Helmet compliance study shows dismal results

New study shows helmet rule compliance at a dismal 16%, only 1.94% pillion riders wear a helmet.
Against the backdrop of the Motor Vehicles (Amendments) Bill 2017 that got passed in the Lok Sabha which emphasizes stricter penalties for violations, we undertook a sample survey to determine the helmet compliance rate in the city which shows that only 16% wore helmets, and an even worse 1.94% of pillion riders complied to the helmet rule.

The single most effective way of reducing head injuries and fatalities resulting from motorcycle and scooter crashes is wearing a helmet. Most motorcycle deaths are caused due to head injuries. Wearing a helmet decreases the risk of severe injuries by 72% and that of death by 39%.

In India, according to the Government’s Annual Report on “Road Accidents in India -2015” two-wheeler accidents accounted for 36,803 fatalities and 1,35,343 injuries in 2015. Maharashtra alone accounted for 4,514 fatalies and 11,889 injuries.  India’s Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, makes it mandatory for both driver and pillion to wear a BIS (Bureau of Indian Standards) certified helmet that is securely strapped. This 29 year old law is in line with international safety standards.  Various exemptions by State Governments and the lack of enforcement has made the law ineffective, leading the Committee on Road Safety, appointed by the Supreme Court, to pass strictures to make the enforcement for both drivers and riders compulsory.

Pune has been one of the cities which has come out strongly in opposing the helmet rule. Several implementation drives were carried out intermittently but failed to convert the citizens’ mindsets despite several High Court as well as the Supreme Court’s ruling on helmet compliance. Hence, it was felt necessary to undertake this study, which looks at compliance rates as well as the reasons that were cited by citizens for non-compliance.

The study was done by taking 59 photographs at 10 intersections in the city, at various times of the day. A total of 773 motorcycle riders were observed. An analysis of the photographs shows the usage of helmets at a dismal 16%, a shocking indicator of how callously road safety is been practiced in Pune.
Additionally 110 interviews were also conducted, which reveals that the various reasons cited for non-compliance were weight, unattractive and poor design, perceptions that accidents were unlikely, and that short distance travel and slow speeds do not need wearing helmets. The foremost reason cited was feeling too hot and uncomfortable, followed by restriction of vision.

When asked what would prompt the use of helmets, 59% of the interviewees stated stricter enforcement, followed by 32% stating that a change in design and structure could bring about the change. Increase in fines, and making pricing more affordable constituted a small part of the rationale. 70% did not feel the need for pillion riders to wear helmets. and 63% two-wheeler riders did not feel safe riding a bike in the city. Some other outcomes of the study reveal a huge gender gap in compliance. Though rates for both male and female compliance are low, males still wear helmets at a rate twice that of females. Areas where there are a lot of commercial and educational establishments had more people wearing helmets perhaps because they could be travelling longer distances, whereas in more quieter and residential areas, they compliance was almost non-existent because they could be travelling short distances to local destinations. An abysmal 1.94% of pillion riders observed were wearing helmets.

Enforcement of the helmet rule has been sporadic with a few awareness campaigns being conducted, without much outcome. Ranjit Gadgil, Program Director at Parisar states “Both experience and research has shown that awareness campaigns alone will not have any significant impact on compliance unless this is part of an enforcement campaign. Developing an effective enforcement campaign with targeted compliance rates along with a well thought out public awareness campaign can increase compliance and help to save thousands of lives”.

The detailed report can be found here.


Press coverage:

Heads up for Pune bikers: City has least helmet compliance rate, most fatalities

6th June 2017, Indian Express


12th May 2017, Times of India, Pune Edition