Despite having a dismal record of road fatalities of two wheelers in 2019, Government of Gujarat has made the use of helmets optional in the state. The number of casualties stood at 55,336 in 2019 with 43,614 (79%) of them due to non-use of helmets. Of the 7996 fatalities in 2018, 2546 two-wheeler users (riders and pillions) were killed in the state of which 1546 were found not to be using a helmet. These startling facts were hardly a deterrent for the government and it is sad that the government instead of encouraging commuters to wear helmets, has made it optional.
In order to avoid similar moves by other states, the members of the Road Safety Network, a national coalition of NGOs working to promote road safety in India, and the Active Traffic Consultative Committee (ATCC) have submitted representation to Minister of Road Transport and Highways, Mr. Nitin Gadkari urging him to immediately bring the amended section 129 of the Motor Vehicle Act into force.
The use of helmets always has been and is still mandatory under the law, including for pillion riders. The amended Motor Vehicles Act in fact takes away any power of the State to provide exemptions, other than that provided to Sikh men wearing turbans. This amendment has been made specifically to strengthen the helmet law to address the high fatality and injury rates amongst users of two-wheelers in the country.
Shri Ashim Sanyal, COO, Consumer VOICE Road Safety Network issued a statement in this regard and rightly pointed out that “the pronouncement of making ‘helmet optional’ by the state of Gujarat is going to set a wrong precedent for other states which is also contrary to the intent of the central legislation which aims to reduce road fatalities and strengthen road safety in India. The Union Government must act to prevent such dilution of law by the states”, adds Mr. Sanyal.
On behalf of The Road Safety Network, Mr Ashim Sanyal, therefore wrote a letter to Shri Nitin Gadkari, Hon’ble Minister of Road Transport and Highways, to immediately strengthen the helmet law by bringing into force amended Section 129 of the Motor Vehicles Act.