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Should Sikhs be exempt from helmets?

Sikh Motorcycle Club rides for charity sikhs turban
Aussie Sikhs

Turban-wearing Sikhs should be exempt from wearing a helmet while riding motorcycles on streets posted up to 60km/h, say a group of NSW Sikhs.

The Central Coast of NSW Sikhs are campaigning to Coffs Coast Council for the right to not wear helmets.

They are not fighting the ruling on humanitarian or religious grounds, but the inconvenience of having to remove their turban to put a motorcycle helmet on and then re-wrap the turban after riding.

The group approached Coffs Harbour councillor John Arkan, the state’s first Sikh representative, but he is not in support.

Sikhs support plea

The Sikh Motorcycle Club of Australia say it is a discriminatory law and agree that Sikhs should be exempted from wearing helmet at low speeds.

However, clubs members have found a way around the rules.

Founding member Daljeet Singh told us last year that while initiated male and female Sikhs must cover their hair with a turban, Sikh Motorcycle Club members wear a bandana-style scarf underneath their helmets.

“We were actually fined riding out of a temple celebration with turbans on instead of our helmets,” he told us.

“But that’s not the reason why we started wearing helmets. It’s how we feel. We respect wearing the turban, but because the law doesn’t allow it we wear a little scarf underneath the helmet.”

Sikh Motorcycle Club rides for charity sikhs
Sikh Motorcycle Club

He points out that Sikhs are exempt from wearing a turban while riding a motorcycle in India, the UK and parts of Canada for religious human rights reasons.

Exemptions knocked back

However, the plea for a helmet exemption is likely to be knocked back.

Firstly, the local council can’t do anything about it. The matter would have to be decided by Centre for Road Safety .

A Transport NSW spokesperson says the Centre for Road Safety has not received any submissions seeking an exemption from the requirement to wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle.

They point out motorcycle riders are some of the most vulnerable road users and that there have been 43 motorcycle fatalities so far this year.

“Protection is important. By choosing safer helmets and riding gear, motorcyclists can ensure they have the best protection,” the spokesperson says.

“A helmet could be the difference between life and death in a crash.”

Australian Motorcycle Council chairman Shaun Lennard is also on record as saying he would not support such an exemption on safety grounds.

Turban sikhs motorcycle helmets

Previous efforts by individual Sikhs to gain an exemption have met mixed results.

In 2013, a Queensland court ruled that a turban-wearing Sikh didn’t need to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle, but that ruling has not yet been tested for the use of riding motorcycles.

When Hobart rider Harpreed Singh was rejected for an exemption in 2013, Tasmanian anti-discrimination commissioner Robin Banks said it would be better to exempt the entire Sikh religion rather than individual Sikhs having to apply for an exemption and then prove they have one if they are stopped by the police.

Do you think Sikhs should be exempt from wearing a helmet at low speeds? Leave your comments below.

  1. I think everyone should be exempt. I have a fundamental dislike of being told what to do for my own well-being by others. But if there is a law that makes riders wear a crash helmet it must apply to everyone. NO EXCEPTIONS. Same when some idiot at a servo here in south-western Sydney tells me to remove my helmet while serving people in full black burkhas without comment. Either make them remove their headgear or don’t hassle me to remove mine! Once we go down the road of different rules for different social/religious groups our social cohesion is finished.

    1. What do you mean, “once we go down the road………” Sorry Jeff, where have you been the last 20 years or so?

    2. “Once we go down the road of different rules for different social/religious groups our social cohesion is finished.”
      Err Jeff, we’ve been on that road for a long time now!

  2. You can trip and crack your skull fatally just walking down the street, something Sikhs are actually safer from than the rest of us thanks to the turbans they wear.
    Sikhs who plan to ride could wear a special riding turban with some impact protection incorporated in the wrapping. Someone invented a skiing cap with a non Newtonian fluid in pouches sewn into the cap so a turban with similar attributes would offer impact protection of equal levels to a helmet.
    But a helmet also is ment to slide and not twist the neck a turban would fail that test and chin straps are required I don’t know if Sikh turbans are allowed to have chin straps.
    Those are the practical arguments.
    The religious argument says no they should not be allowed to wear turbans
    This country is supposed to have freedom of religion which means no religion can dictate its edicts to any other.
    So either no one has to wear a helmet or we all do full stop!
    If they have a parade and seek an exemption for the parade that might be okay provided there is a good reason for riding motorcycles in a religious parade.

  3. If exemptions were granted to Sikhs, I’m sure there will be a groundswell of western converts to Sikhism.

  4. The governments of Australia all regulated the wearing of helmets in the same manner they did for seat belts – safety and survival. Those who can remember the number of rider who died of head injuries or who were permanently disabled because of head trauma. It was never about religion. There should not be exemptions for anyone – rather try developing helmets that provide the required safety whilst also meeting the needs of special needs, surely that is a better compromise.

  5. I just wish the government would be consistent, if helmets are there for our safety, then that’s the end of it. Religion doesn’t come in to it.

  6. Don’t you just love the logic: A law that applies to everyone equally is discriminatory because putting a turban on and off is inconvenient.

  7. Force them to get sufficient insurance to cover any likely brain injury that would have been stopped by wearing a helmet and then I no longer care. If they want to take the risk and the public doesn’t have to pay for any accident then so be it.

    If they want the public purse to pay for any injury then they need to wear a helmet.

      1. No helmet would more than likely see an increase in fatalities or serious injury sooner or later I imagine.
        This would have to create an unfair misrepresentation in the statistics for the rest of us, created by a minority in a world already battling poorly constructed/misused statistics.

  8. Why should we create a special rule for these people. They chose to live in Australia, then follow the rules we have or go back to where you came from. We all have inconveniences in life, just shut up and put up. If they change the rules, then it has to be for everyone, not just religious based. We can then all have the choice.

    1. actually, most of the Coffs Sikhs didn’t choose to live in Australia, they were born here. Sikhs have been in Coffs area since late 1800’s that I know of, perhaps earlier.

  9. i find it inconvenient to stick to the speed limit. Perhaps I could start up a petition that grants all motorcyclists exemption from speed limits.
    Strangely enough though, this might actually make it marginally safer for us on the roads, whereas not wearing a helmet does the opposite.
    Seriously, most laws are inconvenient to many people, but they are there for a reason…

  10. One in all in. If we don’t agree with the law then try and get it altered but it must be uniform across the board.

    1. Darwin didn’t postulate any laws, you’re probably thinking of natural selection, any Chinese kid could tell you that.

  11. Well the way i see it you live in Australia not India the law here says you have to wear a helmet if you don’t want to wear a helmet move to India or one of the sates in the US that have a no helmet laws and don’t let the door hit in ass on the way out of aus and enjoy your live some where else bye bye

    1. Another example of teenage illiteracy. Chinese kids are already better than ours in maths & science, soon they’ll be better in English too.

  12. I have crashed at speed. Sliding down the road while the tarmac grinds away your helmet is not pleasant. On other occasions my helmet has cracked and split from the impact. Helmets are there for a reason. While inconvenient they are rightfully mandatory and necessary. Being a moron and not wearing a helmet is not an option. Get the helmet.

    1. Someone who spends his free time “sliding down the road while the tarmac grinds away your helmet” should be careful about calling other people “morons” .

  13. No helmet would mean an increase in fatalities or serious injuries sooner or later I imagine.
    This would cause a misrepresentation in the statistics for the rest of us by a minority in a environment already battling poorly constructed/misused statistics.
    Why add fuel to the fire.
    Why anyone would not wear a helmet is beyond me, introducing head to bitumen has never been a desirable scenario.

  14. Doesn’t matter who you are are where you come from this is Australia. If you don’t like the law of the land then don’t ride a motor cycle. You are given unbridled freedom to practice your religion in the way you chose. Don’t try and throw your “religious” and racist views into the ring and try to get the law changed for your own selfish reasons. The law is the law equally for every person who choses to live in our great country.

    1. Dave, mate, Aborigines have been complaining for 200 years about people coming out here in boats & changing the laws for their own selfish reasons
      & it didn’t do them any good
      so it won’t do you any good either.
      Give up.

      1. Dave, liking the law of the land is not a requirement, legal or otherwise, for riding a motorcycle
        so stop making stuff up.

  15. “Transport NSW spokesperson says . . . motorcycle riders are some of the most vulnerable road users and that there have been 43 motorcycle fatalities so far this year.”

    yes, & those 43 motorcycle fatalities were all wearing helmets
    so they’ve totally destroyed their own argument against Sikhs being exempt.

  16. Sikhs don’t drink (I try to make up for them)
    which means their accident rate is a lot lower than the staff at Transport NSW
    or any other whingers.

    Their polite request to wear turbans on motorcycles is quite reasonable & should be supported.

  17. Sikhs in Britain have been exempt from wearing helmets for more than 40 years.
    Sky didn’t fall in.

  18. British people are highly indebted and obliged to Sikhs for a long time. I know that within this century we needed their help twice [in two world wars] and they did help us very well. As a result of their timely help, we are today able to live with honour, dignity, and independence. In the war, they fought and died for us, wearing the turbans.

    — Sir Winston Churchill

  19. Just thought I’d comment on this albeit a little late. So what I’m about to say does not compare myself or other people like me to followers of the Sikh religion.

    So I’m transgender, male to female (MTF) and due to me being born male, I suffer from male pattern baldness. Hair replacement treatments and surgeries are no option for me as I’m too far gone. To counter my baldness I wear wigs. I wear them at work as well as anywhere else. Now I’m not obliged to wear a wig as there’s no rules that say I should. I do however take into consideration safety rules. Sometimes at work I’m required to weara helmet. It takes me 2 seconds to remove it and stow away in my bag after which I wear a plain bandana under my helmet which is so much more safer than a wig. When I don’t require a helmet it takes me 5 minutes to place and fix my wig. I deem wearing a wig with a helmet to be unsafe as a wig is not permanently attached to me and is definitely not as tight wearing as a bandanna. A wig and helmet together would be a nightmare anyway. All of this includes when I’m on my bike.

    Now when it comes to sikhs it’s like this. sikhs are obliged to cover their hair. Not necessarily with a turban. There’s sikh guys at my work that remove turban to wear a helmet. They’re not made to do this. They do it because they wanna stay alive! They just keep their bandanna on.

    But hey when safety is concerned we’re all responsible for one persons safety. Our own safety. But if we don’t wear the proper safety equipment we put the others at risk too.
    What would happen if a rider went down on a corner at night with poorly lit back road and got knocked out because they didn’t wear a helmet?. Well they could potentially die and not be able to remove their bike which could be causing an obstruction on a poorly lit back road corner at night time.

      1. Lottie, the only thing likely to be lurking round a poorly lit back road corner at night time is you.

  20. Not wearing a helmut is rediculious!, if we went to their country, would we be given special privileges? I truly doubt it! When in Rome, you need to do as the romans do. What about insurance? In an accident with a rider not wearing a helmet, this person may be killed rather than injured. I hope they get good insurance. It’s getting embarrassing to think that I’m Canadian. There’s a limit to accommodating the various nationalities. Canada needs to be a little more steadfast, and not so wishy washy!

    1. My! my! I feel so sorry for my Canadian friend,you have a complete idiot as your leader.
      Whose mother followed Mick Jagger all over the world like a love sick puppy.
      Let those who ride decided.
      Yep! I learnt to rode Motorcycles (650cc Triumph) 6 years before helmets were made comply with new laws.
      Yes I learn’t and survived without a helmet, or was I just lucky or a careful rider.
      Now am 69 and feel it should be up to yourself to decide.
      My rides now XR1200 HarleyDavidson (2009),996 Ducati (2001) 900SS Ducati (1996).
      Peace to all.

      1. You were lucky. Many friends have been hit from behind or hit on the side. Personally I dont care what you wear but when your unprotected head hits the ground It should be you problem and not my insurance company! When I am on vacation every adventure has to have a signed waiver saying I am responsible for my own actions. We have to have a course to climb any higher than 4 ft on a ladder or we are not insured, If you want to ride free than it should be your responsibility and not an increase in my insurance. Enjoy your free riding

  21. Have you seen anyone fall from a Pushbike and plough their head into the pavement, not a pretty sight, so just put the Helmet ON and obey the Australian Laws and stop pushing your beliefs onto others.

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