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Motorcycle Helmets and The Law

Updated on July 3, 2011

Mororcycle Helmets and the law

They say that when a man reaches 50 years of age that he becomes interested in motorcycles but somehow the feeling passed me by. Until I started traveling a few years ago I had never sat on a motorcycle since I was fifteen years old, let alone ridden one. An accident at fifteen left me very wary of them.

The motorcycle is the vehicle of choice through much of India and Asia. Everybody rides them from as soon as they are legally allowed to do so. Many before it is legal.

Riders will carry babes in arms, fully grown pigs and dozens of chickens along with them. The largest number of people I have seen on a motorcycle was seven. It appeared to be a normal family outing and not an attempt at some Guinness record. I have seen a patient in hospital gown as passenger on one motorbike with a drip in one arm. Riding alongside was another motor bike with the driver holding the drip feed. I have seen amazing, shocking things on motorcycles. Hundreds, thousands of motorcycle riders and hardly a one of them wearing a motorcycle helmet. Yet the law is there and it should be too because accidents and deaths are all too common.

There are all sorts of statistics out there relating to the use or not use of motorcycle helmets. Depending on your point of view it can be argued either way. For me though I don't think there is any doubt. Wearing a helmet cuts down deaths and greatly reduces the chance of brain damage. It is a shocking sight to see someone bouncing down the road on their head at speed.

Motorcycle Helmet in Bali, Indonesia

The Motorcycle Helmet in Goa

When I first arrived in Goa, India no-one appeared to be wearing a motorcycle helmet. It was not as if they did not have one because they were usually hanging from the handlebars or in the pannier basket.

I was not so much shocked as disturbed at the number of Western Europeans riding motorcycles along with two or three of their helmet less infants. Did they truly believe that a foreign holiday was going to give them some sort of magic protection? Apart from common sense safety precautions the conditions of the road and behaviour of the average driver was erratic to say the least.

One day I headed to the next town in a taxi. It was my first trip onto an Indian Highway. I noted that every motorcycle driver here was wearing a helmet but every motorcycle passenger was NOT! I asked my taxi driver for an explanation. He said the law requiring people to wear helmets on motorcycles was a relatively recent one. When first announced it was required that everyone on the motorcycle should wear a helmet. However in the following weeks there were so many drive by 'grab thefts' where neither motorcycle driver and passenger could not be recognised that they saw it necessary to amend or relax the law. Okay...I can see a certain logic in the argument but it rather does away with the need for anyone wearing a helmet.

Motorcycle Helmet in Bali, Indonesia

The Motorcycle Helmet in Vietnam

On my first and second trips to Vietnam, where everyone drives a motorcycle, I noted that to see anyone wearing a motorcycle helmet was a rarity rather than the rule. At the same time I was amazed at the driving of the average Vietnamese. There did not appear to be any sort of law at work. People drove every which way with the pavements taking on the role of an extra two way lane when the roads were busy. Crossing the roads as a pedestrian was a somewhat frightening experience the first few times you did it. Walk slowly and steadily, do not pause and pay only cursory attention to oncoming traffic. The traffic will avoid you, every time. They may not slow down but they will not hit you.

On these two trips of a couple of months I never saw a single a single accident involving a motorcycle. A couple of cars and a lorry crash, yes, but not a motorcycle. I felt that the Vietnamese must be amongst the best drivers in the world.

On my last visit to Vietnam I saw an accident involving a motorcycle practically every day and usually four or five times a day.

What was different? Well since my previous visits they had brought in a law requiring that every motorcycle rider to wear a helmet. It would appear, based on observation alone, that motorcycle helmets were actually causing accidents....but I must be wrong because research has shown that helmet wearers are less likely to have accidents than those who do not wear them.

For a country where helmets were previously almost unknown they had come forward in leaps and bounds. There are dozens of helmets and roadside stalls and millions of people supplied but it is a noteworthy event to actually spot two helmets which are alike. Someone, somewhere has a really good business with 'Pimp My Helmet'.

Motorcycle Helmet in Bali, Indonesia

The Motorcycle Helmet in Nigeria

Nigeria is one of the latest countries to have made wearing a motorcycle helmet a legal requirement. This has not gone down too well with some of the populace. Apart from the cost implications there are protests that black magic spells may be placed in the helmet which will affect the unaware wearer. Others are worried that they may mess up their hair or catch parasites or develop some sort of skin disease through helmet wearing.

Cost is however the biggest problem and one has to admire in ingenious ideas to circumflect the law. Construction workers found they could boost their income by renting out their safety helmets. Some motorcycle drivers have tried to get around the law by wearing painted dried pumpkin shells, riding hats and even colanders and woven palm fronds

A popular Web Photo

One wonders about the helmet in the basket at the front of the bike.
One wonders about the helmet in the basket at the front of the bike.

The Motorcycle Helmet in Bali

It was in Bali, Indonesia that I saw the weirdest selection of Motorcycle Helmets. Some you can see in the photographs accompanying this article. Looking at them you would be inclined to believe that they were all a joke but I saw many of these being worn by riders. I asked whether they were legal and what the police thought. "They just laugh" I was told.

Motorcycle Helmet in Bali, Indonesia

Motorcycle Helmets in Bali, Indonesia

The Motorcycle Helmet in Thailand

The wearing of a motorcycle helmet is mandatory but a sort of 'cat and mouse' situation exists. A good percentage of people will wear helmets during the day but not wear them at night when there are less police about. This in spite of published studies to show that head injuries decreased by over 40% in the two years following the introduction of the law.

The police do play their part however and periodically set up evening road blocks and catch dozens of people. All will be fined. There is no escape.

During my time in Thailand I have seen more and more people wearing helmets as a matter of routine.


Motorcycle Helmets in Bali, Indonesia

Wherever you go there will be that percentage of people who will argue that wearing a helmet should be a matter of choice. I can see their point. At the same time I think they should give some consideration to the people who would have to care for them for the rest of their lives should they be brain injured in an accident.

Safety First! 


Submit a Comment

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    wow, this my country.. people bali is creative art

  • profile image

    Sports bikes 

    9 years ago

    nice helmet

  • mkott profile image


    9 years ago from Reno, Nevada

    Love the pictures.

    I am a big advocate for wearing helmets. You are right about people need to think about who cares for them after an accident. I am very blunt in telling riders that don't wear helmets that they are being selfish. It is a big deal with my boyfriend who has custody of his 3 children and rarely wears a helmet unless he borrows mine. Who takes care of them if he is gone?

    The law of statistics is you will eventually go down.

  • peminatautomotive profile image


    9 years ago from malaysia

    same in malaysia, if you are waering aturban, you need not to wear the helmet.It's legal.

  • profile image

    Peter Dickinson 

    9 years ago

    I think you are right LondonGirl. I recall the original Controversy but was unsure of the present state of play.

  • LondonGirl profile image


    9 years ago from London

    I think there is an exception to the law requiring the use of helmets in the UK - you don't have to wear one if you are wearing a Sikh turban instead.

  • men are dorks profile image

    men are dorks 

    9 years ago from Namibia

    weird stuff, bu if you don't wanna hear, fall off and feel...

  • shamelabboush profile image


    9 years ago

    Nice pictures.


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