State transport minister K.N. Nehru on Monday told the Assembly that a decision on making helmets compulsory for the motorists would be taken after discussing the issue with chief minister M. Karunanidhi. When MDMK floor leader M. Kannappan asked for the government’s stand on the issue, Mr Nehru turned the table on him by saying it was Mr Kannappan who had abolished the compulsory wearing of helmet during his tenure as the transport minister. Mr Kannappan was a minister in Mr Karunanidhi’s cabinet between 1989 and 1991 before joining Mr Vaiko’s MDMK. Mr Nehru said while the police was taking action against those who “speak on mobile phones while driving” the people also must respect the law and avoid using cell-phones while driving.

Replying to Congress member C. Gnanasekarn, the minister said it was not possible for the state government to restrict registration of vehicles in view of the proliferation of cars and two wheelers on the roads. According to Mr Gnanasekaran, the increase in the motor vehicles had led to a rise in road accidents and suggested restriction on registration of vehicles. The minister, however, said the government could not decide who should own a car and who should not.

He also said in order to decongest vehicular traffic four lane roads were being converted into six lanes and the quality of the roads was being improved. Explaining various measures taken by the state government to reduce road accidents, Mr Nehru said eye-testing camps were being conducted every year for the benefit of drivers of the state transport corporation. However, the minister’s claim that road accidents had come down and the lives of 7,549 road accident victims were saved due to prompt medical treatment was disputed by deputy leader of AIADMK’s legislative party O. Panneerselvam.  Mr Panneerselvam said in three districts more than 80 people had been killed in the last three months. Mr Nehru reiterated his stand and said there was 0.6 per cent reduction in  road accidents.