Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Helmeted Adults, Helmetless Children

Helmetless children: 7 cases.

I was out this morning and standing on a street corner in a town near where I live at about 7:45 AM when a scooter carrying three helmetless children and a helmeted adulted zoomed by. Pondering the sight, I got to wondering just how many cases of this there were; it seems rather commonplace around here. So I set out to document, unscientifically, this phenomenon of people not buying helmets, which only cost around NT$150 or so for the low-end models, for their children.

Helmetless children: 5 cases

Helmetless children: 3 cases

Helmetless children: 2 cases

Helmetless children: 8 cases

Helmetless children: 8 cases

Helmeted children: 4 cases.

I photographed a total of 33 cases of helmetless kids and 4 cases of helmeted kids. I couldn't get the camera around in time to capture one additional case of each. Total 34 and 5, respectively. Out of 39 cases, only five cases (12.8%) feature parents and children both with helmets. I'm singling out the cases below for special commendation......

Here Mom, clad in a helmet, makes an illegal right turn into traffic with an unhelmeted child.

This one was especially wonderful: When the light turned red, she made a "left" turn by crossing front of the stopped vehicles, then crossing in front of the empty lane, cutting in front of me standing on the corner, then continued, cutting across the two lanes of oncoming, green-lighted traffic to make it to the far side of the far lane, and continue on from there. And of course, the kid has no helmet.

Mom with no helmet: NT$150. Kid with no helmet: NT$150. Illegal left turn against the red light across traffic, with helmetless kid? Priceless.

Why do parents do this? Safety simply isn't an issue for Taiwanese. Part of this is probably traceable to ideas about fate -- "it is not my fate to have an accident" -- and part to plain stinginess ("But my son will outgrow the helmet anyway!"). The parents wear helmets because helmet laws are enforced, not because they are concerned about their own safety. Curiously, either the parents think they won't be enforced for kids, or else they are really not enforced for kids. Fortunately some schools also enforce helmets on their attending children, whether they come by bicycle or scooter. Hopefully that trend will spread across the nation.

UPDATE: Sorry! That was in ~35 minutes or so.


Anonymous said...

On top of the dangers of getting killed or seriously hurt, a side effect is that the child learns early on how to be a bad driver and not follow established rules.

I always find it amazing that day after day in the Apple Daily there is at least one photo of someone seriously hurt in a motorcycle crash. Still, people continue to take the same mindless chances and risks. They never learn.

This reminds me of a joke often heard in California where i use to live: How can you tell a Chinese family moved into your neighborhood? ~ When the Mexicans start buying car insurance. (Sad but true)

Taiwan Echo said...

Man, Micheal, phew! you did collect lots of those photos for this article.

One thing: it might be better to cover the faces of those photos (using any sort of photo editor), unless you have asked them for the permission to post their faces to public.

Sometimes I saw in some TV program broadcasting street scenes that occassionally show some couples walking hand in hand or sitting hugging. I always wonder: what if for some reason they were meeting each other in secret? Those kind of random exposure could get people killed !!! Even it's an extreme posibility, we can't never exclude that possibility.

David said...

Absolutely agree that safety just isn't a concern. Last year, I set about buying a new car - and was amazed that safety features I'd consider standard in a modern car were only available in the top-of-the-range everything included models.

It seems that builtin video&karaoke features are more important than boring stuff like airbags ...

I'm actually quite impressed at how well helmet laws have succeeded with adults in the last few years - I'd love to see them enforcing it properly for kids too. Shouldn't there be a much bigger penalty for risking your kids safety than for risking your own?

redwagon said...

What makes me laugh is that these same kids will be having cat scans and IV drips at the first sign of a runny nose. They won't be allowed to play outside or have any fun beyond computer games because the world is dangerous.
Parents, wake up! YOU are the ones most likely to kill or cripple your kids!

Ed en Vadrouille said...

We could also have a look at the quality of the helmets most of these people are wearing.

The "bowl" kind which only cover the top of the head and leave unprotected the rest, is often very thin and nearly unpaded. It is plainly worst than a proper bicycle helmet in any situation of a crash. No wonder it is such a poor protection when it cost 100NT$.
But they have hello kitty versions, and the cops are happy with it!!

Btw, i've heard that when the helmet laws were enforced, some country-obasan we caught riding their scooter wearing... a watermelon!
There is a picture of this on the net, and i'd love to see it if anybody still has it.

andres said...

funny how i was asked about this just a few days ago by one of my customers from the US about why do adults here wear helmets but not the children they are riding with?!
this is one of the most FAQ's whenever i have a foreign visitor.
yes, there's not much sense for safety around here... and yes, one of the main reasons they don't buy their kids helmets because the kids will outgrow them so the parents feels it's a waste of money.

MJ Klein said...

as i have said many times before, Taiwanese have a very poor sense of danger, although a highly developed set of fears. strange how they don't match up. "it's OK." "nevermind." etc. etc.

hktai69 said...

I am sorry I was the one who risks his child without wearing a helmet while lived in Kaohsiung or Hsinchu. Because my daughter always refused to wear, and another reason is that the cops just let go while we stayed in front of them.

But we have no guts to do that in Taipei. My daughter put her helmet on without complaint. We warn her she'll get caught by cops without a helmet on in Taipei.

I am embarrassed to say I am a Taiwanese.

Thoth Harris said...

I don't think it's a matter, simply, of bad parenting or bad driving.... Sure, it's both.

Most of all, though, it's part of the completely unaccaptable logic of living here in Taiwan. I can't stand it. It's stupid. No logic. No sense of logic, respect for space, etcetera.

Sure, some of this exists in Montreal, where I come from. And Montreal is worse than Canada when it comes to logic. Of course, you could accuse Canada, in B.C., in Ontario, in Alberta, of puritanism. But, it is damn safe! Not here. And what the heck is wrong with people here. I don't care if you accuse me of racism! Do what it is with your wazoo!

Logic must be reintegrating, since it has been bled out of them and sucked out of them in the process of the repressive schooling here. And this is a big reason...

Certainly, I say, was have and had in Canada and the U.S.

And see I am not just some bloody cowardly anonymous blogger. And you know what? I know the odd person Now, there are exceptions. It's tolerable to not wear a helmet if it is a really short distance and it's in the country, and you're just going a few blocks.

You have to remember, just 40 years ago, Canadian doctors and American doctors and parents smoked, and no one thought anything of it. Now, Quebec has passed laws saying you can't smoke in public places, even outside, in some rare cases! It's the same kind of thing. It has to be a top down thing. Sure, logic is innate. But the schools have made people idiots. Everywhere. 99.9% in fact. But that can change. Just get a lobby group going!

Thoth Harris said...

And the same problems (and worse) exist in the mainland, too, including lunatics carrying open umbrellas on their bikes during rainstorms.

I respect Hong Kong, this fusion of British order and Chinese energy and passion for regulation...
From what I've observed, at least.

It is not just the roads, as I said. I just find the complete contempt for logic and rational behaviour. The tendency to turn left and not wait until you've reached the lane onto which you're turning, but almost expecting (well, actually expecting people to) to back up! @#%#$^$^^ What the heck is up with that! And if you turn left the way you are supposed to, you are completely insane in most people's eyes! #$%^%^$%&%#@))(*&^%$#(*.

Michael did not just collect the photos. They are there to be taken. Every city, small town, everywhere you look it's there, eh, Taiwan Echo!

I don't think covering there faces is a good idea. The who idea is to shame everybody. It is setting an example, like the law and press should be doing, but aren't. The sense of civic perspective needs to be reengrained. Who cares whether it's an outsider, or some eccentric who's just had enough!!!

Michael Turton said...

I am embarrassed to say I am a Taiwanese.

There's no need to be embarrassed. There's plenty of wonderful things to say about Taiwanese. This is just something I'd like to see change. Every nation has its regrettable habits. After all, for every Taiwanese parent who drives his kids around without a helmet, there's a US parent who leaves his guns where the kids can get at them.


Thoth Harris said...

"Every nation has its regrettable habits. After all, for every Taiwanese parent who drives his kids around without a helmet, there's a US parent who leaves his guns where the kids can get at them."

Too true, too true

Chris said...

I find the babies sleeping on the scooters while the mother rides on much more disturbing. I've become a little blaze about young helmetless children.

There are more facial injuries than deaths in scooter accidents. Some sort of education or regulations on the quality of the helmets would be a good idea.

kevin said...

Parents in Taiwan are more concerned with dirty hands than piling kids into vehicles without safety seats, seat belts or helmets. There is also a simple solution to this; education and enforcement. The Taiwan government on all levels has failed miserably at informing the public of the actual risks of not wearing helmets or enforcing current laws.

In addition to much needed leadership in the government on this point, helmet manufactures need to resurrect an old ad campaign they ran in the states. It went something like this, “If your head is worthless, don’t wear a helmet. If your head is worth 150ntd then wear a 150ntd helmet. If your head is worth 3000ntd then wear a 3000ntd helmet.”

David said...

Fantastic, post Michael!! It is something that also disturbs me though I have never taken the time to document it like this.

I can only say ditto to Kevin's comments above. The combination of public education and good law enforcement is the only way to change behaviour.

Anonymous said...

My wife (non-Taiwanese) and I (Taiwanese) have the exact sentiment when we saw this phenomenon after we moved back to Taiwan last year.

The child seating requirement is another similar situation. I have seen many kids riding shotguns. I think the law only became active last year. And I believe it will be a while before the Taiwaneses learn the importance of the car seating since it is much harder to catch the offenders.