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J Surg Res. 2013 Sep;184(1):404-10. doi: 10.1016/j.jss.2013.05.103. Epub 2013 Jun 22.

Survey of helmet influences of female pillions in New Delhi.

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  • 1Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois 60611, USA.



In India, female motorized two-wheeler users involved in road traffic accidents account for 70,000 injuries and fatalities annually. Despite federal helmet laws, New Delhi exempted female pillion riders (backseat passengers) from mandatory helmet usage in response to religious and cultural opposition. This study attempts to elucidate factors influencing female pillion riders' helmet usage, hypothesizing religious-based opposition and poor understanding of helmet efficacy.


A cross-section of female pillion riders in five areas of New Delhi were approached by trained surveyors. Surveys were self-completed (n = 52) or completed with assistance (n = 243). Demographics, helmet use habits, opinions, and media influence data were collected. Data were analyzed using χ(2), Fisher exact test, and multivariable logistic regression.


Of 305 women surveyed, 69.8% were Hindus (n = 213), 10.8% Muslims (n = 33), and 10.4% Sikhs (n = 32). More Muslim (33.3%, P = 0.001) and Sikh (25%, P = 0.04) women opposed mandatory helmet use compared with Hindu women (10.6%). There were 66 women who self-reported helmet use, with one woman (Sikh) who abstained from helmets for religious practices (0.9%). The most common reason for helmet disuse was discomfort (n = 40, 36.7%). Most respondents reported media positively influenced helmet use (57.7%).


Despite arguments of infringement on religious rights, women pillions ride without helmets for comfort and appearance purposes primarily. Furthermore, though significantly fewer Sikh and Muslim women support mandatory helmet laws, supporters remain a clear majority in both groups. Most women report media outlets as influential on helmet use, principally television, suggesting that mass media campaigns may improve helmet compliance.

Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Helmet use; Motorized-two-wheeler; Pillion riders

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