As an orthopedic surgeon who sees accident victims every day, I follow the debate on helmet use with great interest.
We, as a group of orthopedic surgeons, have seen a tremendous rise in accidents as the two wheeler use has increased over last few years. In case of an accident, the most fatal injury one can sustain is to the head. The common argument is why should I use a helmet when I am just going around the corner to buy groceries or run an errand. The funniest argument is why the pillion rider should be wearing an helmet?
I would like to answer these questions with a few stories of my accident victims.
Asha, a 40 year old lady, was driving her 2 wheeler carefully at a speed of probably 20km/hour. Someone who had parked their car, opened the driver side door suddenly which knocked Asha down. As she fell on the road, the truck behind her went over her right elbow. The injury was so bad that we had to amputate Asha’s arm below the elbow. Asha was driving from her home to a corner shop and was not wearing a helmet. She also sustained a head injury and took 6 months to recover from it. For 6 months, her speech was affected and she used get annoying headaches. You will say it was not her fault and it was a careless driver opening the driver side door without looking carefully over his shoulder, but she would have at least escaped from a head injury if she was wearing a helmet.
Ashok was driving his 2 wheeler and had his 4 year old son sitting on the fuel tank of his bike and his 7 year old daughter as a pillion rider. He was to drop off his kids at their school. He was wearing a helmet. His mistake? He was driving in the opposite direction, at a no entry road as most bikers do in India! A car suddenly took a proper right turn into this one way street and knocked Ashok’s 2 kids. Both the kids landed badly and died on the spot. Ashok escaped with minor bruises. Kids on the fuel tank or someone sitting behind the driver usually have nothing to hold and when they fall on their head, it is usually fatal.
Our government imposing a fine on people not wearing helmets is similar to liquor prohibition in some states. No one stops drinking just because the liquor is not available. Similarly, people have to realize on their own that using a helmet is for their own safety and opposing the use of helmets is an useless exercise.
What our government should do is to publish stories like these everywhere so it can create awareness about helmet use.