21 July 2008

Hazards of Motorcycles on Children

Photo courtesy of Gabe W. beasley (2007)
There are no latest data available that will show how dangerous motorcycles are to young people, particularly children, but it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that with the increasing number of motorcycles in the streets, road accidents involving children are also increasing.

This maybe what prompted the members of the Mandaue City Council to propose an ordinance that will ban children, below 10 years old, from riding motorcycles. The ban covers privately owned motorcycles and motorcycles for hire.

The problem is that the ordinance will only fine between PhP 500.00 and PhP 80.00, including the possibility of having their motorcycle impounded. Depending on the degree of violation, the driver may also be imprisonment for not more than 30 days.

This is very pathetic and will not prevent violators from repeating their offense a couple more times, but at least the Mandaue City Council has recognized that there is a problem and they need to do something about it.

However, the same cannot be said for many Metro Manila City Councils who continue to ignore the risk posed to children when they are allowed to ride motorcycles that ply the busy streets of an urban area.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), deaths and disabilities resulting from motorcycle accidents involving young people have become a public health epidemic in Asia, particularly in low and medium-income countries such as the Philippines.

Young motorcyclists make up a significant percentage of injuries and fatalities among road users in many Asian countries, including Cambodia and Malaysia. Factors such as speed, no helmets, risk-taking behaviour and drink-driving contribute to the rising trend.

From a global perspective, nearly 1.2 million people die as a result of road traffic collisions every year. Of these, 40 percent are under the age of 25. Millions more people are injured and often remain disabled for life. In high-income countries, most of those killed or injured in road accidents are drivers of four-wheeled vehicles. But in low- and medium-income countries, "vulnerable road users"— pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists, and users of public transport— make up a larger proportion of those injured or killed.

In low- and medium-income countries, a motorcycle is a family vehicle, with children routinely transported as passengers. Helmets are rarely used, partly because of their cost and partly because of a lack of helmets for children.

Road traffic injuries are the second-leading cause of death globally for people aged 5-25 years. Every day, some 1,000 people under the age of 25 years are killed in road accidents, and 85 percent occur in low-and medium-income countries.

Simple measures can be taken to make young people safer on the roads, said WHO as it will mark the observance of the Second United Nations Global Road Safety Week, dedicated to “youth and road safety”, from 23 to 29 April. The measures include:
  • speeding: setting and enforcing appropriate speed limits;
  • drink-driving: setting and enforcing blood alcohol limits;
  • seat belts, helmets and child restraints: introducing and enforcing mandatory seat belt, helmet and child restraint laws;
  • road design and infrastructure: providing safer routes for pedestrians and cyclists, constructing speed bumps, separating different types of traffic; and
  • emergency services: improving the emergency services from the crash scene to the health facility and beyond.
A WHO Report on Youth and Road Safety released the same time last year indicated that most motorcycle deaths are a result of head injuries. While wearing a helmet correctly can cut the risk of death by almost 40 percent, and the risk of severe injury by 72 percent, many countries do not strictly enforce laws covering the use of helmets.

The report also cited a study that indicated that having a 'light-colored' helmet was found to be associated with a lower risk of an accident. It noted that 18 percent of road accidents could be avoided if non-white helmets were eliminated as they are easier to see.