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Safety first

Helmet stores in Goa are set to witness a surge in customers in the coming months as the government is all set to expand the compulsory helmet rule from April

BY TEAM B&C

Restaurateur Lino D’souza from Calangute is someone who always makes it a point to wear his trustworthy helmet whenever he rides his bike. Be it going to church or the fish market, Lino always believes in ‘safety first’ and tries to educate people who mock him for taking it a bit too seriously.

With two-wheeler accidents and related deaths on the rise, the government on Friday decided to make wearing helmets compulsory from April for both rider and pillion on all roads. And with enforcement, helmet stores are bound to witness a spike in sales in the coming days.

“Even in October last year, when the government had made a similar announcement, we saw a surge in customers who were looking to buy a helmet. Otherwise, sales are more or less average throughout the year. People today seem to be aware that safety is important,” says Vinayak Chari of Mahalaxmi Auto Accessories who has been in the business of selling helmets for last the 20 years.

The helmet market in India is pegged at around Rs 500 crore. But the reason for lukewarm sales, especially in Goa, is the longevity of helmets. Hence people tend to use one helmet for as long as 10 years, says Hitesh Vora of Panaji-based United Enterprises that is popular for its wide range of helmets. Online sales have also impacted store-owners like him to a certain extent, he says, as one can choose from a wide range.

According to Vora, youngsters and collegians are the usual customers who are looking to buy high-end and fancy looking helmets. But interestingly, he says that women buyers are rising as more women are now riding two-wheelers.

One can choose a helmet that is open-face, full-face and modular. Open-faced helmets are popular among females as these are lighter and easy to carry but are not considered safe as compared to the full-face types. The modular or flip-face helmet is like a full-face helmet, but the visor along with the jaw protector can be flipped open, making it an open-face helmet. These are considered a better option and are therefore in demand.

One can also opt for designer, cruiser helmets and sports bike themed helmets with funky colours. If you fancy yourself as a gadget freak or get a lot of calls, you can even opt for a helmet with an inbuilt Bluetooth system. The helmet can be paired with the phone and take calls on the go without the need to stop. But these helmets might cost more than regular helmets.  “When it comes to buying a helmet, people don’t spending for a good brand. What actually is the problem is the inconvenience of carrying these helmets and wearing it,” says Vora.

Some of the popular brands are Studds, Vega, Safe, Steelbrand, Volgam and Yuva and are available in a price range of Rs 500-3,000. The trend normally among most two-wheeler owners is to purchase a decent ISI-marked helmet within the range of Rs 1,000 – 1,500. There are also imported brands like LS2 and THH costing around Rs 3,800 – 4,500 and are mostly bought by owners of high-end bikes. These expensive brands are comparatively heavier and conform to higher safety standards of Europe. Besides, it also has had added features like better quality shell, air vents, attractive graphics, stronger visors, detachable interiors which are washable.

Many people prefer to use their old helmets for as long as possible by changing certain parts like the visor.  A new visor costs Rs 100 and comes in clear, tinted, light-tinted or chrome options. In the past, visors were made of acrylic, says Vora, but today it is made of polycarbonate which is stronger, thus offering greater protection and also is scratch proof. Other things that can also be replaced are chain straps, side fittings and screws. However, what can’t be changed is the EPS lining (thermocol) and cheek pads.

Helmets don’t come with any warranty and are meant for ‘one-crash use’ only, says Vora, as it’s not advisable to use a helmet after one crash since the inner thermocol lining dissociates upon impact and therefore cannot take another crash.  Earlier, the inner shells were made of fibre glass, but this has been changed to high-grade plastic.

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