’ts that they themselves do not follow. Teachers have one set of rules for their students and another set of rules for themselves. Bosses expect their juniors to follow rules that they themselves break with impunity.

Isn’t each one of us guilty to some extent?

Where and with whom should the change begin?

Which is worse: a badly damaged helmet or a badly damaged skull?

Sports lovers all over the world were shocked by reports that former motor racing champion Michael Schumacher had suffered brain injuries in a skiing accident at Meribel in the French Alps on December 29, 2013. According to this report in DNA, he “is thought to have been travelling at up to 50mph when he hit a rock buried under the snow … He was catapulted into the air, landing head-first on another rock. It was reported that he hit his head so hard that his ski helmet “broke in two”.”

It is now reported that Schumacher’s condition has improved, but he is not out of danger.

I am reminded of an incident that took place some years back. My neighbour was driving his scooter at about 30 km/hour. The front wheel got stuck in a pothole, due to which he was thrown off the scooter. He landed on his head and lost consciousness immediately. Fortunately, he received first aid immediately and was rushed to the hospital. He was discharged after almost a week, but was still in a state of shock and was advised rest at home. He recovered sufficiently to be allowed to resume working only after about 2 weeks.

My neighbour got away without any major problem because he had been wearing a helmet. His helmet did not break, but it was badly damaged. Without a doubt, he would have died or would have had long-term health problems if he had not been wearing a helmet. Ironically, while he had been driving a scooter for many years, he had started wearing a helmet just a few months before his accident only because the state government had made helmets compulsory for 2-wheeler drivers. I recall he had severely criticised the state government for this particular rule, claiming that the rule had been introduced only because the ruling party was getting kickbacks from helmet manufacturers. We all hoped he now realised the importance of wearing a helmet.

A few months after this accident, the state government was voted out in the assembly elections. Among other things, the party that was voted to power had promised to withdraw the ‘Helmet Rule’. The day after the election results were announced, many 2-wheeler drivers all over the state stopped wearing helmets. One of them was my neighbour, who, just a few months earlier, had been saved by his helmet!

Why can’t 2-wheeler drivers understand that a helmet protects them from head injuries? Some people complain that wearing a helmet leads to hair loss! I’m quite sure this is not correct since I had not lost any hair despite having worn a helmet every day for a few years. Even if it is correct, the risk of being bald is better than the risk of death or long-term health problems.

Which is worse: a badly damaged helmet or a badly damaged skull?

Why don’t we understand that most, if not all laws are made in our interest, and we must comply with laws for our own good, not merely to escape punishment?