Vietnam capital set to enforce child helmet law more strictly

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The Hanoi Traffic Safety Committee announced plans for the second phase of a national campaign to increase the usage of helmets on motorbikes among Vietnamese children on March 16.

The three-year "Children also Need a Helmet" campaign, a collaborative effort undertaken by the National Traffic Safety Committee, the Road and Railway Traffic Police Department, the Ministry of Education and Training, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Asia Injury Prevention (AIP) Foundation, was launched in November 2011 in Da Nang, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

In the conference to initiate the second phase of "Children also Need a Helmet" in Hanoi, the committee said that the city will increase its patrolling of roadways, warning and fining those who do not comply with the helmet law for children starting in April, according to an AIP press release from the same day.

Vietnamese law stipulates that all children six-years-old and up must wear helmets when riding on a motorbike; parents/guardians who violate the regulation may be fined between VND100,000-200,000 (US$4.8-9.6).

Dan Tri newspaper quoted Duong Xuan Binh, spokesperson for the Hanoi Traffic Safety Committee, on Monday as saying that the more stringent enforcement of fines, set to peak between April 1 and June 1, will be carried out by Hanoi police's traffic police division. The focus will be on Ba Dinh, Dong Da and Cau Giay Districts, where the committee said the helmet-wearing rates for elementary school students ranges from about 7-11 percent.   

Binh said parents and guardians will be warned during April, but that police would start "strictly" imposing fines on violators beginning in May.

Video clips on the issue will air on television stations nationwide, and 100 large propaganda posters will be placed in elementary schools and other public places in Hanoi, according to the release.

Local authorities, including the Hanoi division of the Vietnam Women's Union, the Hanoi Traffic Safety Committee and the Department of Education and Training will hold more than 20 talks between March and May on the issue in an attempt to boost parents' commitment to make sure their children wear helmets when riding on motorbikes.

According to AIP, more than 5,500 parents/guardians have pledged to make their children wear helmets via Facebook and email.

AIP said in a Saturday press release that the ratio of children's wearing helmets at elementary schools in Hanoi during the first phase of the national campaign was only around 8 percent, while the HCMC ratio surged by more than doubled, from 22 percent to 50 percent.

Nguyen Hiep Thong, deputy director of Hanoi Department of Education and Training, said: "Children are the nation's future. Wearing helmets, when traveling on streets, is the simplest, most economical and effective way to protect the children."

WHO's press release last Friday said less than 40 percent of children wear helmets in Vietnam, while the rate for adults has been above 90 percent since helmet laws were first introduced in 2007.

According to AIP, motorists traveling 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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