Save the Children’s 7% initiative honours Thai ‘Helmet Heroes’
Motorcycle safety campaigners have been recognised at a Bangkok ‘Helmet Heroes’ event which marks the latest stage of the ‘7%’ project led by Save the Children which aims to increase motorcycle helmet use amongst child passengers in Thailand.
The “Helmet Hero” campaign was launched in October 2015 with 11 public figures and celebrities, who promote the use of motorcycle helmets and safety in Thailand. The campaign includes short videos of the public figures, which have already reached more than 500,000 views online. The most popular video, “Pra Karn Knock” or “Helmet Monk,” features the story of the assistant abbot of Patumwanaram monastery, where he preaches the importance of crash helmet wearing at a busy Bangkok intersection. The videos were also launched in public transport systems like trains and subways between mid-October and mid-November 2015. The campaign included a competition calling for families to tell their stories on helmet use. Using social media, stories from families were heard and three ‘helmet hero families’ were selected and awarded at the event. The campaign successfully mobilized people in Bangkok and beyond to discuss helmet use and promote road safety.
Save the Children Thailand held an event to celebrate the Helmet Heroes campaign in Bangkok. This event, on November 28, 2015, was the latest element of the 7% project co-funded by the FIA Foundation and being implemented by Save the Children Thailand and the Asia Injury Prevention Foundation. The award ceremony was preceded by panel discussions with participation of the Thai Roads Foundation, Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, the public figures featuring in the campaign videos, and the winners of the ‘helmet hero family’ contest.
Talking about how the project had helped increase children’s awareness on the need of helmet use, Mrs. Hatairat Piamvit, Principal of one of the project schools, said that one of the pupils had questioned his parents as to why they were wearing helmets while he wasn’t wearing one. She also said that the campaign in schools had been more effective because when nominated by their peers to raise awareness on helmet use, the ‘school heroes’ felt that they had a responsibility to wear and promote helmet use. However, grim figures also featured in the talk by Ms. Wannaporn Pantalert from the ThaiRoads Foundation. She stated that the while helmet use amongst adults was 48%, amongst children the figures had decreased to 6% in 2014 in Thailand. Furthermore, most fatalities on motorcycle related accidents were within a distance of 5-15 km, which reinforces the fact that wearing a motorcycle helmet is essential for short journeys as well as long travel distances.
Representing the FIA Foundation, Programmes Coordinator Monalisa Adhikari told the event: “The 7% project is an exciting initiative not only because of its innovative and engaging approach but also because it has brought together Save the Children’s expertise on child rights and development along with our long-time partner the Asia Injury Prevention Foundation’s experience of implementing road safety related programmes. It is really exciting for me to be at this award ceremony for the Helmet Heroes campaign and to hear some of your inspiring stories. The level of participation at all levels in this campaign has been impressive. Save the Children Thailand and all the campaign partners should be commended for successfully mobilising public opinion to discuss and promote helmet use and road safety.”
With support from Qualcomm, Save the Children Korea, Save the Children Hong Kong, along with the FIA Foundation, and endorsed by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), the 7% Project has already achieved some good early results. In just one Semester (10 weeks) the percentage of children wearing helmets in the pilot schools nearly tripled. With the success of the pilot, Save the Children aims to expand the project to 300 schools in Bangkok in 2017. At the heart of the initiative is an effort to include motorcycle crash helmets as part of the school uniform, to ensure that all children riding to and from school on the family motorbike are protected.
Taking the campaign on helmet use further, the 7% Project will also be launching an animation cartoon series called “The Alert Little Tun”, which will be aired in the first quarter of 2016. In collaboration with Thai Public Broadcasting Service Network, this series aims to educate children on road and helmet safety.
The 2015 WHO Global Status Report on Road Safety rates Thailand as having amongst the highest rates of road traffic deaths further highlighting that in South East Asia, a third of all road traffic deaths are among motorcyclists. Projects like the 7% Project, which work to increase helmet-wearing rates and save the lives of children on roads are critical to Thailand. With the Sustainable Development Goals 3.6 ambitiously targeting to halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents by 2020, projects like the 7% project need to be complemented with effective policies on enforcement, legislative impetus on safer vehicles, safer road designs and effective post-crash care response.