'Helmets for kids' promotes child safety in HCMC

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UPS volunteers hosting games to improve traffic safety awareness with handicapped children at the Anh Duong Primary School in Ho Chi Minh City

The number of students wearing helmets at four primary schools in Ho Chi Minh City has nearly tripled in the three months since the schools received free safety equipment from the Helmets for Kids program.

Since January, nearly 3,000 students and teachers at four primary schools, including Tran Nhan Ton, Tran Van On, Pham Van Chieu, and Anh Duong primary schools, have received helmets sponsored by the global logistics company UPS Foundation and the Asia Injury Prevention (AIP) Foundation.

"Helmet observations revealed that average helmet wearing rates increased to 98 percent," UPS said in a statement on Monday. "In collaboration with AIP Foundation, we have successfully reversed what was an extremely dangerous situation."

According to AIP Foundation, more than 80 percent of students commute to school by motorcycle or bicycle, and the average helmet use across the four target schools before the donation was just 39 percent.

Of those wearing helmets, most were of sub-standard quality, the organization said.

Following helmet donation program, UPS has incorporated volunteer engagement and road safety education, including educational road safety games, reinforcing the importance of helmet use and safe road behavior.

Last September, Ho Chi Minh City began to punish motorbike drivers for not putting crash helmets on children riding with them. The punishment will be between VND100,000-200,000 (US$4.80-9.60), applied only when children 6 years old or older are not wearing crash helmets.

The enforcement of the law was implemented in two other major cities, Hanoi and Da Nang, on Monday (April 1).

According to AIP Foundation, the alarmingly low helmet use rates previously found at the four primary schools in HCMC are representative of most of Vietnam.

More than 90 percent of adults nationwide wear helmets on motorcycles, but this figure falls to only one in five for school-aged children. Crash helmets for motorbike riders became mandatory in Vietnam from December 2007.

Non-helmeted motorcyclists are more than four times more likely to suffer a head injury in case of a crash than helmeted motorcyclists meaning that universal helmet use could safe countless lives, according to AIP Foundation.

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