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Johns Hopkins International Injury Research Unit


Keyword: motorcycles

Gains in Motorcycle Helmet Use Undermined by Use of Poor Quality Helmets

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:

Focus on Road Traffic Injuries in Cambodia: Selections from the Traffic Injury Prevention Special Issue

The World Health Organization estimates that road traffic injuries (RTIs) account for approximately 1.2 million deaths annually around the globe, with the majority occurring in low- and middle-income countries. In countries like Cambodia, motorcycles are a common form of transportation, and their popularity is predicted to increase.

Head injuries are a main cause of disability and death in motorcycle crashes, but helmet use in Cambodia remains relatively low, despite the fact that helmet-wearing is a proven injury prevention intervention .
In order to assist with better planning and implementation of injury prevention strategies, JH-IIRU team members, including Associate Director Abdulgafoor M. Bachani, along with colleagues from Handicap International, Belgium and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published, “Helmet Use Among Motorcyclists in Cambodia: A Survey of Use, Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices.” The goal of the study was to assess the current status of helmet use in five districts in Cambodia as well as knowledge, attitudes and practices related to helmet use. 

As part of the Road Safety in 10 Countries project (RS-10), in 2012, JH-IIRU published “Public Health Burden of Road Traffic Injuries: An Assessment from Ten Low- and Middle-Income Countries,” a special issue of Traffic Injury Prevention. This landmark publication includes 11 scientific papers jointly authored with 50 colleagues from JH-IIRU and their in-country collaborators that contribute much-needed new knowledge to the burgeoning issue of road traffic injuries in low- and middle- income countries.

You can access the full article along with the entire special issue here.

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