By Chirantha R. Anthony Amerasinghe –
In recent times, the subject of the full face helmet has caught the attention of many. Currently many are unaware as to why there is such a fiasco over this issue, thus leading many to confusion and misinterpretation. So why is there a big deal about these full face helmets? Because a simple fact called “Protection of human life” is involved.
Since 2014, the Sri Lanka Police has been trying to ban full face helmets. Since 2014 I have written to the President of this country many a time and requested this issue be reconsidered given that that the full face helmet is an internationally recognized safety instrument.
The overlying reason for the ban, or known as the “bait for the public” was simple; bank robbers wearing full face helmets. However many including myself, pointed out that there is more than one way for a robber to cover their faces and that the full face helmet is an irreplaceable safety instrument for a rider while it is a easily replaceable tool for a criminal.
I also managed to gather video evidence that many robbers committed crimes wearing open face helmets. However, later on I was informed that there is an underlying reason for the banning of the full face helmet. A responsible authority explained to me that the reasons the full face helmet is going to be banned. I have to say, I was surprised as to how baseless those arguments were. As a person who uses a full face, from what he was saying, it was clear that the person making the baseless arguments had not even used a full face helmet or ridden a motorcycle.
The responsible authority argued that the full face helmet limited the vision of the rider arguing that the rider cannot see the gear paddle to change it (this is the equivalent of saying one must be able to see the break paddle to push it in a car, funny eh?). He further went on to argue that it also limits hearing. One must know that a full face helmet, even a cheap Chinese one is made using a standard design, thus does not limit the vision whatsoever. Hearing is limited on both full face and open face helmets given that the internal padding of the helmet is new, however it is to be noted that by specification, a real helmet MUST cover the ear area with padding to prevent injury during an accident. Most helmets today, even the highest quality local ones, have padding that disintegrate in less than six months. The helmet is soon after seen freely wobbling on a person’s head and can easily dislodge during an accident.
Apparently in 1991 during the war time, a law had been passed saying that motorcyclists are not allowed to cover their faces. Indeed this was the season of terrorism. However this 24 year old law was never really used. One must remember that in 1991 news stations requested that it is better people not wear helmets at all! In the North East until recent times, people were not allowed to wear helmets. However it is also to be noted that in 1991 there weren’t so many motorcycles nor were there so many accidents. Given the number of accidents increasing daily, the said law is clearly invalid. The law argues that facial identification is a must on the road, a helmet visor and sun glare renders the face easily unrecognizable. The internationally accepted method of identification of a vehicle is clearly not the face of the driver, but the vehicle number plate.
The open face helmet provides no protection at all. Recent studies with regard to Motorcycle helmet safety has found that an open face helmet is a disaster waiting to happen. Mainly because an open face helmet needs to fit the person exactly to the centimeter, such sizes are not available in Sri Lanka. Then the helmet strap needs to be fitted exactly or the helmet risks breaking off during an accident. During an impact the open face helmet tends to put the entire force of the impact on the strap, causing the strap to fail or cause damage to facial bones due to the energy delivered to the jaw area via the strap. Worst of all, the plastic visor that is found on almost all open face helmets today in Sri Lanka will tend to break in the middle and dig into the wearers face during an impact causing lifelong medical complications. This is why open face helmets are normally prohibited from having visors in many parts of the world while full face helmets are allowed to have visors because the visors are supported on all four sides during an impact. By the nature of a motorcycle accident and the seating position of the rider, it is a known fact that a rider is thrown face forward into an object; studies have concluded that wearing an open face helmet is the equivalent of not wearing a helmet at all.
The youth and people are now on the road protesting against this matter and while this may seem disturbing to many, it should not be. All over the world, there had been protests against the decision to make wearing helmets mandatory. But in Sri Lanka, our youth and people are on the road asking the law to allow the use of better helmets. I do not know about the perspectives of others, but I am proud to hold hands with these youth who are no doubt an example to everyone in this country!
They are not asking for reduction of road rules, they are not asking to ride without helmets, they are not asking permission to speed, they are simply asking for their safety, and fighting for the safety of human life on the road. Because they like all of us realize that the road is unpredictable and unforgiving. They argue that the full face helmet is the only thing they have for safety while many millionaires who have cars have ABS, seat belts, and airbags.
Under the constitution of this country, everyone has the right to protect themselves. A responsible authority told me that they believe that without the full face helmet, motorcycle riders will learn to be careful on the road, thus there would be less accidents. When I heard it, I asked, what type of gamble talk is that? Today many don’t even wear a full face helmet when they speed. Many youth don’t even want to wear a helmet when they ride. The people who request the full face helmet are in short youth and people who care about their lives as most of the time it is not the fault of the Motorcyclist that he/she ends up in the hospital. Yes, we must be careful, but the fact is, accidents do happen, no matter how careful we are. Because the simple fact is, we are all human’s that make mistakes. Prevention is better than cure.
In Europe, where face covering is banned by law, the Full Face helmets are allowed. Because the law has recognized that safety of human life comes above all. We must remember, they have implemented the said law to combat terrorism. Yet they allow the use of full face helmets. However they have banned the wearing of full face helmets outside a Motorcycle. Indeed, nobody needs to walk around wearing a full face helmet in broad daylight do they! The EU implementation of the law also ensures that criminals that come in vehicles wearing full face helmets cannot get far.
According to the basics of law, a law cannot reduce or restrict safety given to human life attempting to protect property. Life and protection of human life is to be held above all in the eyes of the law. This whole fiasco has done nothing more than gamble with the lives of people.
I have written to the Catholic Bishops Conference of Sri Lanka (CBCSL) and requested that they make a statement in this regard because this is a very serious issue threatening of safety human life, I appeal to them even in this article that they consider the request.
Currently the Appeal Court has suspended the Gazette Notification temporarily. Given that it is temporary and given the clear facts of the gamble on human life this law possess, it is my request that all those who have the ability to do something either via statements or other methods come into action before it is too late.
Of 20 million Sri Lankans nearly 3 million own motorcycles. If we as Sri Lankans cannot give regard for human life and the future of the country, who should?