Thursday, June 2, 2011

Motorbike Helmets for Kids in Vietnam? Not yet.

A few years ago Vietnam finally passed a law requiring motorbike riders to wear a helmet but this law only required them for adult riders. Kids don't need them. Is somebody kidding somebody? We could blame the lawmakers for not seeing the fatalities and injuries amongst children but that shouldn't release parents from their basic responsibilities to protect those children should it? I didn't think so. And so an idea was hatched (yeah, bad pun) to do a public service campaign to speak to parents about the importance of the whole family wearing a helmet. In a country of what might be easily, 30 million motorbikes for roughly 80 million people the motorbike is a way of life in Vietnam. In fact it's an extension of life, an extra limb it has been called. But it's also a way of death, the highest rate of highway fatalities in Asia before enactment of the law.

On launch day, the government deployed 5000 police around the city (Saigon) to enforce strict fines ($10 is strict here) and lo and behold - one day nobody had a helmet and the next day they did. Except for the children. And this baffled the crap out of me. Didn't the people understand that a not fully formed skull can be crushed up to 60% easier than an adult's? Didn't they see it as important? And the answer is, 'no they didn't'. What was important to them was not paying a fine to comply with the law. Sad, I thought. No thought about the reasons one should wear a helmet at all.

Ask anyone what they believe to be a symbol of birth and childhood and you will eventually hear the word 'egg'. So I took that visual and put a helmet on it. It was funny. And it worked. We all know eggs crack easily and putting a helmet on them just reinforced the point. Photographer Mads Monsen and I worked together to create this campaign and we did it without a specific client in mind - because we thought the idea was important. Should you know of any organization in Vietnam who might be interested in running this work as a public service, please contact me. We would love to get this campaign up and running and doing the job the parents should be doing - getting all their kids to wear a helmet.


  1. what is needed to obtain permission to use the image for our bike helmet fitting station at a family health and safety fair this coming Saturday... Sept 17th? thanks

  2. We'd be very happy to let you use the image. Send me an email at with details. Unfortunately with your quick deadline we will only have a PDF but that should be fine so long as you are not printing a highway billboard!