Despite fine, sales of unsafe half helmets continue

accidents Bengaluru

Full helmets cost a lot, we can’t breathe with them on, complain riders

Sales of half helmets continue unbated despite the Bengaluru Traffic police announcing a fine on riders wearing them.

Unkar Singh, a helmet shop owner at Shivajinagar, said: “Even after the imposition of fines, half-helmets sales are on the increase because they are less expensive. Half-helmets are just for the sake of it; they don’t provide safety as ISI helmets as. Even insurance companies don’t cover them.”

The Observer visited JC Road, a hub of shops selling helmets and automobile accessories. 

Mushtaq Shareef, who runs a small helmet shop, said: “Owing to the summer, the sales of half-helmets is more. In Bengaluru, 90 per cent of the people use half helmets. The government should ask the manufacturers of half-helmets (to stop) instead of imposing fines on poor people. If manufacturers stop manufacturing half helmets only then will we stop selling them. The problem lies with the manufacturers, not the riders and sellers.”

Nagaraj, another helmet shop owner, said: “People… ask for half helmets. I tell them they harm, but they still insist on buying them because they are cheaper than ISI helmets. In India, people compromise on safety…; this mindset needs to be changed. When you can buy a helmet for Rs 100, why would you buy a helmet worth Rs 1,000?”

The problem lies with two-wheelers as they have little space to keep helmets. Manufacturers and riders are at fault, not the distributors, he added.

Sudhir Kumar, a two-wheeler rider, said about the traffic police: “They should first use these full helmets and see how uncomfortable they are. In addition to helmets, we are told to wear masks; we’re left with no air to breathe. In summer, there’s sweating as well. Also, full helmets are expensive and cost between Rs 500 and Rs 1,200.”

Murli Karthik, a Zomato delivery agent, travels between 100 km and 150 km daily. Full-face helmets cause him discomfort. 

“I am on the field every day. It is difficult for me to take off my full helmet again and again when I reach my destination. On top of that, it’s not good for my hair as well. A lot of sweat causes damage to people’s hair who don’t take out their full helmets. Also, the half helmet I am wearing costs only Rs 80,” Karthik said.

Saad, another half-helmet user, said: “Accidents will happen even if we wear full helmets. They put fines on people, but what about people who can’t afford full helmets?”

The Observer noticed that many motorcyclists in Bengaluru wear half helmets, while some bother not to wear any.

Dealers in ISI and full helmets, and users of these, say safety is their priority, no matter how uncomfortable they feel.

Deepanshu Das, who uses a Rs 2,000 convertible full helmet, said full helmets are expensive, but they provide adequate safety against accidents and keep dust out.

Lokesh S, another user said: “I feel very hot in a full helmet, but it is safe.”

Another rider, Surya, said: “In half helmets, parts below the eyes are not at all safe. There are only disadvantages in wearing half helmets.”

Dr Anil Kumar P. Grampurohit, inspector, traffic planning, Traffic Police, Bengaluru, said: Half helmets have different uses.  Labourers and engineers wear them when they are on construction sites, so we can’t really ban them. If riders are not using ISI or BIS helmets, they are creating problems for themselves. We can only sensitize them about road safety.

“Two-wheelers are the most vulnerable. We have seen people with brain injuries after accidents in coma. Full-helmets protect the skull and reduce the chances of severe head injury.”

Bengaluru’s major challenge is ensuring a smooth flow of traffic.

“We can’t really stop every rider, so we have installed special AI cameras to identify who breaks the rules. We organize road safety programs in association with Students Association for Road Safety where we educate children of all ages about traffic rules. These children then make their parents aware. We don’t give helmets, but if somebody wants to sponsor helmets, we help them,” the inspector shared.

According to the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, safe helmets have the ISI mark.

Yukta Mudgal
Trainee Journalist at IIJNM.

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