It is a very common sight on Delhi roads, a woman riding a scooter or a woman pillion-rider, not wearing a helmet. Wearing helmets for women was optional for all these years in Delhi. But not any more. Of course, excepting Sikhs.
When in 1998 the Delhi Government made wearing helmet compulsory for all men and women on motorcycles and scooters, there was lot of opposition from the Sikh community as a result of which the law made helmets optional for women. However, this law has again been changed and last month in August 2014, Delhi’s Transport department issued an order that women must wear helmets when on motor cycles or they must pay a fine of Rs 100.
The authorities are more concerned about the continuous increase in the number of deaths in road accidents, especially of women, many of them being scooter riders. According to Delhi’s traffic police, 63 women died in motorcycle accidents in Delhi in 2013 and more than 250 women injured. According to the transport department, a total number of 576 two-wheeler riders lost their lives during 2012 in Delhi. Though the majority of riders are men, it is the women pillion-riders who are more at risk of head injuries from accidents.
Why do women hesitate to wear helmets?
- The first and foremost reason is wearing helmets ruins their hairstyle.
- They feel very hot and uncomfortable wearing them.
- Wearing helmet makes them sweat a lot.
- Lastly, the most common reason is that there is no one to check them.
In fact, a survey taken earlier had clearly revealed that most women do not wear helmets because the police never stops them or fines them for not wearing helmets.
How to prove who is a Sikh woman
According to the new rule, though wearing helmets has become mandatory for women, Sikh women are still exempted as wearing any kind of headgear except turban or a scarf goes against their religion. The traffic police said that this is a major blockade in the implementation of the order as it is very difficult to judge whether a woman passenger is Sikh or not. They have therefore sternly ordered that all Sikh women passengers or riders of motor cycles and scooters must provide an identity proof that they are Sikhs. That accidents do not discriminate on religion. It is the safety of the individual that is more important.
With the initial announcement of the law, the Delhi Traffic Police gave 10 days time for all women riders to buy helmets and with effect from September 10th 2014, else challans would be issued to the defaulters.
There was a team of 100 women police officers who were assigned various points in the city like Lajpat Nagar, Minto Road, Nehru Place, Vikas Marg, ITO, etc. to keep a close check on the women riders and pillion-riders wearing helmets or not. And if not, challans were issued.
But as usual, most of them did not follow the rule. In the first day itself, Delhi police came across many defaulters. Even in the neighbouring Noida region, hardly any young girl on two-wheelers can be seen wearing helmet.
Women give funny explanations when caught
The varied excuses given by many women were really very funny and illogical. Some said that they were not aware of the rule being implemented. Some said that they forgot to carry the wallet and so cannot pay the fine. Some pleaded to let them go for once and from next time they won’t repeat the mistake. There were a few who said that the helmet was in the dikki and they had just removed it and so on….
Besides the checking drive and penalties, there should be an awareness drive to educate women about the necessity for wearing helmets first. It is also necessary to make the passengers aware of the need to wear good quality helmets that conform to ISI certification of quality and safety standards. Helmets should also be strapped properly. The implementation of the law has to take care of all these.
As for all riders and pillion-riders, do not worry about your hair style. Do not think that you just have to pay Rs 100 only if caught and can get away without wearing the helmet. Let us all follow rules and maintain a good civic sense in the society. If women keep on demanding equal rights, and keep on saying men and women are equal, then why not follow equality in traffic rules? Safety should be your prime concern.