When taking a motorcycle, don’t forget your head sock
In line with the saying “safety starts with yourself”, motorcyclists have taken the lead. It is rare to find a motorcyclist wearing his own helmet while not having one for the passenger.
This has significantly reduced on the motorcycle-related fatal accidents in the country. Yet not everybody is satisfied – what about skin rashes and helmets that fall off during an accident?
31-year old Josephine Kayirebwa is a shop attendant in Nyamirambo; she uses a motorcycle almost daily from her home in Nyakabanda to her place of work. She thinks helmets have done more good than harm, even though they might be harmful. “Maybe helmets can cause skin diseases, yet they are very important in case of an accident, as they protect you from fatal head injuries,” Josephine says.
She insists that helmets protect the head, which is the most sensitive part of the body. In an accident, she argues, you can injure or even lose your arms or legs, yet you stay alive; but when you fall on your head, there are few chances of surviving.
Asked whether she has ever contracted any skin disease from the use of the helmet, she replies that she hasn’t, and adds she has heard few people complaining about dirty helmets causing skin rashes.
Claude Bayisenge, a 26-year old motorcyclist who works on the Kimisagara road, testifies how he and the passenger had their lives saved by their helmets on 20 February 2005.
“I will never forget that day,” he says while reminiscing what took. While on the Kimiasgara-Nyabugogo road, they were hit by a taxi-bus and sustained serious injuries to their bodies, while their heads were only bruised.
Claude spent four months in hospital with a broken foot, while the passenger had injuries at his knees and hands. He is convinced that if they had not worn helmets, both he and the passenger would have lost their lives. “I am happy with a helmet and I can not ride without it,” Bayisenge says. He insists that his passengers wear the helmet; otherwise he refuses to take them.
Truth be told not only be lofty concerns for the safety of the passengers which drives motorcyclists to insist on the helmets. Let’s not forget that riding on a motorcycle without a helmet is a traffic offence that can be penalized with a Frw 10,000 fine. The same applies to failure to tighten the helmet.
John Bosco Hakizimana, however, is less enthusiastic, claiming to have been infected with a skin rash in the neck and the face caused by dirty helmets. He only discovered the source of his ailment when visiting a doctor.
“He told me that I might have got the skin irritation from the helmets, as he had encountered several cases such as mine,” he explains. He continues to use motorcycles, though. “They are flexible and reliable. But I carry a head sock with me always, so as to avoid any skin contact with the helmet.”
Frequent motorcycle users point out that the riders never take time to wash the helmets; as these are worn by many people, some of whom might have skin diseases, this can result in infections. Passengers also complain of the awful smell that they usually encounter while wearing them.
Dr. Vincent Habyarimana, a skin specialist at a private clinic in Muhima, confirms it is possible to contract diseases from helmets, but he insists this is rare. “It is possible, but I have encountered only a few cases. As a doctor, I could recommend that motorcycles clean their helmets thoroughly and avoid using old helmets.”
Some of the motorcycle users are extremely worried about the quality of the helmets themselves, claiming they are not strong enough to protect one’s head in case of an accident. Jane Kayitesi, a resident of Remera, says that she lost a close relative through a motorcycle accident. “He was wearing a helmet, yet still sustained a serious head injury that resulted in his death; that clearly tells me that the quality of helmets is not good enough to protect you,” she states.