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The World Health Organization has warned that the improvement in use of helmets has been undermined by the quality of crash helmets used, affecting the seriousness of injuries in road traffic accidents.

The WHO representative office in Vietnam also said Tuesday that the rate of children wearing motorbike helmets is still low, posing high risks of brain injuries and deaths in case of accidents.

While praising the mandatory use of crash helmets in Vietnam, it also warned that around 80 percent of the helmets on the market did not meet national standards, citing figures from the Vietnam Consumer Safety Association.

A study carried out in the provinces of Bac Giang, Ha Nam and Ninh Binh last year found that, overall, more than 80 percent of helmets passed the first test on having the required parts, but very few qualified on impact absorption criteria.

The helmets were tested for required parts, weight, size and protection area as well as impact absorption.

In terms of size and protection area, 89 percent of helmets met this qualification. It was 86 percent in Bac Giang, 89 percent in Ha Nam and 91.9 percent in Ninh Binh.

Helmets passing the weight test were slightly lower at 78.2 percent in Bac Giang, 80.1 percent in Ha Nam and 80.9 percent in Ninh Binh.

The most obvious limitation was in impact absorption, with just 19.7 percent in Bac Giang, 20.4 percent in Ha Nam and 16.8 percent in Ninh Binh passing the test.

The WHO recommends stricter quality control of helmets in circulation, not only for those without CR (signifying compliance with national safety standards) safety certification labels but also for those already certified by the Directorate for Standards, Metrology and Quality (STAMEQ).

Currently, Vietnam levies a fine of VND4-7 million (US$191-334) on shops selling fake crash helmets.

According to WHO, the public should be provided more information on the risks and consequences of head injuries associated with motorcycle accidents, so that people do not use helmets just to avoid police penalties.

It also said the public should be aware of the uncertainty over the protection capacity of the cap-style helmet, which is being increasingly used in Vietnam.

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