Helmet use for motorcycle drivers and passengers in rural Thailand

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The problem has been thoroughly researched and recognized by the government for years now… tens of thousands of head injuries or deaths of motorcycle drivers and passengers in Thailand, many of which were preventable by helmets.

Scooter

Although helmet use has been mandated for motorcycle drivers and passengers since 1994 and 2007, respectively, rates of helmet use are still strikingly low in rural areas, hovering around one third for adults and only 1% for children in the Chiang Mai North Region, according to the Thai Accident Research Center which specializes in investigating auto accidents. A survey of approximately 4,000 motorcyclists in Thailand revealed that 15% were not even aware of the helmet law for motorcycle passengers. The relative risk for fatality by accident is as high as 4.5 times greater than for those who wear helmets in the Surat Thani South Region.

To combat low use of helmets, organizations have collaborated with the Thai Ministry of Interior to educate communities regarding the importance of helmet use, such as AIP Foundation which launched the Thailand Helmet Vaccine Initiative. However, with less than half of Thai motorcyclists wearing helmets, the need for a stronger collaboration between government, public organizations, private sector, and communities is urgent.

Many people and organizations can benefit from getting the public to adopt helmets when traveling by motorbike. Efforts in raising public awareness of the importance of helmet use need to be further strengthened, especially in hard-to-reach areas, in conjunction with tougher enforcement by the Royal Thai Police.

Web Links and Resources:
Thai Accident Research Center: http://www.tarc.or.th/
Isara Foundation: http://www.isara.org/community/pages/thailand-helmet-campaign
Asia Injury Prevention Foundation: http://asiainjury.org/our-reach/thailand/
Safe Driver Education Company Limited: http://www.thaisafedriver.com/default.html
Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA Foundation) organizations: http://www.fiafoundation.org
Space Crown Helmets: http://www.spacecrownhelmet.com/company.php

More articles covering the Thai helmet problem and efforts to solve it:

Charity motorcycle ride from Thailand to Cambodia to supply helmets:  http://www.phnompenhpost.com/lifestyle/bikers-ride-thailand-cambodia-good-cause

NY Times expose on Thai road safety:   http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/01/world/asia/crash-that-kills-schoolgirls-highlights-thai-road-dangers.html?_r=0

Thai Vespa distributor hosts charity gala to unveil new model and give helmets:  http://asiainjury.org/news/vespiario-thailand-organizes-la-dolce-vita-charity-gala-dinner-in-to-unveil-the-new-vespa-946-and-benefit-helmets-for-kids-in-thailand/

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4 Responses to “Helmet use for motorcycle drivers and passengers in rural Thailand”

  1. gahanfurlane Says:

    Thank you for this post. Helmet use is extremely low in a number of countries. Recently, I was in Burkina Faso where helmet use is also mandated by law (since 2005). While driving I passed a number of signs informing motorcycle drivers to wear their helmets or face a fine. Despite this, I did not see a single person wearing a helmet. The situation was very similar to the photo in your post. I saw 2 women and 3 children and a baby one one motorcycle. None of them were wearing helmets. To add to the situation, people in Burkina do not need any kind of driver’s license to ride a motorcycle leading to countless traffic accidents every day. Some statistics show that up to 95% of accidents on the roads of Burkina involve two-wheeled vehicles. Burkina is one of the countries with the most two wheeled vehicles and police have been having a very hard time enforcing helmet use.

    People’s habits are difficult to change and people find helmets to be hot. They also have a hard time seeing and hearing with the required full coverage helmets. People also say that it is harder to breathe.

    Large behavior changes are going to be necessary. Police officers need to begin enforcing the law in order to save lives.

  2. mispjhsph Says:

    Thank you for bringing up this important topic. I feel that we also have to look at socioeconomic factors in addition to behavioral factors.

    Are helmets easily accessible to everyone? Do people not buy helmets because they can not afford them. We also need to pay attention to the fact that not only the person riding the motor cycle but the passengers need to wear the helmet too. Non-government organizations can help by distributing free helmets to those who can not afford them.

    In the picture above, one of the passengers is holding the helmet but not using it. Design innovations can be used to create helmets which can be used comfortably in hot weather conditions.

  3. ashishyadav99 Says:

    Thanks for raising this important issue which has been of major concern around the world, especially the developing world.
    It’s important to understand the people’s perspective with regard to the use of helmets. The situation in many cities in India is very similar to what is shown here. Many of the riders are wearing the helmets just to avoid being caught by the police and paying the penalty. They are not even aware of the actual advantages of using a helmet and how it can protect them from life-threatening situations. Besides, there’s an issue of low quality helmets available along the roadside on all major highways. Those helmets are equivalent to good for nothing and only serve to save the rider from the wrath of the traffic police, which apparently is more concerning than the unforeseen injuries arising out of the accidents. Again, there are issues of corruption at the level of policemen, who are willing to accept bribes as low as half a dollar and let off the offenders. Such practices only help to promote non-use of helmets.
    The whole issue seems to be of awareness generation. Before enforcing any law or policy about the use of helmets, the government should strongly advocate on awareness generation programs to help people understand the actual benefits of use as well as the implications of not using the helmets. Behaviour change is a slow progress but it needs to be given the prime importance before advocating helmet use.
    Law enforcement should be strict, any callousness on part of the police should be seriously dealt with. There should be set standards with regard to the quality of helmets and action should be taken against those marketing low quality helmets. Innovations, as mentioned above, could also be brought about to increase user satisfaction. The younger generation could be the focus of some targeted interventions involving information, education and communication about proper helmet use.

  4. jennifertrumbore Says:

    Thank you for this post. In Chiang Mai in 2012, my friend was almost hit by a motorcyclist who was driving recklessly and going in the opposite direction of traffic. Once we were over our shock, I really began to notice how few people I saw wearing helmets while on motorcycles. It’s good to see efforts are being made to educate the public. That video is very striking as well. I would be interested in seeing in if these initiatives are successful.

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