The Vietnamese government has marked a milestone in strengthening road safety by requiring all children from six years old to wear helmets when traveling on motorbikes, the WHO says.
In a statement issued on Thursday (May 20), the day that the new law took effect, Jean-Marc Olivé, WHO representative in Vietnam, said the country has closed the "last major loophole in the already successful national helmet legislation."
The helmet law, which took effect in 2007, required all people, excluding children under 14, to wear helmets when travelling on motorbikes.
Decree No.34, stipulates that if a child aged above six years is found not wearing a helmet when traveling on a motorbike, the adult will be fined between VND100,00-200,000 (US$5.25-10.5).
"We are confident that this new legislation, when thoroughly and stringently enforced will boost the number of Vietnamese children wearing helmets, making their daily experience on Vietnam's roads safer," Olivé said.
The WHO press release quoted the Ministry of Health's statistics as saying that since the national helmet legislation took effect more than 6,800 children under 15 have been hospitalized with traumatic brain injuries caused by road traffic accidents.
Many parents in Vietnam wrongly believe that wearing a helmet can increase the risk of neck injuries to children, UN said.
"Parents must understand that there is no evidence to support rumors that helmet wearing is dangerous for children's necks," Olivé said.
According to the WHO representative, the current challenge was to gradually increase the new law's coverage.
WHO will join hands all stakeholders to run a media campaign raising awareness among adults and parents about their legal responsibility of ensuring children wear helmets, the statement said.
Decree No.34 also allows heavier fines on traffic regulation violations in the central areas of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.