“We have established a culture of helmet-wearing…”

15:44 | 19/12/2017 Society

(VEN) - Greig Craft, President of AIP Foundation,  told Vietnam Economic News, review 10 years of Vietnam’s national helmet law. 

we have established a culture of helmet wearing
Greig Craft, President of AIP Foundation, was awarded Vietnam’s highest honor for foreigners - the Presidential “Friendship Medal” - for his strategic contributions to the National Helmet wearing law enacted in 2007, and other road safety interventions.

At the 10 year anniversary of the Helmet law, how do you evaluate the helmet usage situation in Vietnam?

After the enactment of Resolution 32 in December 2007, which made helmet use mandatory for all adults, helmet use immediately increased from 30% to 99%. Helmet use among adults has since remained above 90%, and motorcycle-related fatalities per vehicle have decreased by 46%. Over the ten years following the law, AIP Foundation estimates that the country has saved an estimated $3.506 billion USD in medical costs, lost output, and pain and suffering. More significant is the estimated 502,774 head injuries and 15,302 fatalities prevented due to increased helmet use.

The last ten years of implementing the helmet law have been highly successful, but we need to continue pushing for stronger enforcement of the laws and for higher quality standards for adults and children. Now that we have established a culture of helmet-wearing, we must continue to promote more nuanced issues such as child helmet use and counterfeit helmets. I am confident that the stakeholders involved are aware of these issues and will take action accordingly.

How can a qualified helmet protect the head better than the fake one in the event of a crash?

Despite a high adult helmet wearing rate of 90%, many motorcyclists are wearing low-quality or “fake” helmets that would be ineffective in any traffic accident. A recent study by the WHO revealed that 80% of helmets in Vietnam are of substandard quality (WHO, 2012). The fashion “caps” and helmets with the hole for a ponytail, which offer zero protection, are the most obvious examples.

It is tragic that most people - especially parents - do not understand that 99% of the protection of a helmet comes from the thick and hard inside of a helmet. Not from the outer shell. The inner liner is what protects our soft brain. Traumatic brain injury can never be fixed. Never repaired. Never healed. It is a life-long injury, and most victims become living “vegetables” - never to be able to function again - ever.

Quality helmets are proven to reduce the risk of death by 42 percent and severe injury by 69% in the event of a crash. Quality helmets contain EPS (Expanded Polystyrene) beads which are heat processed and transformed into a hardened, molded liner. The EPS liner is the most important part of the helmet and what protects the brain and absorbs the shock in a crash. Without this liner, the substandard helmets cannot provide adequate protection and will provide little or zero benefit over not wearing a helmet at all.

According to you, how to eliminate all of the fake helmets that are still openly sold in the market?

The solution is very simple, but the implementation is complicated. Firstly, fake helmets must be considered like fake medicine and fake food. It is criminal. All fake helmets must be confiscated from the market place – everywhere. From street vendors, to shops and stores. Strict fines must be imposed on any seller of fake helmets.

Second, all manufacturers must allow state inspectors to regularly (and unannounced) collect samples of their products – from the factory – for testing. No manufacturer should be allowed to bring their own samples to government testing labs. And periodic surprise visits will ensure that manufacturers continue to produce proper helmets that meet standards.

The problem is that too many different agencies are involved, therefore coordination is very complicated. A clear process must be developed. Then, the problem of fake helmets can be solved very quickly.

Third, most people buy fake helmets because they are cheap and inexpensive. Therefore fines must be high enough that drivers will never risk buying a cheap copy.

Counterfeit helmets are criminal and unethical. In most cases, wearing a counterfeit or substandard helmet is as dangerous as not wearing a helmet at all.

The government must adopt a stance of zero tolerance. At the same time, we must emphasize the importance of quality helmets and educate the public on how to identify a quality helmet. This comprehensive, multi-pronged approach will ensure that people are aware of the dangers of wearing fake helmets and eventually prevent their proliferation.

At the moment, the percentage of adult people wearing helmets is high, but for children, it is still very low. What is your opinion about parents’ responsibilities, school’s regulations and fine system of the government regarding this matter?

No, it is not enough. More public awareness campaigns and on-going television commercials are also imperative. These must be directed toward parents, teachers, and officials – especially police. Children are our most precious asset. We must do all that we can to protect them.

Regulations and fines to deter non-compliance are effective and necessary steps, but it is also important to promote child helmet use as a positive benefit. The government’s implementation of the NCHAP (National Child Helmet Action Plan) program was an important nation-wide approach to addressing the issue of low child helmet use. A key part of this was focused on enforcement measures, alongside public awareness, and school-based measures. Enforcement is just one component of lasting behavior change, and it is not sustainable unless combined with education. Apart from stronger enforcement, awareness and education are also important to ensure that children and their families have a strong understanding and awareness of the need for helmets to protect against head injuries. For instance, NCHAP data showed us that helmet use in students was higher when adult drivers were also wearing helmets.