Sub-standard crash helmets, which remain widely cheap and available throughout the country, were officially banned from the streets starting July 1.
The official punishment for wearing an irregular crash helmets ranges from VND100,000 to VND200,000 (US$4,7-9.4) per violation.
But Hanoi police who deployed 13 traffic teams from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Tuesday only issued warnings, as locals seemed unaware of the new rule.
A Thanh Nien News reporter noticed more than ten motorbikes were stopped for the violation within half an hour on Tuesday morning at the Lang – Lang Ha intersection. In addition to the shoddy helmets, the stopped drivers all wore surprised, confused faces.
Crash helmets became mandatory for Vietnam's millions of motorbike drivers starting in December 2007.
Sub-standard helmets became widely available at that time. Jet-moulded, baseball cap-shaped plastic helmets were widely sold for roughly a dollar apiece on the street and were associated with numerous injuries and deaths.
Standard helmets feature thick styrafoam inserts and may have brims attached with screws.
Under the law, the helmets must feature quality-control stamps.
Experts say the separate brims help absorb and dissolve shock during a crash while many sub-standard helmets the impact is absorbed by the wearer's head.
Fashionable helmets also tend to lack a thick styrofoam layer to absorb shock.
Unsafe at any speed
As traffic cops launch their ambitious eradication campaign, sub-standard helmets remain widely available at sidewalk booths throughout Ho Chi Minh City.
Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reported that roughly ten push carts were displaying fashionable helmets and those bearing fake quality stamps on the sidewalk around Phu Lam park in Ho Chi Minh City on Wednesday.
They were advertised for VND50,000-70,000 apiece.
The authorities are responsible for the profusion of low-quality crash helmets," -- Khuat Viet Hung, vice chairman of the National Traffic Safety Committee
A shop owner named Hung guaranteed a customer they would receive no trouble wearing those helmets.
“Or you can buy this standard helmet, fully stamped,” he showed the customer an alternative, which carried labels saying it was made by a Hung Phat Company and a bore a CR (Conformity to Regulation) stamp from the Quacert quality-certification center.
Many helmets at the booth also featured CR stamps and the names of producers like Truong Thinh, Phat Loc and Dong Duong.
But Tuoi Tre found all the companies were fake and never included in the list of quality crash helmet producers issued by the Ministry of Science and Technology.
Luu, an assembler and distributor of fashionable crash helmets in the city’s Binh Tan District, told the newspaper he’s halted his operation as officials are watching around.
“I’d wait until the [enthusiasm] dies out.”
But he’s focusing more on “standard” crash helmets with (fake) CR stamps, saying there would be a “fever” for it.
Phan Hoan Kiem, chief market manager in the city, said his department seized nearly 300 low-quality helmets last week.
Kiem said they found violations in crash helmet production everywhere they looked.
The department has raided around 300 production facilities and written up 290 factory owners for violations like operating an unlicensed business, manufacturing low-quality products and forgery.
Khuat Viet Hung, vice chairman of the National Traffic Safety Committee, said: “The authorities are responsible for the profusion of low-quality crash helmets.”
Thus, he said, the new regulation should aim more at ending low-quality helmet production than punishing commuters.