Chennai: On April 19, a person riding pillion on an Ola bike taxi died after the two-wheeler rammed a tanker lorry from behind on Outer Ring Road near Mangadu.
According to the police, P Prakash, a carpenter from Tambaram, hired a bike taxi to reach Avadi. While the driver, Santhoshkumar who wore a helmet, was able to escape with minor injuries, Prakash died on the spot after suffering severe head injuries. He was not wearing a helmet, the police said.
As per Ola’s bike taxi terms and conditions, the passenger should wear a helmet provided by the rider during the ride. Section 129 of the Motor Vehicles Act mandates both riders wear helmets, but it’s rarely followed. The accident has raised questions about the safety of pillion riders on bike taxi services in the city.
In Chennai, there are several players offering bike taxi services including Ola, Uber and Rapido. And while all of them are supposed to provide a helmet for the rider, driver-partners rarely carry an additional helmet for the pillion rider.
K Saravanan, who has been regularly using the bike services, said he was offered a helmet by the rider only 2-3 times in the last six months. “How many wear helmets? The traffic police should launch a strict enforcement drive to ensure two-wheeler riders including pillion riders wear a helmet. It will help improve road safety and reduce accident fatalities,” he said.
The bike riders say that most passengers decline to use the helmet even if it was offered to them. “Post-COVID, everyone is afraid of using the helmet worn by others. After which I had stopped carrying the second helmet,” said a two-wheeler driver with Uber Moto.
A senior Transport Department official said that they are planning to move the Madras High Court seeking to vacate its stay on the single judge order banning bike taxis in the state until the state government comes out with a regulation.
“We recently conducted a massive raid in Chennai, Madurai and Coimbatore on bike taxis. But Ola submitted the HC stay order to allow operations. So, we are planning to move the court seeking to vacate the stay,” the official said. “We’ll also issue notice to the companies to submit details on insurance coverage offered to the passengers.”