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Sri Lanka ban on ‘full face’ helmets endangers riders, unlawful, unscientific: petitioner

COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – A motorcyclist who got an interim order suspending a proposed police ban on ‘full face helmets’ has told court the move would endanger all riders, was illegal and was without any scientific basis that it would reduce crime.

The petition said according to a research study published in 2001, motor cycle accident victims suffered "most trauma to the chin and lower neck area," which was protected by full face helmets.

There was a Sri Lanka Standard (No 517) on helmets which was also based on British and Japanese standards.

The standard allowed helmets giving protection to the head area only or those that provided protection to the head and chin area known as ‘full face helmets.’

According to regulations issued in 1991 under Sri Lank’s Motor Traffic Act, helmets had to allow easy identification of the rider and would not "obscure, conceal or distort any portion of the face between the eye-brow and the chin."

The petitioner said there appeared to have been no new regulations issued.

The petitioner said about 100,000 motorcycles are registered every year and in 2012 there were 16,000 accidents related to two-wheelers.

According to police data, 4,000 robberies had been committed in 2013. According to media reports quoting the police spokesman some 128 robberies had been carried out by wearers of full face helmets in 2014.

The Petitioner pleaded that there was no empirical or anecdotal evidence to support the notion that robberies would be halted by banning full face helmets.

But he pleaded that to deprive riders and pillion riders of a full face helmet "demonstrably outweighs the harm that is posed by a negligible number of criminals making use of such helmets."

The petition said the ban on full face helmets would not help mitigate the number of crimes and it  lacked proper scientific or empirical basis, did not directly or indirectly help police achieve public safety, public order or mitigate the number of crimes committed  but to the contrary, significantly, and negatively, impacts the safety of all commuters who used to wear full face helmets while riding motorcycles.

The petition also said that the ban on full face helmets was arbitrary, capricious and disproportionate on the face of it and beyond the powers of the police and was unlawful.

It said the objectives of the police could be met by simply ensuring that full face helmets sold in Sri Lanka fully complied with the Motor Traffic (Approved Protective Helmets) Regulations 1990.

Sri Lanka’s Court of Appeal has suspended the order, which was to have come into effect from April 02, until April 27.