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Road safety

Wear a mask and wear a helmet

Jay Graham
Jay Graham (10 posts) Deputy Head of Secondary View Profile

Please look for Vietnamese and Korean version below.

Approximately 14 000 people lose their lives each year in Vietnam as a result of road traffic crashes. Motorcyclists account for a high proportion (approximately 59%) of the road traffic collisions in the country. The majority of death and injuries on the roads are among those aged between 15 and 49. It has been statistically shown that Hanoi sees on average 7 motorcycle deaths a day in the city.

To put some perspective on these figures, the United Kingdom with roughly two thirds of the population of Vietnam has about over 80% fewer road deaths annually. Whilst the use of motorcycles is far less in the UK than Vietnam, the raw data cannot be ignored. In Vietnam there are 24.5 road deaths per 100,000 people compared to 2.7 per 100,000 in the UK. I can’t help but look at these statistics within the context of our different responses to COVID-19. One can see which nation wears a mask and which nation wears a helmet or seatbelt.

In 2007, Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung helped introduced a new compulsory helmet law, "Resolution 32," which made helmet use mandatory in Vietnam for all motorcycle drivers and passengers on all roads. Article 60 of the Traffic Law stipulates that those 16-years-old and up can drive a motorbike under 50cc. The law is clear but I still see it flouted with alarming regularity by young students up and down Vinhomes’ tree-lined streets and it concerns me hugely.


The science on the efficacy of a proper helmet is much more robust than that of a face covering in a pandemic. Whilst a helmet offers no protection against limb and internal injuries, they have been shown to prevent 30% fewer fatal head/brain injuries and 70% fewer head/brain injuries. A proper full-face helmet passing ECE and DOT safety certification and offering much improved ventilation will set you back over USD 100. If you or your family ride a motorbike bike, that is a price worth paying. Helmets do not constrict the growth of children’s brains, they protect them from dying and horrific life-changing injuries.

 Whilst cycling, I am tuned into the whirring sound of motorbikes and cars behind me ready to keep my line as they overtake. Some will beep me to let me know they are there and I welcome that warning. Electric bikes and golfing buggies, on the other hand, just appear in utter silence on your shoulder moving at speed. They are often ridden and driven by our students, sometimes with their friends riding pillion, in the case of bikes, and not a helmet in sight.

The same is true of bicycles, I see very few students bothering to invest and indeed wear a bicycle helmet. The science shows they reduce the chance of injury and death in a collision and for around USD 10 it is again a price worth paying. It will remain a school-enforced regulation that all staff and students must wear an appropriate helmet if they are to bring their motorcycle or bicycle onto school premises.

Seat belts save lives. People who do not wear a seat belt are 30 times more likely to be thrown out of a vehicle during a crash. The law is clear. Government Decree 46/2016 made wearing seatbelts mandatory for passengers in the backseats of cars from August 2016. If you allow your children to sit in your lap while driving or do not restrain them with seat belts in the back it is unlawful and tantamount to neglect. I see this worrying regularity in our Vinhomes community.

We won the seat-belt battle on our buses through the relentless education of bus monitors and students. That is our duty of care to your children. We never ever want to have to relay to you the worst of news. Yet, we can’t be there when you go out as a family nor can we be there when your child is just nipping to a friend’s house after school on an electric bike. That falls under your duty of care. We don’t want you to wish for the safety of hindsight and to live with the burden of regret.

It is not enough to say that is how we do it here. Laws may not be enforced but they are still laws and in place for a reason. Your safety is further compromised by infrastructure, vehicle maintenance and the quality and response time of health care intervention. This is one aspect of your risk profile that you have control over. Please read this article again and assess just how safe your family is. Challenge me on the science by all means and make the changes you deem appropriate.

I have lived in this wonderful country for over two years. I watched its response to a global pandemic and have been nothing but proud of its actions. I have seen its population get behind the science and respond with solidarity, purpose and conviction to the virus. I look at the deaths on Vietnam’s roads with as much alarm as I view COVID-19.  My family wears masks but we also wear a helmet and a seat-belts, even if we are travelling for a few minutes. I hope you will make a decision to do likewise.

Please look for Vietnamese and Korean version here