Grin and wear it
In Hanoi, motorbikes are by far the most popular means of transportation. There are millions of them on the streets of the city. And with the number of motorbikes steadily increasing in recent years, the numbers of traffic accidents, injuries and deaths also rose dramatically.
That’s why the Vietnamese Government made wearing motorcycle helmets mandatory at the beginning of this year. Since then, anyone caught without a helmet will have to pay a hefty fine.
Vietnamese motorbike drivers weren’t too enthusiastic about the new law – to put it mildly. They loved the feel of the wind in their hair when they rode their bikes. Helmets would crush their hairstiles. And most of all: there weren’t that many helmets to be had in Vietnam! The ones that were sold here were mostly made in China, and many Vietnamese doubted, whether these Chinese helmets would really protect them in case of a crash.
Helmets that don’t make a difference
So what you see on the streets of Hanoi these days is that most people do wear helmets to avoid being stopped by the police. But the helmets they wear don’t offer much protection.
For one thing, 99 % of the Vietnamese motorcylce helmets don’t protect the chin or the face – they’re basically a plastic cap that people put on the tops of their heads.
And many drivers who wear these skimpy helmets don’t even close the chin strap that secures them to their heads. So in the event of an accident, the helmets would just go flying and leave their owners unprotected.
Turning the resented helmets into fashion statements
The ingenious Vietnamese have tried to make the best of the new rule: they’ve turned their motorcycle helmets into fashion accessories.
You can see guys wearing helmets that are made to look like baseball caps. And women wear helmets with plaid cloth on the outside or ones with flowers and ribbons.
And one thing that I haven’t seen anywhere else in the world is how the Vietnamese are turning motorbike helmets into stylish hats by attaching a colorful textile brim to it.
Isn’t there something we forgot?
But there’s one very thing that’s unfortunately still missing on the Vietnamese market for motorcycle helmets: helmets for kids.
Children are regularly taken along on motorbike rides. Either they’re expected to hold on to mommy or daddy, or they’re squeezed between their parents.
Sometimes you’ll see whole families on motorbikes: mom, dad and up to three children.
And even though the grown-ups will now mostly wear protective helmets, almost all the kids are left unprotected in case of an accident.
Not a nice thing in a society that adores children as much as the Vietnamese do.