In order to advocate for and raise awareness on the importance for Bangladesh to introduce higher safety standards for helmets, World Bank, Brac, FIA, and BRTA jointly organised an event on helmets for road safety on Thursday (9 December).
The event launched and showcased the UN-standard helmets, which are made with safety specifications recommended by the United Nations and are adapted to local weather conditions, said a press release.
State Minister for Planning Dr Shamsul Alam, and representatives from the government and law enforcement agencies, and advocates for road safety in Bangladesh were present at the launch programme which took place at a hotel in the capital.
12 selected motorcycle user and stakeholders were handed with the UN standard helmet at the event.
"As a question of life and death, we need to stop import of low quality helmets. If necessary, policy revision is needed. If there is no policy, we need to introduce a policy that will not allow any low quality helmets. Also, we need to take steps on how we can help the manufacturing of standard quality helmets in Bangladesh," Dr Shamsul Alam said.
Bangladesh's Road Transport Act 2018 requires drivers and passengers to wear helmets properly but has not specified the meaning of "proper". Currently, there is no way to ensure the safety standards of helmets available in the market. The UN standard helmet just launched is expected to work as a reference for the time being before the current standard is reviewed for conforming to the international safety requirement, the press release added.
Citing road accident-related statistics of the last six months, Inspector General of Police Benazir Ahmed said: "32% of the total number of accidents involve motorcyclists. And here, the most critical issue is now the quality of the helmet. We have to stop import of poor quality helmets. I want some kind of collaboration from the motorcycle producers of my country- if the helmet comes as a complete package of the motorcycle when someone purchases, that can be a good thing."
"BRTA is working on setting up the standard of helmets for motorcycles. There is no substitute for using a standard quality helmet to reduce death. BRTA has already approached BSTI to set a standard for helmets and the issue is under process," Bangladesh Road Transport Authority chairman Nur Mohammad Mazumder said, the press release added.
"The road safety crisis has become a global epidemic. In Bangladesh, around 70% of all road crash victims are pedestrians, cyclists, or motorcyclists. While road accidents are unacceptable, they are preventable. Simple measures, such as, wearing standard helmets can reduce the risk of death by 39 percent among motorbike users. The World Bank is proud to with the government of Bangladesh, BRAC and the FIA to raise awareness and promote UN-standard helmets for saving lives," World Bank Vice President for South Asia Hartwig Schafer said.
World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh and Bhutan Mercy Miyang Tembon said: "We are hopeful to see that a simple and low cost solution such as safe helmet can save life and reduce the risk of severe injury. UN safety standard helmet can be locally manufactured, the cost can be as low as Tk1050 but the impact is significant. We will continue working with the government, and all stakeholders to promote UN standard quality helmets to save lives and as well as to improve road safety."
"The World Bank and BRAC signed an MoU in July last year to collaboratively work for road safety. Today's event is an important part of our collaboration as we are hopeful that this helmet will win the market, currently full of non-standard helmets. While we introduce standardised helmets we must also work to improve the helmet wearing practice among the motorbikers in the country," Brac Road Safety Programme Director Ahmed Najmul Hussain said.