Why motocyclists shun crash helmets

It’s three years since Aanuoluwapo Oshunkeye was discharged from hospital, where doctors fought tooth and nail to save her life, after a road mishap that was only inches away from turning fatal.

Pretty-faced Oshunkeye just returned from a beauty parlour, where her beautician practically transformed her after a series of makeovers.

The 28-year-old graduate was preparing for her former course mate’s wedding, which was only 24 hours away.

Upon alighting from a commercial bus at Ojuelegba, she promptly flagged down a commercial motorcyclist for the last leg of the trip back to her residence, off Western Avenue, in Surulere Local Council.

Barely three minutes after the trip commenced, they had an accident where she suffered a lacerated occiput, and subsequently hospitalised.

Before departing the hospital after all checks were done, she was severely warned to avoid any further head injury. Oshunkeye learnt the lesson of a lifetime and vowed to go about town with a helmet of her own.

“I am going to do this as long as necessary, maybe until I get a job, buy my car or marry someone who has a car. What I suffered was a near death experience, and the doctors are still shocked that I did not suffer a cracked cranium,” she said.

Despite efforts by the Federal Government to enforce the use of crash helmets by commercial motorcyclists and their passengers, the campaign has largely been a failure across the country.

Unfortunately, despite the huge figures routinely released by the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and sundry bodies as the number of deaths arising from motorcycle accidents, transport regulators still find it difficult to sustain the life-saving campaign.

Mr. James, an Okada rider, who operates around the Yaba area of Lagos said, “The reason why we are not using the helmet is because passengers keep on complaining about contacting diseases from wearing them. Some of them are even afraid of putting the helmet on, saying they may disappear. And since the complaints are serious, we have to back down because we don’t want to lose our passengers. The way things are, if you insist on having your way with the helmet, the passenger simply moves to the next cyclist. If passengers are already seated and you insist that they put on a helmet, they read a different meaning to it altogether. This is why the idea of wearing crash helmet is not working.”

Bukky Ajayi, a radiographer is another passenger that fears commercial motorcyclists could dabble into diabolical things in order to trap their passengers, through the use of helmets that have been spiritually compromised.

“It’s possible that the fears are true in a country like ours where everyone is looking for quick money. People could start using the helmets to hypnotise people for ritual purposes. For us women, the fear of lies infestation is another solid reason why we reject the use of helmets.” she said.

“Having said that, let me add that the government can enforce the use of helmet if it is serious about doing that because it may boil down to everyone having to procure theirs,” she concluded.

Even though Chigozirim Ajokwu, a student agrees with Ajayi that helmets “could be spiritually polluted to harm the user,” she is of the view that the government should not soft pedal in its enforcement, as that would translate to shirking its responsibility.

“Government should strictly enforce the use of crash helmets in view of its benefits to the populace. Cyclists that refuse to offer their passengers the protective gear should be prosecuted. Passengers that refuse to wear the headgears after they have been offered should also be prosecuted. Anyone, who is averse to wearing helmet offered by a commercial rider, should buy one for his/her personal use, but government should take the enforcement serious. The government should be bothered about losing lives as a result of carelessness or superstition.”

On whether there is any logical explanation why people would prefer to risk their lives by riding on motorcycles without wearing crash helmets in spite of its lifesaving potentials, a senior lecturer in the Department of Philosophy, University of Lagos, Dr. Anthony Okeregbe said a number of reasons account for this ugly trend.

“For instance, some persons claim that the helmets offered them are dirty and the handling also suspicious. Since the helmet is enclosed, it generates heat and sweat when worn, and the heat so generated makes germ to thrive as heat somehow increases the germination of microorganisms. Because of this, some people are afraid of the infection that can come through the use of helmets

“In spite of the risk of death, some educated people even claim that their ears are blocked when they put on helmets. But the dominant reason is that the helmets are dirty or not well handled as all kinds of people wear them. So, most people are afraid of these skin diseases and infections that may arise from having helmets on.

Okeregbe continued: “Beyond that, I don’t see any reason why people should not put on helmet because it’s a life saver, especially when you consider the fact that many commercial motorcyclists don’t understand safety regulations, operate in unsafe manner and move at top speed because they want to make brisk business.

Regulators appear tired of enforcing the safety measure and may have decided to let Nigerians be, hence the relaxed campaign/enforcement for the use of helmets, but Okeregbe thinks that it should not be the case.

“The government needs to allay peoples’ fears, make the helmet available and at affordable rate, give some kind of discount to cyclists that are purchasing it. Those that have acquired helmets should take good care of them, by cleaning them and generally making them fit for use. But it should never relent in enforcing the use of helmet by motorcyclists.”

Commenting on the fear of being hypnotised through wearing of strange helmets, Professor Chiedozie Okoro, of the Department of Philosophy, University of Lagos said, “in reality what is real or what is not real is determined by human mind and human conception, and such conceptions as being harmed through the wearing of helmets are very strong in our society to the point that there is no way you could dissuade people from such belief.

He said: “In some parts of the world voodoo has gone scientific, so it’s science and such fears are not that strong any more. But the truth is that no society overcomes crime as crime will continue to operate in between the system,” he said.

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