Up to 80% of all helmets are still unsafe
HA NOI (VNS) — On a sun-kissed morning, a young couple ride a scooter together down a busy street while smiling at each other lovingly.
|A man checks out helmets at a stall in central Da Nang City. The city will pilot a programme that offers people the chance to exchange substandard helmets for safe ones. — VNA/VNS Photo Tran Le Lam
But the picture of happiness quickly changes as their vehicle smash into another motorcycle.
They both fall to the ground, but only the girl gets up.
She is able to scramble to her feet because she has been protected by her helmet, but her boyfriend lies motionless on the tarmac. His helmet was defective and collapsed like an egg shell.
This is the plot for a new social awareness advert that has been screened on national television channels, including VTV1 and VTV3, promoting the importance of quality helmets.
The television warning broadcast appears several times a day – including during the prime television slot before the news at 7pm and during game shows. It will run until the end of the year.
According to Jonathon Pass-more, technical officer for road safety and injury prevention at the World Health Organisation's (WHO) country office in Viet Nam, the ad is expected to reach about 70 per cent of the TV viewing population.
"We have a lot of anticipations [about the results of the campaign]", Passmore said.
The campaign is a response to the current lack of quality protective headgear in Viet Nam.
Passmore said a recent survey found 82 per cent of the helmets worn by motorcyclists in the northern provinces of Bac Giang, Ninh Binh and Ha Nam were substandard.
"Public awareness about the danger of substandard helmets is still low," he added.
Nguyen Phuong Hoa, a resident of Ha Noi's Cau Giay District, admitted to wearing a cheap and poor quality helmet.
Hoa said she didn't buy a better one as they are much heavier and expensive.
"I always ride my motorbike carefully and slowly anyway," she explained.
Hoa's views are typical of many around the city, as non-standard helmets can be spotted everywhere.
"If a helmet does not absorb the energy of the [accident's] impact, then the brain absorbs the impact and that is how head injury occurs," Passmore said.
Passmore's opinion echoes the views of Dr. Etienne Krug, director of WHO's Department of Violence and Injury Prevention.
"If you wear poor quality helmets, it's pretty much the same as not wearing one," said Krug, who has called for new laws to be brought in specifying a minimum standard of helmets.
"Another challenge to law enforcement," said Krug, "is the low rate of helmet wearing by children, as many parents still think helmets are bad for them."
In five districts in HCM City, an intervention programme to raise helmet use among children over six is being run by the city's police in co-operation with WHO and Passmore said there would be a new assessment of the helmet wearing rate among children by the end of the year.
Meanwhile, both Krug and Passmore spoke highly of the Government's efforts since passing Resolution 32 on mandatory helmet wearing in mid-2007.
"We've seen an overall willingness to recognise the legislation's loopholes and make the necessary changes," Passmore added, acknowledging that helmet use in Viet Nam was larger than that in Cambodia and Thailand.
According to a WHO report on the global status of road safety, the helmet wearing rate in Viet Nam is higher than in Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. Viet Nam also scored seven on a scale of 10 in helmet law assessment, higher than its neighbours.
Just how Viet Nam's law on helmet wearing was implemented has been an example for other countries in the region with a high proportions of motorcycles."
Since its 2007 inception, Resolution 32 is estimated to have saved more than 1,500 lives and prevented 2,500 serious injuries between 2009 and 2011. — VNS