Though the helmet protects ones head from injury people often have numerous reasons for not wearing one. It’s has been commonplace to hear people’s excuses for not wearing them but this has had serious impact as several accidents have been fatal. Last year around 131 riders and 39 pillion riders lost their lives. As the country is observing the 29th National Safety Week NT BUZZ spoke to general public and the traffic cell to know why people are negligent when it comes to wearing helmets
VENITA GOMES| NT BUZZ
Ask anyone who rides a bike if he wears a helmet for safety or to avoid paying fines, not surprisingly, many will respond with the latter answer. From being instructed to wear helmets while taking the test for a two-wheeler license, or being yelled at by parents or the nagging wife who wants you home in one piece, the helmet saga has many sides to it. There are several people who are smart riders (supposedly) who dodge the police or take an alternative route to avoid wearing the protective gear. Well, it’s going to be a task now with CCTV cameras being installed at various places.
The reasons for not wearing a helmet not only sound unwise but are also extremely creative and consider them to be justification to not wearing one.
To avoid paying fines
Stating that traffic police are just enforcement officers whose job is only to advice people about their safety, director general of police, Muktesh Chander speaking during the inaugural of 29th National Safety Week said: “Our role as traffic police is limited. We had scenarios where we saw people trying various ways and tricks to cheat us. You can see on roads of Goa people carry helmet just like bangle on the side. People put helmet on and the strap is falling down and in case of accidents the helmet will fly off and save its self but you won’t be able to save your head.” He adds: “Every year we lose more than 300 people on the roads of Goa roughly it amounts to two people dying every three days. These unlucky people follow the principle of probability, like they think death will not come to them but to someone else.”
Traffic police often stand strategic points, keeping an eye on riders and drivers who violate rules and often the commuters are well aware of this. A resident of Nuvem, Ryan Mascarenhas (name changed) says that he knows such places and therefore dodges them. He justifies his wearing the helmet or not: “Wearing helmets for long distance is a must, as it comes with safety benefits but for a closer distance helmet is not that necessary. I have often seen riders wearing helmets only if they see the police to avoid paying fines. At times even I do the same or I take an alternate route that can lead me to my destination, but there are tourists who wear helmets and are yet caught for documents which is a sad affair.”
A student from Nagoa, Anthony D’Cunha also feels that most people wear helmets to avoid challan. “It is a serious concern. People never wear helmets if they are told but the moment they see the cops they wear helmet. The helmet is either hanging on their hand, tied to the bike or kept in the tool. Despite knowing the actual reason people avoid wearing it.”
Many complain that wearing helmet leads to hair loss, dandruff, lice or messes their hair. Gavin Mascarenhas says that over long journeys his hair gets affected. “If you wear helmet for long it leads to hair loss. Sweat accumulates in your hair roots which can aggravate the problem,” he adds.
The social media has a typical way of describing a rider or a traveller and many youngsters tend to imitate and replicate the same image. “I am traveller who travels far distances but I know what my safety rules are and I follow them but there are also instances where I think wearing helmet actually spoils my hair. I don’t have a presentable appearance the moment I remove my helmet after a journey,” says Ponda-based Niraj Desai (name changed).
Many have found a mid way and take the trouble of tying a scarf or kerchief around their head before putting on the helmet, especially during summer. There is also this theory that wearing helmets can breed lice in the hair.
Can’t show off
Many are concerned about the way they look; whether it is while riding or anywhere else. Looking perfect is what most youngsters strive for and that’s when the helmet becomes a hindrance. Sweezel Fernandes (name changed) from Agassaim feels that she can’t show off her makeup while riding. “I mean you dress up to look good but the moment you wear the helmet it gets very congested. You have to adjust your earrings, the makeup gets stuck to the helmet and your hair is super messed up. I know the safety issue therefore I ride slowly in order to avoid any consequences.”
Boys aren’t lagging behind in these cases either: they love sporting funky hairstyles, showing off their looks and riding skills. When you wear a helmet, not only does it spoil the way they look, but prospective admirers or girls won’t even notice them. 23-year-old, Platon Colaco tells us how the helmet spoils his look and personality. “It takes a lot of time for me to get ready. You have to dress up, iron your clothes; set your hair properly with gel and style it. But the very next moment when you are riding, it spoils your hairstyle. All your hair gets messy and untidy.”
Excuses are endless and here is one that also leans towards the genuine reason that they can’t hear well. “I ride late after work and at night I can’t hear with the breeze and the helmet on; it becomes very difficult for me to adjust and remain alert of what is happening on the road,” says Royden Mendes from Mapusa.
Sandra Fernandes tells us that there was an instance where she wore a helmet while riding home from the market, and was singing aloud and couldn’t hear a vehicle behind honking at her. “It was only when the car overtook and stopped in front of me that I realised what happened. A bag full of groceries had fallen off from the leg space in the front. Had I not worn the helmet I would be aware of what was happening, but with the helmet on your head you are cut off from everything else,” she says.
No fresh O2
Rides are meant to be enjoyed and therefore any disturbances can ruin an entire journey. Ria Gomes from Majorda feels that riding a bike gives you an adrenalin rush and thus rides are meant to be enjoyed freely. “You have to feel the wind in your hair and the sun on your face and the journey simply becomes amazing,” she says, therefore she only wears a helmet while travelling on highways.
There are some that could be very genuine and thus are also misused by erring riders. People often complain that they suffer from headache, migraine or a stiff neck and even cervical spondylosis, owing to which they are not advised by the doctor to avoid helmets. “The moment I wear a helmet my head starts paining. That pain doesn’t go off immediately after removing it, it lasts for several hours, spoiling my entire day and work,” says Renuka Naik (name changed).
Ex associate professor at Goa Medical College, Bambolim and orthopaedic doctor S Nadkari says: “Cervical spondylosis comes with ageing. Many people complain of the same. But not wearing a helmet for this is not justified. There is no health problem that is associated with it. If at all the pain increases then it is not advisable to ride at all but not wearing a helmet is not justified.”
Wearing a helmet might save a life and reduce the fatality of the accident or the risk of brain injury, but it also doesn’t guarantee you an injury free accident. Some years ago a police constable Premanand Gaonkar met with a freak accident in Campal, and he died because the buckle of the helmet cut deep into his throat. We’ve also heard of several instances where the helmet was flung across the road due to impact as it possibly wasn’t buckled up.
On the other hand wearing a helmet for many is an excuse to take that risk and ride recklessly for they believe that a helmet will save them. All said and done, the debate of wearing or not wearing a helmet is not something that the Goa Traffic Police will give into. Their aim is to ensure you take care of your life while riding on roads in the state.