Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Motorcyclists’ helmets just to avoid tickets, not for safety

Use of substandard helmets on the rise:
Motorcyclists’ helmets just to avoid tickets, not for safety

By Mahtab Bashir

ISLAMABAD: The use of substandard helmets by the motorcyclists is on the rise as a number of people could be witnessed on the city roads wearing such helmets and sprinting their bikes while risking their life.

Some time back, Islamabad traffic police (ICT) had made it mandatory for the motorcyclists to wear the helmet to save them from fatal head injuries in case of any accident. However a large number of motorcyclists are using helmets that are made of sub-standard material and put them in trouble instead of providing them safety in case of accidents.

A survey by Daily Times revealed that there are a number of poorly designed helmets being used by motorcyclists. Most of the motorcyclists said they were using helmets not for their safety but to avoid ticketing against traffic rules violation.

Interestingly, motorcyclists are using helmets made of cheap plastic material because of their cheap rates, thus putting their lives in danger. Some helmets are just the size of P-caps, while some are meant for use of cyclists.

Most of the people said ITP were using the helmet law since 2005 as a ‘rich and inexhaustible source’ of revenue. “This is their ‘lifesaving drug’ to which they turn to whenever they feel they are falling short of the monthly challans target,” said the people.

ITP issue tickets for violation of many other rules like registration documents, driving license, headlights, indicators, number plates, but the helmet remains on the top in term of number of challans, said a motorcyclist.

Motorcyclists talking to Daily Times demanded that the authorities delete Section 89-A of the Motor Vehicles Ordinance 1965, under which the government demanded people wear helmets. They said imposition of a restriction without specifying the consequential penalty for violation was illogical and absurd. They said the condition of roads, severity of the weather and other circumstances did not substantiate the government’s decision.

A motorcyclist suggested that the government did not bind the public wear helmets but the same should be made compulsory while driving two-wheelers on the highways. He also suggested that the government introduce a specifically designed helmet for motorcyclists.

Waseem Elahi, a banker who is driving motorbike for last 10 years, said there was no benefit of wearing helmet at all, as sub-standard safety helmets use was going unchecked. “Substandard helmets make riders still vulnerable to fatal head injuries, but authorities concerned are least bothered about it,” he said.

“We are left with no option but to sell industrial helmets as the imported ones are very costly,” said a trader at G-9 Markaz. He said all the helmets were made of plastic and fiber and the material was not of international standards and it is not sure whether wearing this helmet gives protection to riders or not. He said people were using these helmets to avoid ticketing.

ITP: Talking to Daily Times, ITP Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Dr Sultan Azam Temuri said the government has implemented section 69-A of the Motor Vehicle Ordinance 1965, and section 239-A of the Motor Vehicle Rules 1969, which make compulsory for a motorcyclist to wear a helmet. “ITP have implemented this law in Islamabad in 2005 purely for the safety of bike riders,” he said.

Temuri said ITP had not recommended any specifically designed helmet, rather helmets made of any material, shape, colour or standard was accepted. Since helmet’s use has been made mandatory for the safety of rider, it is recommended that helmet should meet the standard that could save him in case of an accident, he added.

Law: Ahmed Raza, an advocate, said Section 89-A had not been enforced for 25 years and its implementation now, did not make any sense. He said Section 89-A was a violation of Article 25 of the Constitution as it only made mandatory for the driver of motorbike to wear a helmet. He said the law required that the passenger too wear a helmet.

An official of ITP said in year 2009, they recorded 27,986 helmet violation cases and thus ITP earned Rs 27,98,600 revenue. “Around 100 cases daily are being registered for violation of this clause.

Replying to a question, the official said the person who could not wear helmet on medical grounds would have to appear before a medical board of the ITP hospital and get an exemption for a specified period.

published in Daily Times Thursday, August 27, 2009