I’m not sure what the odds are, but I try and improve them by driving at a moderate speed, refrain from texting and talking on the phone and above all, I wear a good helmet, because, essentially, I don’t want to die.
The traffic in Ho Chi Minh City is by all accounts chaotic, dangerous and relentless.
Everyone knows that, yet there is a giant elephant in the room, or on the road as it were, something that everyone sees day in day out, but does nothing about.
Neither I nor my western friends can ignore it, and family members who have visited have shut their eyes in horror rather than witness it in action.
But it happens every day on the roads with a frequency and acceptance that is jaw dropping.
Parents put their children on their bikes, some as young as a couple of months old – without helmets.
Everyone has seen it; most people are doing it, but why?!
As of 2007, the law in Vietnam states that children under the age of 6 don’t have to wear helmets.
From what I have seen there are some very old looking six year olds riding around with adequate protection for their heads.
Now, I’m pretty sure that Vietnamese people my age have seen a lot more horrific bike accidents on the road than I have in the UK, so the fear must be there.
Even with a helmet on in this city, life is still pretty risky gripping the handlebars.
Add to that the rainy season, idiot boy racers apparently on a death wish and poorly made helmets, and the situation is bad enough as it is.
Now imagine driving in a city like that every day and not wearing a helmet, or worse, not putting a helmet on your child.
It may sound harsh, but children don’t bounce, any more than fully grown adults do, and everyone knows it.
So where are their helmets and why aren’t they wearing them?
I have heard many reasons as to why children go to school without a helmet.
“It’s not far, it will be fine”, “kids’ helmets are hard to find”, “it’s too heavy for their neck” or the worst “they don’t have to yet”.
I don’t know why the law doesn’t include all children, but I am pretty sure, especially looking at helmet safety posters on the side of the street that it wasn’t to endorse children riding helmetless.
Just because it isn’t illegal to hold my hand over a burning flame until it blackens, it doesn’t mean that it makes sense for me to do it.
The same goes for helmets on kids.
Nothing makes my stomach drop in dread more than seeing parents with a four year old in his pyjamas standing up on the motorbike between his two parents, wind in his hair, while his dad quickly overtakes a truck.
The anger I feel is largely to do with helplessness.
I desperately want to do something about it, but I doubt “by not putting a helmet on your child, you are risking their life” would be a welcome conversation with any parent.
It does feel at times like a spell or something of the like, which has been put on everyone and only I can see how nonsensical it is to allow your child to sit in front of you on a bike going 50kmh on a busy road.
One crash and you can imagine the result for the child.
But with education and exposure to the facts, I hope this will change attitudes while I am still here to see it.
There are of course parents out there that make sure their kid has a well fitted helmet on their head, as of course they do for themselves.
There are programs already in place which travel around schools informing kids of the importance of helmet safety, and no doubt after some lobbying, laws will be passed, but until then, I hope parents who do put helmets on their children tell their friends, who tell yet more people.
Then hopefully there will be less security in knowing that everyone else isn’t doing it so “why should I?”, then the thing everyone can see but chooses to ignore, that putting a helmet on yourself and not on your child because “it isn’t illegal” and “you won’t get fined for it” just doesn’t make sense, at all.
By JAMES ALLEN
Source: Tuoi Tre Online