Ensure student motorcyclists wear helmets

WE would like to thank the police for their recent enforcement at schools to support the safety of students. The enforcement activities revealed the problem of children travelling to and from school in a dangerous manner; that is on motorcycles without wearing helmets.

The Clinical Research Centre Perak (CRC Perak) would like to highlight the extensive and serious failure of student motorcyclists and pillion riders to use helmets. We conducted a study in October 2016 and randomly sampled 20 out of 70 national secondary schools in the Kinta district. Trained researchers observed usage of helmets and chin straps of students arriving at school on motorcycles.

A total of 4,193 students were observed arriving at the 20 schools. The majority arrived by motorcycle (1,637 students, 39%). The rest arrived by car/van (33%), school bus (9%), bicycle 272 (7%) or walked (12%) to school. Of the 1,637 students who arrived on motorcycles, almost half (44%) were not using a helmet. Those who wore helmets were not necessarily safe as 15% did not use the chin strap. Hence more than half of all our children travelling on motorcycles to school are risking their lives.

The infographic shows the breakdown of this unsafe behaviour. Note that student pillion riders were the least protected if brought to school by an adult, suggesting the failure of parents to support their children.

This study shows that more than 50% of students do not wear helmets or chin straps and are exposed to risk of severe injury. An earlier study by CRC Perak showed that on average 1,000 children die on our roads yearly, the majority motorcycle related. In addition four times as many children (4,000) get serious injuries.

For those of us who are paediatricians and run Paediatric Intensive Care Units for children, it has become our daily horror to manage mangled children due to motorcycle crashes. Some die and many sadly become permanently disabled.

We are aware as a nation about this long-standing crisis of motorcycle injuries. But we may not be aware of the enormous impact it is having on the lives of our children and we have yet to put in place any concerted action to change the situation.

No child should travel to school on a motorcycle without adequate protection; that is a certified helmet, properly strapped on. Parents have a vital role to play here but seem to fail in the majority of children.

We hope the Ministry of Education and school authorities can work proactively with the Road Transport Department and police to enforce helmet and chin strap usage among students arriving by motorcycle.

We hope teachers can play a role to help ensure that no child is allowed to travel to school in an unsafe manner.

Datuk Dr Amar-Singh HSS (head); Dr Netia-Jeganathan, medical officer (research); Dr Kavita-Jetly, medical officer (research); Ang Ju Ying, pharmacist (research) are with the Clinical Research Centre Perak. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com