27 September, 2020

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The Full Face Helmet Fiasco – The Head & The Tail

By Chirantha R. Anthony Amerasinghe

Chirantha Amerasinghe

Chirantha 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.

Full face HelmatThe 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?

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  • 2
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    Chirantha R. Anthony Amerasinghe

    “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?”

    Thanks for your arguments. You are making a good safety argument for 15% of the population. Good. Please use accident statistics, the deaths and the loss of bread winners because of the lack of a good safety helmet.

    Use actual accident statistical data.

    Suppose, there were 1000 Robberies. 20 used Helmets. 982 used Ski Masks and 2 Used Burkas and Niquab.

    You want to use the Face Helmet so that you can live in this world in case of an accident. Why can’t you use a transparent face helment, say made of polycarbonate, that will meet both requirements.

    Those who want to wear the Burkas and Niquab want safety in this world coming across rapists and politicians, and get to heaven safely.

    Would you support the full face covering of the Niquab and the Burka?

    Why and why not?

    Para Sinhala Ravya ( Paradeshi Sinhala Ravya) want to ban the Niquab and Burqa based on the banning of the full Face Helmet.

    Is the Sun going around the Earth or the Earth around the Sun? 25% of the Americans 34% of the Europeans thin so. Never mind, Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton and Foucault were all Europeans.

    • 3
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      Mr. Amarasiri, if you cared to study the basics of helmet design, you would come to understand that a transparent full face helmet is not possible. You see, the chin guard is useless without a base padding. You see you clearly know nothing about helmets to start with.

      Your tone when you say “You want to use the Face Helmet so that you can live in this world in case of an accident” is totally not acceptable. Not a person that thinks like a human… or may be a human who is trying to keep his pride.. maybe… People hate to be wrong..

      Also Mr. Amarasiri, I would like to let you know that the 3 million statistic is highly undervalued as I am not going to be like the politicians than grasp larger values just for the sake of it.

      I do not accept any statistic from the Police department, as figures are easily altered to meet their agendas and weaknesses. Today there is no standard form filled to know the type of helmet a person whore during an accident (if the person didn’t die etc). As such nothing the Police have as statistics can really reflect the real situation on the Road.

      I would also like to bring to attention that under the constitution of this country, the Ministry of Transport and the Department of Motor Traffic represent the key bodies. Any statistic should under the record of those two government bodies. The Motor Traffic Commissioner who is not a police officer nor a army officer is to commence the human judgement on what should be done by reduce motor accidents and to ensure rider safety. A police officer cannot think like a human because they are the law, a army officer can never like a human because their life is about discipline.

      These are undeniable social facts. Which is why this current situation is blown off the table and is to a point where people will die on the road because of stupid decisions of irrelevant people. Whom don’t understand the mentality of people. Today, because of the idiotic decisions of the police, people are now wearing sub standard helmets, helmets that don’t even cover the head correctly! or the sides! The Full Face is never sub standard, even when made in China, the structural design ensures better protection than any half face helmet on the road today.

      You quoting the Burkas and Niquab is most unjust, I am a Sinhalese but I am not a raciest or a extremist. Everybody has the right to wear whatever they want, if one wants to make this another a Europe, that’s fine, just remember even in Europe, full face helmets are allowed. Also, I remember an idiot said about Engine capacity…. a 150cc bike can ride at 180KM/h… so can a 600cc. Today the maximum speed limit in city limits is 60KM/h… How many vehicles even travel blow 65KM/h? You see, the law always lacks analysis on human nature, that’s why behind enforcing them should be more human and social… sometimes facts are in society.

      • 2
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        Chirantha Amerasinghe

        “Mr. Amarasiri, if you cared to study the basics of helmet design, you would come to understand that a transparent full face helmet is not possible. You see, the chin guard is useless without a base padding. You see you clearly know nothing about helmets to start with.”

        Wrong!

        1. I have used a helmet with a transparent face cover, that was not covering the full face when the face cover was not on. I have fallen and hit the back of my head, and was safe. Had I fallen face first on a flat surface. still would have been safe. However, if it was a protruding non-flat surface or object, the face would have got hurt. What hurt was my body, hitting the hard ground.

        My helmet at that time had an add on plastic cover, not hard like polycarbonate, that was protection against rain and smaller projectiles hitting the face. It would have stopped a catapult shot, not certainly a bullet.

        Of course, the helmet was approved to be sold in a European Country, and approved by that country’s relevant authorities. There was no approval body in Sri Lanka.

        https://youtu.be/j93Z1EfQ0Pk

        2. “I do not accept any statistic from the Police department, as figures are easily altered to meet their agendas and weaknesses.” Agree.

        I was under the impression that there are statistics maintained of the accidents and the type of helmets worn, including the manufacturer. So, it is not there in Sri Lanka. So, you need to get the statistics from other countries. I know of two men who died getting into a minor accidents without wearing a helmet, and died and attended their funerals. What a waste of life. I know of many accidents and deaths.

        Anyway, my point was that you could have used that statistic, to make make your point, that even with the occasional bank robbery, more lives could be saved wearing a face helmet, given that 3,000,000 Sri Lankans use the motor cycle.

        In the USA, 50,000 people die each year in auto accidents. People still use the motor vehicle.It is about the Benefit/risk ratio. You need to make your point that saving two bank robberies by face covering helmets vs. saving 1,000 lives is a better deal for the society. Compare the number of motor cycle accident deaths to the terrorist bomb deaths.

        3. As far as the Niquab and Burka, there are simply too many rapes, and every women in Sri Lanka would wear a Niqab or Burka, or at least a chastity belt to be saved from a accidental encounter with a Sri Lankan rapist. How many foreign tourists were raped in Sri Lanka? Again a statistical, benefit/risk ration issue, even though some make it at a religious obligation issue.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chastity_belt

        A chastity belt is a locking item of clothing designed to prevent sexual intercourse or masturbation. Such belts were historically designed for women, ostensibly for the purpose of chastity, to protect women from rape or to dissuade women and their potential sexual partners from sexual temptation.[1][2][3] Modern versions of the chastity belt are predominantly, but not exclusively, used in the BDSM community, and chastity belts are now designed for male wearers in addition to female wearers.[4]

        This comment and Para-Sinhala Ravya comment was made because, the so called Sinhala Ravya, Para-Sinhala Ravya, in the Land of Native Veddah Aethho, used the Motorcycle Helmet issue, to make their objection to the Niqab and the Burka.

        “Ban The Niqab/Burka If Full-Face Helmets Are To Be Banned: Sinhala Ravaya”

        https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/ban-the-niqabburka-if-full-face-helmets-are-to-be-banned-sinhala-ravaya/

        • 0
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          Mr. Amarasiri,

          1. I do not believe you understand the concept of wearing a full face helmet. You are trying to tell me that two wheels are better than four. Falling face forward and hitting a car traveling at 40KM/h face forward are two very different things. Also to remember, that visors when not on full face helmets are not to be approved under the standards in certain countries.

          2. Given certain aspects, approval cannot be granted to the open face helmet to say it is safe. Its protection is easily diminished upon the non-tight wearing of the helmet. 99% of motorcycle riders that wear the open face helmet do not fasten their strap as required (At least in Sri Lanka). Full Face helmets by design do not rely on the strap completely.

          You have waved really off topic talking about Chastity belts, I am not a expert, but from I can gather, they are just symbolic items that enforce mental boundaries. To say a Chastity belt can really prevent anybody from getting raped is utter non-sense, all a person needs is a good plier or a hammer. Probably the same tool he would use to end life afterwards. I may be wrong because I didn’t write a article about full face helmets to be an expert on Chastity belts. :-/

          • 3
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            Mr. Chirantha Amerasinghe

            1. As a former bike rider, I admire your efforts to have the right to wear a full helmet. Yes, it is a safety issue, life and death issue, impacting 15% of the population.
            You need to present the case in a compelling way, with a benefit to risk analysis to the society. It has to be presented and presented in a very compelling way. That is why I wanted you to get accident statistical support data. Just Google it. Read summary below.

            http://www.iatss.or.jp/common/pdf/en/publication/iatss-research/30-1-12.pdf

            You need to say 3,000,000 people use bikes. The average ride is 5 miles/day, and that is 3,000,000×5 = 15 million miles/day. There is a major accident for every 1 million miles, or there are 15 bike accidents/ day ot 365×15 = 5,475 accidents per year. 20% of those accidents are fatal, and results in 110 deaths per year or two deaths per day.

            The number of Armed Bank robberies per year is less than 10 and hardly any deaths, apart from stolen money. If you are after stolen money, go after the politicians and customs officers.

            You already said that yourself.

            “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.”

            2. The comment on the Chastity belt was made to pint out the benefits and risks associated with a certain action. Will rapes stop because of Chastity belts? No. Will robberies stop because of locks and padlocks? No. The all are delaying and frustrating tactics, so ther the criminal will look for an easier target.

            That is in essence the idea of a Niqab and Burka, easier than the chastity belt, the first line of defense against rapists.

            Table 3 Number of fatalities by road user type (unit=people)
            Year Total Pedestrians Passengers Cyclists Riders Drivers Others
            number of (bicycle (motorcycle (such as roadside
            fatalities riders) riders) businessman)
            1989 1,596 648 417 224 226 77 4
            1990 1,795 686 417 265 324 96 7
            1991 1,532 542 529 195 181 85 0
            1992 1,515 528 485 231 187 84 0
            1993 1,421 603 304 222 208 65 19
            1994 1,611 586 438 217 220 147 3
            1995 1,681 636 366 246 244 177 12
            1996 1,755 753 354 153 272 192 31
            1997 1,835 662 347 251 244 319 12
            1998 2,023 814 367 238 232 294 78
            1999 2,059 713 358 307 172 288 221
            2000 2,058 827 470 306 237 213 5
            2001 2,118 791 431 338 294 261 3
            2002 2,160 750 380 317 451 188 74
            2003 2,096 747 397 311 281 171 71
            2004 2,214 748 381 298 385 194 208
            2005 2,304 747 428 326 406 178 221
            Source: Police Headquarters, Colombo, 2006

            Table 2 Number of reported accidents in Sri Lanka (unit=cases)
            Year Fatal Grievous Non-Grievous Damage Only Total
            Accidents (Accidents involving (Accidents involving (Property damage Accidents
            serious injuries) slight injuries) only involving no
            casualties)
            1989 1,454 1,287 2,233 21,222 26,196
            1990 1,714 1,703 9,462 21,584 34,463
            1991 1,255 1,899 9,685 21,305 34,144
            1992 1,302 2,112 10,386 23,977 37,777
            1993 1,346 2,299 1,687 26,163 31,495
            1994 1,414 2,554 11,992 27,855 43,815
            1995 1,481 2,588 12,233 31,837 48,139
            1996 1,560 2,615 11,510 32,990 48,675
            1997 1,705 3,310 10,037 34,481 48,533
            1998 1,874 2,393 14,417 35,275 50,959
            1999 1,913 3,144 16,258 34,129 55,444
            2000 1,992 3,006 11,765 16,724 54,250
            2001 1,952 3,413 11,560 16,109 52,092
            2002 2,029 3,719 12,935 36,348 55,031
            2003 1,933 3,919 13,744 39,848 59,444
            2004 2,116 4,560 13,918 32,864 53,458
            2005 2,141 4,968 14,376 21,686 43,171
            Source: Police Headquarters, Colombo, 2006
            Table

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              Mr. Chirantha Amerasinghe

              CORRECTION:

              “20% of those accidents are fatal, and results in 110 deaths per year or two deaths per day.”

              CORRECTED

              10% of those accidents are fatal, and results in 527 deaths per year or 10 deaths per WEEK.

              http://www.iatss.or.jp/common/pdf/en/publication/iatss-research/30-1-12.pdf

              ACTUALLY, the 2006 Numbers are 406 Bike Fatalities per year. So an estimated 15% increase for 2015, there must be around 550 Motor Bike fatalities per Year.

              If you save 50% by the better helmet, it is 275 lives/year.

              Ask the Judge do you want to kill 275 Motorcyclists per year?

    • 2
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      ‘Those who want to wear the Burkas and Niquab want safety in this world coming across rapists and politicians, and get to heaven safely.’

      These are not the reasons as you very well know. Burkas and Niquabs are cultural accoutrements and have nothing to do with Islam. They are not even mentioned in the Koran.

    • 0
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      I did not realize all these days that you are so clever.

  • 3
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    Motor cycle could be identified by its registration number. A person wihin vehicle could not be identified always.The risk lies only after person steps down wearing the helmet.Are laws there to protect people or big people? Preveledged class?? People with some power?? Are humans classified ???

  • 7
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    Our police are mad as they work in a system of extremes. When they cant solve a robbery they ban helmets, when they cant apprehend a murderer they ban tinted glasses on vehicles. I just hope the next time a robber doesn’t use a phone to hit someone because they will ban us from using our phones. if the Police begin to do their jobs and are not busy taking bribes then they will find time to solve their murders and robberies. The Sri Lanka Traffic Police is a damn shame for the country. They are like hawks on the road waiting to get some money from an errant motorist without enforcing the law.

    They need to get to the source of the problem and address it without inconveniencing people by banning all the accessories lawless people use to commit a crime.

    • 2
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      Gune

      “if the Police begin to do their jobs and are not busy taking bribes then they will find time to solve their murders and robberies. The Sri Lanka Traffic Police is a damn shame for the country.”

      They learned from their masters, the Politicians, especially the Rajapaksa Regime Politicians.

      Read the Newspapers. It is full of such corruption by the politicians and thoie crobies.

  • 1
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    During horrendous anti- democratic MaRa reign such a thing was possible. How on earth Yahapalanaya heroes allow this dastardly prctice to continue? Very shameful indeed.

    • 1
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      paul

      “How on earth Yahapalanaya heroes allow this dastardly prctice to continue? Very shameful indeed.”

      Are they turning into Wimps.

      That is why a JVP administration is needed, so that they can be out to work in the paddy fields and get get them ti do USEFUL and PRODUCTIVE Work.

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