Experts say unfit or unbuckled helmet can potentially cause more injuries to the victim in accidents.
Speaking to DT Next, Dr G Deepak Arjundas, a city-based neurologist and one of the trustees of the Madras Neuro Trust, said that if one wears a standard, well-fitting helmet and buckle it properly, it will prevent the accident’s impact on the underlying brain, orbit and facial bones. “The helmet will also give protection for the upper cervical spine. In case of a fall or an accident, the helmet will take the direct impact, thereby reducing the impact on the brain. Falling without a helmet will lead to a fracture in the temporal bone and parietal bone. But if there is a helmet, it will take a crack and save the brain,” he said.
Brain injuries due to accidents could be classified into coup and contrecoup injuries. The point of contact of the injury to the skull is called coup but because of the jerk, the tangentially opposite side of the brain is also affected, which is called countrecoup.
“With the helmet on, the coup intensity of the victim would be less and the countrecoup could be mostly averted. Due to the sudden impact in case of accidents, there are possibilities of shearing of blood vessels. It will lead to haemorrhage contusion to the brain. With the helmet on, the contusion could be reduced in severity. So, if someone falls from a speeding bike without a helmet, the severity of injuries will be much higher,” he said.
The neurologist also suggested the motorists to wear helmets with a visor to prevent facial injuries, deformities and injuries to the eyes. “Even if there is an injury, the impact will be much lesser. But helmets should be ISI certified and should be of the right fit. In case of an unfit or unbuckled helmet, it will cause more injuries,” he said.
Arjundas said people who are used to wearing helmets cannot ride two-wheelers without helmets as they would feel frightened. “Now there are helmets with in-built earphones, deflectors and rear-view mirrors to ensure safety,” he said, and encouraged motorists to spend extra money for their safety.
Helmet sales up by 30%: shop owners
As helmet for pillion riders is being enforced strictly by the traffic police, shops have seen a spike in sales up to 30 per cent. While the sale of helmets for children have also gone up, shop owners say women still prefer open-face or half helmets to full-face helmets though the latter is the safest.
“Safety-conscious women go for fully-covered helmet, but they are very few. Many women complain that they feel suffocated inside the fully-covered helmets. We can only advise them on the safety measures,” said LM Faleel of Rainbow Helmets on Anna Salai. For children, there are helmets available in three sizes, which could be worn by children aged 3 to 16.
While shop owners said all ISI-certified helmets are good enough to be worn, they added that there are certain things buyers should keep in mind. “One should buy the right-sized helmet. In a fully-covered helmet, there should be one-inch gap between the chin and the helmet.
Similarly, the padding in the helmet should stick to your chin. Also, one should pull the strap to expand the opening and insert the helmet from the back of your head for easy wearing and do the same to take it off as well,” said Faleel.
He added that it is not true that wearing a helmet causes hair fall as there is no scientific study to prove it. “If women worry about their hair getting untidy, they can wear the helmet over a scarf,” he suggested.
While ISI certified helmets are available from as low as Rs 395, imported helmets cost up to Rs 26,000. “The shell and the foam used for expensive helmets would be of premium quality, the padding for the cheeks would be of double the thickness. They also weigh heavy up to 1.5 kg,” said Faleel.
‘Wearing helmet blocks rear view’
While experts have their point to accentuate the importance of wearing a helmet, those who think it is unnecessary have their reasons. K Sathish Kumar, a private firm employee, said, “My head is slightly bigger and it does not fit into normal helmets. If I buy oversized helmets, it blocks my view to check vehicles coming on either side. Another reason why I don’t wear a helmet is sweating. Also, senior citizens who ride two-wheelers wearing helmets cannot hear the sound of horn and it risks their lives.”
Does the colour matter?
According to a study done in New Zealand, higher proportions of drivers who had been involved in crashes reported wearing black helmets, while fewer reported white helmets. Compared to wearing a black helmet, use of a white helmet was associated with a 24% lower risk of crash. Similarly, having a light-coloured helmet – compared to a dark-coloured one – was associated with a 19% lower risk of a crash. The researchers concluded that some 18% of crashes could be avoided if non-white helmets were eliminated; similarly, 11% could be avoided if all helmets were not “dark.” It suggests that policies encouraging white and lighter-coloured helmets can help prevent motorcycle crashes