by Hang Nguyen
Mysister-in-law, Nguyen Thuy Trang, complained that she had to buy a helmet for her 7-year-old boy and will have to carry a birth certificate for her 4-year-old boy when she drives them on her motorbike starting next week.
Her complaint came after the Ha Noi Traffic Police kicked off a two-month campaign to make children older than six on their motorbikes wear helmets.
Government Decree 71, which took effect last November, requires drivers who disobey this regulation to pay a fine of VND100,000-200,000 (US$5-10).
However, most parents – including my cousin and his wife – have ignored the regulation.
I took a random sample at two primary schools in Ha Noi's Hai Ba Trung District yesterday and observed that only four of 25 students who should be wearing helmets were doing so.
Nguyen Phuong Trang, 34, waiting to pick her six-year-old daughter up from Thanh Luong Primary School, said that she knew about the regulation but chose to provide her daughter with a cloth hat when carrying her on her motorbike.
"It is only one kilometre from my house to her primary school, so she doesn't need to wear a helmet," Trang said.
Bui Mai Khanh, the mother of a seven-year-old boy, added that it was easy to evade detection.
"My son looks like he's only five," she said. "So traffic police never stop us."
Do Ha An, 36, of Hai Ba Trung district, worries about the reverse experience.
"My son is five, but looks seven because he is quite tall and fat. I worry that traffic police will stop me and ask why he's not wearing a helmet," he said.
The only way out of paying a fine would be to show his son's birth certificate – but as An put it, "it's annoying to carry both birth certificates and children."
Some parents gave their children helmets, but you could see that they were not fastened.
According to the annual Global Status Report on road safety released by the World Health Organisation ten days ago, less than 40 per cent of Vietnamese children who are at least six wear helmets on motorbikes.
And the percentage of primary school children wearing helmets is only 7.3 per cent in Dong Da District, 9 per cent in Ba Dinh District and 11.4 per cent in Cau Giay District, according to the Committee for Traffic Safety.
Hoang Na Huong, deputy executive director of the Asia Injury Prevention Foundation highly recommend that parents both wear helmets themselves and give helmets to their children, as helmets reduce 69 per cent of trauma injuries when traffic accidents occur.
The foundation plans to co-operate with local agencies to raise public awareness about giving helmets to children.
Vu Tien Dung, 42, the father of an 11-year-old boy I met yesterday, said that he bought a helmet for his son when the boy was four.
"Buying a helmet for a child is not expensive and tightening the clasp barely takes any time, so there is no reason for parents to reject making their children safe when travelling by motorbike," he said.
Personally, I support the Ha Noi traffic police campaign. I think every parent loves their children and wants to give them the best things. But they seem to be so busy with their annoyance that they unintentionally forget how much they value the safety of their children.
So, parents – please follow the call of the campaign with love and make every child safe when travelling by motorbike in Viet Nam. – VNS