“What’s the danger with Vietnam’s motorcycle helmets?”, asks Govi Snell in the Southeast Asia Globe.
“What isn’t?”, I would reply.
But it’s not that easy. From the article:
Vietnam’s first helmet law, which passed in 2001, required motorcycle drivers to wear helmets on specific roadways. With limited enforcement of this legislation, the use of helmets was estimated at 30%. In June 2007, the government passed a decree that made it mandatory for all motorcycle drivers to wear a helmet on all roads from December of that year. With the law in place, helmet-wearing reached 90%.
Wearing helmets has been mandatory for less than 15 years.
Dr. Pham Viet Cuong, the head of the department on public health informatics at the Hanoi University of Public Health is quoted:
“When helmet-wearing reached 90%, we thought it was a great success and everyone thought that it would help to reduce the number of brain injuries and deaths initially. But after a couple of years, we didn’t see that happening,” he said. “We did a lot of studies and looked at a lot of issues and we saw the problem of unstandardised or low-quality helmets.”
It seems to me, that Vietnamese only wear helmets to avoid being fined, not because they value their head. When I refuse to take friends without helmet on my bike they would often argue that there’s no police around. And when they wear helmets, they choose tiny ones, that might only protect you from a rock falling from the sky. And they seldomly tighten the strap, reducing the already slim protection even further.
What I understand even less than Vietnamese wearing these helmets – they grew up here and everyone around them is wearing them as well – is that many foreigners go with them as well. As if everything our societies have learned doesn’t apply anymore. (Not buckling up in taxis is the same story.) As if the laws of physics would not apply in another country.