Improving Helmet Use: Are Our Road Safety Campaigns Effective Enough?

Indonesians love their motorcycles, from the ubiquitous little “duck” bikes to the noisy “big bikes”. But Indonesians don’t like using helmets and this continues to burden the country in healthcare costs and ruin the lives of riders and their passengers The use of helmets is regulated in the Law No. 22 of 2009, concerning road traffic and transportation. Article 106 section 8): “each person driving a motorcycle and its passenger shall use a helmet fulfilling the Indonesian national standard.”  

It is now 2019 yet we still face issues with people’s behaviour around helmet use. Wearing a helmet is a basic safety precaution, but not all people wear one. “I don’t wear a helmet if it is just a short distance,” said one resident of South Jakarta. “I wear a helmet because I am afraid I will get fined,” said another resident of South Jakarta.

Motorcycles are a significant cause of road traffic injuries and fatalities, especially in low or middle-income countries where they are the most frequently used means of transport. In Indonesia, there has been a significant increase in the number of motorcycles, from 52,767,093 in 2009 to 113,030,793 in 2017, which is predicted to mean an increase in motorcycle-related injuries and deaths. Based on data from Korlantas Polri – the Indonesian Traffic Police Corps – motorcycles were the vehicles most often involved in accidents (71.1%).

20190124_172815A portrait of motorcycle users in South Jakarta. Photo: personal documentation

Head injuries are a major concern in road traffic crashes involving motorcycles and are the main cause of disability and deaths. A 2008 Cochrane review indicated that helmets reduced the risk of head injury by 69% and death by 42%. Another study conducted in Taiwan concluded that compared with helmeted motorcyclists, non-helmeted motorcyclists were more than four times as likely to have head injuries and 10 times as likely to have brain injuries.

asphalt-biker-blur-1144169Even on main roads, some motorcycle users do not wear a helmet. Photo: https://www.pexels.com/

The Indonesian government has developed five pillars to improve road safety in its National Road Safety Master Plan, one of which is safer vehicles and safer road use behaviour through socialisation of road safety campaigns.  Numerous interventions at the community level have been conducted such as Wearing Helmet until the Sound of ‘Click’”. How comprehensive are the road safety campaigns being conducted by the government? Some will assume that they are still not effective. Maybe grass root interventions conducted by the community will be more effective?

Lack of research around helmet use. We still need more data to understand the issues, not only the prevalence of helmet use but the behavioural determinants. Knowledge, attitudes, and practices around helmet use need to be thoroughly examined. This will help us to better understand what needs to be improved and how to develop interventions to target motorcycle users.

Lack of evaluation of road safety interventions. We need to evaluate the success of the interventions that have been conducted by the government and other partners concerning road safety issues. With the results, we can make sure future interventions more effectively address the problems.

It has been a decade since the helmet use regulation was introduced in 2009. In the next ten years let’s make Indonesia a leader in helmet safety so we can be both proud of our country and protected on the road.


Editor: Nicholas Goodwin, Yani Lauwoie

Published by

Heribertus Rinto Wibowo

A public health enthusiast, passionate about the science of health promotion, tobacco control and social determinants of health.

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