Working Toward Increased Helmet Use Among Boda Riders in Uganda

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Boda bodas are a commonly used form of transportation in Uganda, especially in the capital of Kampala.  The motorbikes, which are operated mostly by young, untrained drivers, are a preferred method of transportation due to their low cost and speed of transport through the heavily-congested streets of Kampala.  The enormous increase in bodas in Uganda over the past ten years, without a similar increase in helmet use, puts significantly more boda rider lives at risk.  Despite traffic laws requiring boda drivers and passengers to wear helmets, the actual use of helmets remains extremely low and annual deaths due to bodas remain in the hundreds.   It is imperative that the existing traffic laws requiring use of helmets by boda riders are enforced, especially in Kampala, to reduce the fatalities, injuries, and disabilities associated with boda accidents.

A variety of NGOs already operate in Uganda specifically looking to increase helmet use of boda riders through advocacy and systematic interventions.  These organizations, including the Global Helmet Vaccine Initiative, the Injury Control Center- Uganda, and Arrive Alive Uganda, have advocated for stricter laws on helmet use, yet actual use in Kampala still hovers around 20%.

Photo courtesy of Rapa Thompson Ricky, http://www.facebook.com/bodaboda.citytours

Photo courtesy of Rapa Thompson Ricky, http://www.facebook.com/bodaboda.citytours

From personal experience while I lived in Kampala, I was unaware of any incidents of boda riders or drivers being penalized under the law for not wearing helmets.  Also, few people I knew wore helmets on a regular basis, yet we all knew someone who had suffered a boda accident.

Additionally, Design Without Borders teamed up with Uganda’s Makerere University to release an inexpensive, lightweight helmet for boda riders last year. Their innovative helmet addresses many barriers to helmet use, such as the comfort, temperature, and price.

Given the existing laws requiring helmet use and the existence of an acceptable product, the enforcement of the helmet laws should be a priority.  GHVI already provides technical assistance for implementation of helmet standards and training of law enforcement.  Other organizations must make these goals a priority in order to increase helmet use and reduce boda injuries and deaths in Uganda.

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One Response to “Working Toward Increased Helmet Use Among Boda Riders in Uganda”

  1. echien2013 Says:

    Great post about the boda safety and helmet regulations in Uganda.I know there’s a special ward at the hospital that’s dedicated specifically for boda accidents. Perhaps this is why Makerere has partnered to come up with more desirable helmets for the public. It’ll be interesting to see what motivates boda drivers who are currently wearing helmets. There seem to be some drivers who are very adamant on wearing the helmets — maybe they are just more concerned about safety or the person that taught them how to drive initially also had a helmet. Very interesting topic.

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