So, a woman constable in Chennai was triple driving a two-wheeler without a helmet and was fined Rs. 200/-. The justification for the paltry penalty was that the offence was in June of this year when the current, more stringent rules and penalties were not in force. But, shouldn't there be a premium for traffic infractions by police? Should they not be leading the citizens by their actions? Oh, you say, that is all such idealistic crap. OK, I won’t dispute that (does not mean that position is indisputable!). But, I'll let this slide, for the moment.
I live in Srirangam, a satellite town of Tiruchirappalli and let me give you a run down on what I have witnessed for the past more than a week, starting a few days after the current helmet law came into force. I walk about 600 meters to catch the college bus in the morning and get dropped off a little closer to home, about 400 meters, in the evening. In this 1,000 m total of walking along one of the main roads in the town, lasting no more than 11 minutes in total, I have counted helmet-less driving of motorized two-wheelers 27, 34, 15, 28, 52, 45, 37 times ... I stopped counting because it taxed my mental arithmetic capability.
With this small set of data points no computer can discern a pattern. But, I did, with some help from tennis.
In tennis, there was a time players took hardly anytime between points. But, there were some gamesmanship, by some players (mainly the “ugly American”, aka Jimbo, Jimmy Connors, the ultimate gamesmanship artist; and Ilie Nastase too) who deliberately took forever to start play after a point. It is to stop this practice a time limit between points was imposed. Now, what do you think happened? The games got longer. Now it is 25 seconds, not a second less, before the server tosses the ball in the air for her serve. Indeed, now the chair referee hardly imposes the 25 second rule unless it is egregiously violated.
So, what really happened was even those players who may have wanted to get on with the game waited for 25 seconds. The number of times bounced the balls increased to fill the time allotted. Just watch Djokovic’s pre-serve ritual and you would understand what I mean. One version of Murphy’s Law I have heard is that a task will expand itself to fill the time allotted to it! This is a fit case to be given as a rule. Steffi Graf proves the rule by being its exception!
Something similar may be happening with the helmet rule. Without the rule, those who wanted to be safe and be on the safe side of law were wearing it. Now, with the rule and with so many people violating it, even those who were safety conscious must feel like sissies and must have discarded their helmets. That is, the law, by not being studiously enforced, has had precisely the opposite effect on the behavior of motorists from what was intended. Now, the parallel between the helmet rule and the 25 second rule in tennis stands established.
Again, going back to the woman constable, why wouldn't a non-police citizen demand that he be given concession on the quantum of fine? Something to think about. Now, that is a slippery slope with no exit ramps. Where would you put the exit ramp?
Giving exemplary punishment to a few who are merely unlucky to get caught is a non-starter.
Yes, I am going to sound truly heartless – scrap the rule. Advertise widely that citizens are at their own risk if while riding (or pillion riding) a two-wheeler without a helmet get into an accident no matter who caused the accident. Their treatment (including the cost) will not be underwritten by civil society. Insurance policies are notorious for their nano-scale conditionalities. Add a few in respect of helmet-less driving.
No helmet, no protection.