Florine Roche
Daijiworld Media Network -Mangalore

Mangalore, Jun 5: Just last week in a spate of three days there were three noticeable bike accidents in and around Mangalore in which at least four youngsters in the age group of 18-25 lost their precious lives. For Wilson Misquith of Kaikamba the joy ride with two other friends proved to be his last ride. He wasn’t wearing a helmet and eyewitness say the helmet was in the side box of the vehicle at the time of the accident. Apart from losing his own life he jeopardized the lives of his friends and that of other motorist whom he collided with. The fate of his friends who were thrown on the road along with him is not known. 

Roshan, a young engineer lost his life when a lorry hit him near Bappanadu and he died of road injuries. In another tragic accident two youngsters - Rakesh Shettigar and Anish Shetty died when a car that changed the lane suddenly without any signal on the highway and rammed on to the bike the boys were riding near Bappanadu. Anish died on the spot and Rakesh succumbed to his injuries the next day. Needless to say, most of the road traffic accidents in our country are caused by head injuries due to road accidents. In all these three accidents young lives were snuffed out just when they were blooming. This is a considerable loss not only to the families in term of lives but also to the nation at large. 

It is true that in a grisly accident even a helmet cannot save the life of the injured person. It is also true that in most cases of road accidents head injuries are said to be the leading causes of death, which means wearing a helmet could save many precious lives. I am not sure whether Roshan whose Bullet was hit by a lemon-filled lorry or Anish who was riding the bike with Rakesh Shettigar on pillion, were wearing helmets or not at the time of accident. But one cannot deny the fact that helmets can save the lives of two wheeler riders by a whisker and seat belts can be life savers to four wheeler riders and its occupants or in case of terrible accidents the severity of the injury can be minimized to a great extent. . 

It is true that easy and faster means of transportation is the boon of modern civilization road traffic accidents is the bane of the same development. Increasing number of two-wheelers, non-compliance with rules, non-adherence to lane discipline, rash driving, drunken driving and lack of awareness about helmets cause most of the accidents in our country. Lane discipline is something which we Indians have never adhered to despite efforts to educate the public on its importance. 

Amidst our rash, waywardly and unruly driving habits many among us take great pride in wearing helmets just for the sake of escaping from the eagle eyes of the police. That is why it is a common site to see youngsters riding their bikes with helmets in their hands or pinned to the hook of the bike. Helmets cover their heads only when they approach major road junctions or where they know a traffic police is manning the junction. 

So who are we trying to fool around when we see youngsters go around speeding on their new-generation speed bikes without bothering to wear helmets? What is the point in having a helmet if the rider takes the trouble of wearing it only when he comes across a traffic police? Why do we need policing at every step of our routine activity? Why such a stubborn aversion to obey laws, rules and regulations when we make a great fuss about our rights and freedom? Finding an answer to these questions is not easy because we are determined to derive little pleasures in making a mockery of our laws, even if it is at the cost of our own lives. 

Of course there are aberrations in the law which makes no sense at all. It is a pathetic site to see a family of four on a motor cycle with only the rider wearing the helmet while the other three who are equally or are more at risk, go unprotected. In January this year a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed in Delhi High Court challenging the provision of the Delhi Motor Vehicles Rules that gives exemption to women from wearing helmets. Though the PIL was rejected just a month ago the Delhi government issued a gazette notification just a month back, making it mandatory for women riders also to wear helmets. It is high time other states take note of the high road accidents involving two wheelers and make wearing helmets compulsory. 

Similarly, wearing seat belts is compulsory in many states including Delhi. Though all the modern cars are fitted with seat belts we don’t make it a habit to wear them because wearing seat belts is not compulsory in Karnataka. We know it takes only a few minutes to wear seat belts and the process is less cumbersome as compared to wearing helmets. But somehow, we harbor some distaste to wearing it. May be an order making it compulsory to wear seat belts might encourage people to wear seat belts regularly whenever they travel. 

Taking precautionary steps to safeguard our lives is one thing and seeking the intervention of god to ensure our safety is another. May be we need a mixture of both these apart from concerted efforts to educate the public on the rewards of wearing helmets and seat belts. 

Union health minister Dr Harshavardhan suggested that the tragic death of union minister Gopinath Munde could have been prevented if he had worn the seat belts while travelling. How we wish Munde and many others like him would not have overlooked the importance of seat belts or protective helmets!