Activists write to Gadkari, express concerns at dilution by states
Geetanjali Minhas | December 27, 2019
The National Coalition of Road Safety, a coalition of road safety organisation promoting safe roads in India, has urged minister of road transport and highways, Nitin Gadkari to strengthen and immediately enforce the amended ‘helmet law’ (section 129 of the Motor Vehicles Act) that removes the power of states to provide any exemption in the use of helmets.
Under the earlier rule, except for Sikhs wearing a turban, all persons riding on a motorised two-wheeler were required to wear a helmet. Owing to public pressure, most states have been dragging their feet on implementation of the new provisions and have used this provision to provide exemptions for the use of helmets; like in urban areas or use by women.
Save the exemption provided to Sikhs wearing turban, the Motor Vehicles Amendment Act 2019 has now removed powers of states to provide any other exemptions. Since the Act has received the assent of the president it is now applicable to the entire country. Various sections of the Act must now be notified by the central government to bring them into force. The amended Act also increases the penalty for not wearing a helmet to Rs 1,000 and requires a mandatory suspension of the driver’s licence for a period of three months.
With the amended section 129 not included in the list of sections that have been brought into force, the National Coalition of Road Safety is concerned about its enforcement and therefore the road safety. Recently, Gujarat exempted the use of helmets in urban areas. The move has been severely criticised by road safety experts.
“This loophole is being used by states such as Gujarat to provide exemptions even though the supreme court has issued directions for strict implementation of the helmet rule,” says Sanskriti Menon of Centre for Environment Education (CEE), a Coalition partner.
Ashim Sanyal, COO of Consumer VOICE, a Coalition member, says that “even at low speeds, in the event of a crash, a two-wheeler rider can suffer severe injuries which can even lead to a permanent disability. Recovery from an injury can take months and sometimes years in addition to loss of income and high medical bills which can take an emotional and psychological toll on the family. The country also suffers an economic loss due to crashes, injuries, and loss of productive work.”
Ranjit Gadgil, program director, Parisar, another alliance partner, says that it is essential that the new section is immediately brought into force so that any such exemptions by states would become automatically null and void. “While the new law requires the standards for the helmets to be specified, the ministry can use the existing BIS standard, then modify or add to it later,” he suggests.
As per the latest report on road accidents in the country published by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, fatalities of two-wheeler users stood at 55,336 out of which 43,614 occurred due to non-use of helmets with most victims in the age group of 18-35 when India aims to reduce its road traffic fatalities and severe injuries to half by 2020. According to the World Health Organization, wearing helmets reduces the chance of a fatality by 40% and severe injury by 70% in a crash.
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