By Nur Afiradina Arshad, Ahmad Aidil Syukri and Nur Syafikah Adzha
Now that face-to-face school sessions have resumed, children riding pillion on motorcycles without wearing proper safety helmets have become a familiar sight. This first of a three-part article examines the views of a road safety expert, and also what some parents have to say about this issue.
KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) – Everyone knows about the danger of not wearing a safety helmet when riding a motorcycle but many parents and guardians can still be seen ferrying their children to and fro school without making them wear a helmet, thus exposing them to injury or even death in the event of a crash.
Even if the children do wear one, more often than not, the helmets they wear are meant for adults or of inferior quality as they do not bear SIRIM’s safety mark. Some are even known to wear toy helmets.
Recently, Bernama surveyed schools located in three densely populated areas in the Klang Valley and found that over 300 children aged from five to 12 riding pillion were not wearing helmets when they were either dropped off or picked up from their schools between noon and 12.45 pm. It clearly reflects the “tidak apa” (it does not matter) attitude of parents and guardians who disregard the safety of their children.
This worrying trend is not only present in the Klang Valley but is a common sight at practically every school nationwide.
FAST, CONVENIENT TRANSPORT MODE
Most parents and guardians interviewed by Bernama said the main reason they send their children to school by motorcycle is “speed and convenience” – so that they themselves (parents and guardians) can get to their place of work quickly.
Among them is teacher Amir Pohat, 30, who makes sure his child wears a safety helmet.
“I don’t neglect my child’s safety but then, I’m not sure if the helmet he’s wearing is the correct size for him,” Amir, who conducts al-Quran and Fardu Ain classes at a school in Selangor, told Bernama.
He added that the non-availability of helmet sizes suitable for children could possibly be a reason why some parents don’t provide their children with helmets.
Meanwhile, housewife Nor Hidayah Yusof, 38, said where she lives, the common excuse people give for allowing their children to ride pillion with them without wearing a helmet is, “It (school) is just nearby.”
She said most of the parents staying at the Sri Semarak People’s Housing Project (PPR) in Setapak, here, are “not too concerned” about whether or not their children wear a helmet as the school they go to is located just 450 metres away – to them, the distance is too short for any mishap to occur.
“But what they don’t realise is that a crash can happen anytime and anywhere if we are careless.
“I find the situation worrying because the road conditions here are quite dangerous and the PPR here is fully occupied. Apart from that, heavy vehicles are constantly coming in and going out as there’s a building project near the school,” she said.
Nor Hidayah, who drives her children to school daily, hoped that the authorities would conduct more programmes to raise awareness among parents on the dangers of children riding pillion without wearing a proper helmet.
“The situation is becoming more serious. I don’t know if any accident has occurred here but it’s better to curb this practice than wait for someone to die before doing something about it,” she said.
Road safety expert Prof Dr Kulanthayan KC Mani said riding without a helmet, or using an ill-fitting one, has become a critical issue, particularly in rural areas.
And, according to a study he carried out in 2005, only three percent of the child respondents who participated in the study wore helmets that met the required safety standards. His study, titled Determinants of Standard Motorcycle Safety Helmet Usage Among Child Pillion Riders, involved 200 adult motorcyclists who were accompanied by pillion riders aged between six and 12.
“The findings of the study are very depressing considering that less than 10 percent of the children wore helmets that met the required standards. And, 37 percent of them used helmets meant for adults and 36 percent wore toy helmets while 24 percent didn’t wear any helmet,” he said.
Their parents’ lackadaisical attitude towards safety may be due to the perception that vehicle crashes are more likely to occur on highways and main roads, rather than on small streets and in housing areas, he added.
Another reason could be the assumption that the authorities only focus their enforcement activities on major roads in urban areas.
HIGH RISK OF SUSTAINING INJURIES
Kulanthayan, who is a lecturer at the Department of Community Health, Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), and also head of Injury Prevention and Safety Promotion Group at UPM, said studies have shown that crashes can happen anywhere, even in housing areas.
“We’re worried because children are at high risk of sustaining head injuries. This is because when a crash occurs at high speed, a lot of energy is transferred to the pillion rider. Also, the impact is worse if they fall onto a hard surface,” he said.
He said a study by the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (MIROS) in 2008 found that 75 children aged below 15 and 192 others sustained serious injuries in road crashes that occurred within housing areas.
He said even though it was not the latest data, the 2008 statistics emphasise the need for children to wear standard safety helmets even if it is only for a short ride within a housing estate.
“Statistics in 2019 showed that out of the 6,167 deaths caused by road crashes, about 1,000 involved children… these incidents could have been avoided. Wearing a helmet approved by SIRIM is one of the ways to avoid sustaining severe injuries or getting killed in a crash,” he added.
According to the Royal Malaysian Police’s 2017 Road Accident Statistics Report, 78 pillion riders aged below 16 and 92 pillion riders aged between 16 and 20 died in road accidents that year. The same year, there were also 116 cases of pillion riders aged below 16 sustaining serious injuries; as for those aged between 16 and 20, 65 such cases were recorded.
Kulanthayan said parents’ failure to comply with the child helmet ruling is not entirely due to their lack of awareness.
“One of the reasons for not wearing a helmet is the lack of storage space on their motorcycle. Many parents send their children to school first before going to work so they have no space to store their kid’s helmet.
“Whatever their excuse is (for not providing their children with a helmet), it’s all up to the parents themselves. Do they want to put their child’s life at risk and regret later on?” he asked.
Translated by Rema Nambiar
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