Over the past few days, BJP leaders across the country have heeded Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call to celebrate India’s 70th Independence Day by rolling out a Tiranga Yatra – a tricolor procession. From Jaipur to Jammu, from Latur to Lakhimpur Kheri, ministers followed directives and hopped onto two-wheelers having planted eight-foot long on the vehicles and lead others on similarly festooned two-wheelers to ignite the spirit of freedom and Indian-ness among the common people.

As Rajya Sabha MP Bhupendra Yadav explained, “The idea is to strike a chord with the common people. That can't be done driving in cars. The motor cycle symbolises the aam aadmi."

But in their patriotic fervour, many of these legislators forgot to follow or chose to ignore the law of the land. The rode their scooties and motorcycles but forgot to wear helmets, thus flouting traffic rules in various cities and towns. Most of the other riders taking part in the rallies behind the ministers also appear helmetless.

In doing so they also chose to ignore the point in the Tiranga Yatra memo from the Prime Minister to wear helmets painted saffron, white and green.

Maybe the ministers weighed the pros and cons on the different points of the memo. Indeed, some appear conflicting. Wear saffron, white and green helmets it said but also asked that each minister post between 500 and 1,000 photos on Facebook as proof of their participation. Now, if a minister posted a photo of a person in a saffron, white and green helmet leading the yatra, how could he prove that it was really him. Could such a faceless entity, albeit in patriotic headgear, connect with the common man?

Here’s a reminder to the ministers of why helmets and following the rules that mandates that they be worn are important.

India has the highest number of road fatalities in the world. There were 1.46 lakh deaths due to road accidents in 2015, a five percent rise from 2014, which is a rate of 400 deaths per day on Indian roads. The National Crime Records Bureau finds that motorcycle deaths account for 37% of all road accident deaths – that’s more than 54,000 deaths. Other studies that show that the official count underestimates the numbers peg this figure to be closer to 49% or more than 71,500 deaths.

This is carnage and much of it is avoidable if only people followed traffic laws, including wearing helmets, that save lives. One study conducted in Ahmednagar between 2007 and 2009 showed that the majority of people who died in road traffic accidents died of head injuries. Other research from Bengaluru documents the extent of injuries in people using standard and substandard full-face, half-face and half head helmets and those in motorists who didn’t use helmets. The results, as expected, a very skewed in favour of use of helmets. Neither Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore's tiranga turban nor General VK Singh's much-decorated cap would afford adequate protection.

Moreover, the BJP ministers would do well to remember that that the new Motor Vehicle (Amendments) Bill that the Modi cabinet has approved and road transport minister Nitin Gadkari is trying to get passed as law proposes a 10-fold increase in the fine for not wearing helmets from Rs 100 to Rs 1000 as well as a three-month suspension of the violator’s driving licence.

If nothing else, it would be a fine example of leadership to promote safe driving by wearing a helmet while astride a two-wheeler on Independence Day.