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Why do you need to wear a helmet? We present a detailed discourse on helmet laws and fines for not wearing a helmet in India to acquaint you with the various legal measures striving to promote such forms of road safety.
A recent study shows that 6 motorcycle riders face accidents every hour. As of 2019, over 37% of road accidents involved two-wheelers (1). Among the alarming rate of casualties, most are a result of head injuries, which reflects the remarkable neglect of helmet usage among two-wheeler riders.
While several factors are responsible for individuals driving without helmets, 16% revealed to be under the impression that helmets are not mandated by law, which is completely untrue (2).
While your love for comfort may win over the need for safety precautions, it can never be a preference over law mandates. The need for more stringent implementation of traffic laws was observed due to an increasing number of road accidents every year.
While 2017 saw 35,975 deaths due to non-use of helmets, the number further rose to 43,614 in 2018 (3). Probably, this appalling number of casualties, which riders could prevent only with the use of headgear, prompted the government to improvise on already existing helmet laws in India.
To discourage riders from riding without a helmet, the initial Motor Vehicles Act of 1988 introduced Rs.1000 as a fine for not wearing a helmet . Additionally, the following table illustrates common traffic fines -
Penalty for failure to adhere to the rule
Failure to carry driving license
Rs.1000 for LMV and Rs.2000 Medium Passenger Vehicle
Driving without motor insurance
Although quite a number of motorcycle drivers manage to follow the helmet mandates, significant confusion is observed regarding helmet usage by backseat passengers. This was reaffirmed by a study conducted before the emergence of the Motor Vehicle Act. According to this study, only 0.6% of motorcycle pillion riders wore helmets (4).
If you are one of those individuals having a dilemma if pillion riders should wear helmets, think again. Remember that backseat passengers are equally susceptible to injury in case of an accident. Thus, a helmet is just as useful for them!
It is compulsory for both riders and pillion riders to wear headgears while travelling. Failure to do so will result in a significant fine for not wearing a helmet, as specified for drivers.
The Motor Vehicles Act of 1988 was established to maintain the legal safety of the motorbike community. Over the years, it has undergone several amendments to make more inclusions and reinforce compliance.
The latest Motor Vehicles Amendment Act 2019 included 63 new clauses, which stated increased penalties against an array of traffic offenses. One of these concerns was driving without a helmet.
Section 129 of this principal Act mandates every individual aged above 4 years to “wear protective headgear” when riding a motorcycle in a public area. As already mentioned, these helmet laws for motorcycles include both the driver and pillion rider.
These laws also mandate specific standards for the headgear or helmet to be used. These are:
Non-compliance with the laws mentioned above can subject motorcycle riders to a fine for not wearing a helmet worth Rs.1000 under Section 194D of this Act (5). Besides, this traffic offense can also cause you to get your driving license suspended for 3 months.
However, you can avoid the mandate of wearing a helmet if you belong to the Sikh community and you are wearing a turban while driving or riding a motorcycle on the road.
To help motorcycle riders adhere to these regulations and avoid a hefty penalty, several state’s RTO rules for helmets are derived from Section 138 (4) (f) of Central Motor Vehicles Rules (CMVR).
This rule mandates all two-wheeler manufacturers to supply buyers with at least 2 BIS compliant headgears, for driver and pillion rider, at the time of vehicle purchase. You might face difficulties in registering your two-wheeler if your dealer fails to submit proof for the same to the RTO.
However, just possessing 2 helmets is not all you can do to prevent yourself from incurring penalties. The actual material and build quality of these protective gears are important factors to consider too.
After reading about these new regulations, you might be one of those people stuck with the question, “Is half helmet allowed in India?”
The answer is no.
Half helmets, as the name suggests, cover only half of your head and do not serve the purpose of protecting your head in case of an accident. The usage of half helmets is prevalent in most parts of the country, mostly due to the belief that they serve both the purposes of offering comfort and conform to traffic laws. However, that is not going to be the case anymore.
As previously mentioned, Section 129(a) directs certain specifications regarding the manufacture of a full-face helmet. The government of India issued a notification mandating all helmet manufacturers to comply with the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). These regulations specify certain important headgear characteristics like:
If you get caught using illegal motorcycle helmets and fail to meet any or all of the above specifications, it will result in immediate seizure and subsequent destruction of the headgear by authorities. Besides the users, sellers of such headgears will also face legal action.
Given the remarkable number of commuters protesting against the fine for not wearing a helmet, several states have come up with temporary provisions in place of the stringent rules specified under the modified Motor Vehicle Act. Here is a table of states with respective mandates regarding motorcyclists wearing helmets.
Course of action in case of non-compliance
Bihar, Haryana, Tripura, Assam
Motorcycle riders will face all penalties as specified in the new Motor Vehicle Act.
State government has modified amended laws to reduce the penalty for not wearing a helmet to Rs.500 from Rs.1000.
Riding a two-wheeler without a helmet can cost you a fine of up to Rs.600.
This state has also revised the new regulations to impose a lesser amount of fine in case of violation.
Although previously implemented the latest norms, this state had to withdraw them due to disagreement of residents and Trade Unions.
Fines of Rs.1000 and suspension of driving license for up to 3 months.
While the state government looks up to Gujarat regarding implementation, no concluding decision will be taken until further consultation with the Central government.
The state has withheld implementation for 3 months, owing to severe disputes between drivers and traffic controllers.
West Bengal, Chattisgarh, Telangana, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh
Governments of these states have decided completely against the modified laws. Therefore, two-wheeler users might follow the old specifications and respective fines.
You should not disregard or ignore the new regulations, depending on these motorcycle helmet laws by state since this irresponsible behaviour will only cost your safety in the end. Till the time it takes for all states to reinforce the habit of wearing helmets, make sure to inculcate this discipline in yourself and your family members.
Most importantly, do not take the importance of helmets for kids lightly. Most parents prefer seating their children in front of them when driving. Also, avoid having more than 2 riders on board under any circumstances, regardless of their age. At the end of the day, all these legal obligations are only a way to help you travel safely.