About 50% of the motorcycle helmets being worn in many low and middle-income countries (LMICs) are not likely to provide the protection needed to prevent injury and death, according to the findings of a study undertaken in nine LMICs in Africa, Asia and the Americas, coordinated by the Road Traffic Injuries Research Network (RTIRN), and supported by the World Bank Global Road Safety Facility and the World Health Organization (WHO) Department of Violence and Injury Prevention.  More than 5,000 motorcyclists were included in the study, which showed that about half the helmets being worn by these motorcyclists did not conform to national and international standards.
Those purchasing lower cost helmets were most likely to be wearing poor quality helmets. Market surveys of retailers in each of these nine countries uniformly showed that these poor quality helmets sell for about a third of the price of high quality helmets.  The study also showed that legislation prohibiting the use, sale and manufacture of these helmets was absent in many of these countries and where such legislation existed, it was not supported by enforcement strategies.
 “Many governments around the world, supported by the WHO, are recognizing the importance of implementing helmet wearing campaigns, given the proven effectiveness of helmets in reducing deaths and serious head injuries.  However these findings are very concerning.” said Professor Robyn Norton, RTIRN Chair Emeritus and Principal Director of The George Institute for Global Health.

The results suggest that the introduction of helmet wearing campaigns need to also focus on strategies aimed at reducing the costs of “standard” helmets, as well as both legislation and enforcement to ensure that poor quality helmets are not being used. 
“This multi-country study has provided very useful evidence base for policy and decision makers in order to strengthen their national strategies and their work aimed at preventing injuries in these vulnerable road users” said Dr. Adnan Hyder, RTIRN board chair and director of the Johns Hopkins International Injury Research Unit (JH-IIRU).

The RTIRN has supported research and research capacity in LMICs for a decade, thanks to the funds received by different partners, such as the Global Road Safety Facility of the World Bank, as well as the Global Forum for Health Research, the World Health Organization and the George Institute for Global Health, among others.
During the past decade, the RTIRN has developed strategic activities that contribute significantly to both capacity development and research promotion in the field of RTIs. In the past five years, RTIRN supported nine young researchers in their work on road safety and funded four sabbaticals for senior researchers. The RTIRN also supported nine research centers that participated in this multi-country research study.

“The Use of Non-Standard Motorcycle Helmets in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Multi-Centre Study,” is published online first on the Injury Prevention website.

Access the full paper here: http://injuryprevention.bmj.com/content/early/2012/11/08/injuryprev-2012-040348.short?rss=1