NPOs donate helmets to students and teachers in northern Vietnam

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Paul Hillier, ARRB's National Technical Leader (C), and students from Ai Quoc Elementary School pose with helmets and Vietnamese flags at the launch of the "Helmets for Kids" program at the school. 

The Asian Injury Prevention (AIP) Foundation and the ARRB Group, one of Australia's leading road safety technical input advisors, on March 15 launched the latest installation of its "Helmets for Kids" program, handing out helmets to 630 students and 38 teachers of Ai Quoc Elementary School in Hai Duong Province.

Ninety percent of the school's students go to school via bicycles or motorbikes driven by their parents, but few of them have helmets, while the traffic infrastructure surrounding the school, which lies along national highway and near train tracks, is poor, said AIP in a press release the same day. The US-registered nonprofit was founded in Vietnam in 1999 with the goal of reducing the number of traffic-related injuries and casualties in developing countries.

The combination of a low helmet-wearing ratio and poor local infrastructure creates a dangerous traffic environment for students, the release said.

Nguyen Thi Quyen Oanh, the school's principal, said: "[Wearing] helmets is a simple, affordable method that has been proven to protect students from [suffering severe head injuries] in tragic accidents on the way to school.

"We are committed ourselves to integrating road safety education into our curriculum and consider helmets to be an indispensable part of our students' uniform," she added.

A Ministry of Education and Training representative, who was not named by AIP, said 162 people died and another 74 were injured in traffic accidents in Hai Duong Province in 2011, and that many of the victims were children.

The education ministry aims to achieve 100 percent motorbike helmet compliance by 2020 to minimize the number of casualties, the official added.

Vietnam's Ministry of Education and Training, together with AIP and the National Traffic Safety Committee belong to the leadership council of the "Children also need a helmet" campaign, which aims to increase the usage of helmets among Vietnamese children. The campaign receives support from the World Health Organization and is funded by the Atlantic Philanthropies, an international charitable organization that supports disadvantaged and vulnerable people.

Lotte Brondum, AIP's International Development Director, said the rate of helmet use surged by more than 69 percentage points last year to 92 percent among students attending Vietnamese schools where the "Helmets for Kids" program had been initiated.

"ARRB support allows us to reach even more children with this proven solution," Brondum said.

"It is unacceptable that children are riding without helmets, when doing so is proven to reduce serious head injuries on the road," said Paul Hillier, a road safety expert and ARRB's National Technical Leader.

ARRB, in cooperation with AIP, also handed out 187 helmets to first grade students at Phnom Dil Elementary School in Cambodia last month, AIP said on its website.

In January, AIP, in coordination with UPS, an international shipping company, provided helmets to 2,904 students and teachers at Tran Nhan Ton, Tran Van On, Pham Van Chieu and Anh Duong elementary schools in Ho Chi Minh City.

According to AIP, motorists travelling without helmets are more than four times as likely to suffer head injuries in accidents compared to those who wear them.

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