Riders Still Not Using Helmets, Cost a Factor

Despite the nation’s roads be­coming more dangerous each year and the number of road accidents in­­creasing, the popularity of motorcycle safety helmets remains dismally low, according to a Ministry of Health survey.

Ministry of Health Secretary of State Eng Huot said on Wednes­day that a recent survey indicates that only 11.2 percent of motorcycle ri­ders wear helmets. Eng Huot also noted that in 80 percent of all traffic ac­cidents, the people involved injured their heads.

Eng Huot was speaking to more than 100 representatives from hospitals, government ministries and NGOs who attended a seminar in Phnom Penh on road traffic accidents. According to Eng Huot, 20 teams collecting data from more than 36,737 motorbike drivers carried out the survey on helmet use.

Cost may be the hindering factor to making helmets more popular, said road safety education manager for Handicap International Sann So­cheata.

“The cheapest helmets [on the market] cost seven dollars and many Cambodians cannot afford to spend that kind of money,” Sann So­cheata said in an interview.

To lower the price Sann So­chea­ta called on the government to en­cour­age local companies and NGOs to start producing helmets in Cambo­dia. Locally manufactured helmets had greatly reduced prices in Viet­nam, she said.

Though helmet use is still low, com­pared to prior surveys the num­ber of Cambodian drivers wear­ing a helmet has increased from around 8 percent in 2004 to the current 11.2 percent since, said WHO program of­ficer Pamela Messervy.

“We see a slow change of behavior,” she said. “People are beginning to use helmets.”

According to government figures, traffic accidents cost Cambo­di­a an es­timated $116 million in 2003, a figure equal to three percent of the coun­try’s GDP.

A 2002 draft law designed to ban driving without a safety helmet was prepared. However, ratification of the law was bogged down in the yearlong political standoff following the 2003 general elections and was ne­ver passed by the National Assembly.


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