Helmet keeps the warden away


Where hot and humid weather of federal capital brings skin borne diseases to its dwellers, it forces motor cyclists to use substandard helmets of any kind available in the market to avoid the scorching heat rather to use conventional helmet for their safety. 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, risking their life. They are of their opinion that they use light weight plastic helmets to counter the heat as well as to avoid the traffic violation tickets and not to avoid road accidents.
In 2005, 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 can put them in trouble instead of providing them safety in case of accidents. A survey by Pakistan Today on Monday 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. More interestingly, the twin city residents who travelled all day from Rawalpindi to Islamabad and vice versa opined that while they are on the roads of Rawalpindi, they are free not to use the helmet even when the police constable is near them as there is no mandatory law to wear helmets but they use the helmets as soon as they enter in Islamabad just to avoid fine tickets.
Most of the young motorists 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 a motorcyclist. Majority of the motorists said that heat wave was severe and they were suffering with skin diseases but ITP did not spare anyone. “I have skin problem and I have skin specialist’s prescription along me, hence I don’t use helmet but yet I get the challan ticket,” said a motorist.
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, adding that fine for violation of not wearing a helmet was Rs 100.
‘WE DON’T NEED THE LAW’: Motorcyclists 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 scorching 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.
Zeeshan Ali, 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.
TRADERS’ ONLY CHOICE?: “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.
‘BECAUSE WE CARE’: Talking to Pakistan Today, ITP Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Dr Moin Masood 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. Masood 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.
‘IT MAKES NO SENSE’: Hamza Khan, 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 2010, they recorded over 25,400 helmet violation cases and thus ITP earned Rs 252,540,000 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.


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