Here we are again, with the fourth installment in the Stippy “Only in Japan” Video series. This time we will explore a mysterious trait of Japanese cyclists – the fact that they fail to see the safety benefits of using bicycle helmets!
In many countries around the world, cyclists are obliged (sometimes forced by the law) to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle. Throughout South East Asia it is common to see people without helmets, but this can be attributed to a lower level of safety consciousness than in more developed nations. Japan on the other hand has no excuse to not be more helmet aware, and through this video, we hope to bring the current state of helmet wearing in Japan to the surface! (The video does provide for a good chuckle also..). Even though proposals to make helmets mandatory for children to some local and prefectural governments have been made by various community action groups for some strange reason these have historically been rejected in early stages, long before votes are taken by local parliaments to enforce them as law.
Bicycle helmets are 85 to 88 percent effective in mitigating head and brain injuries, making the use of helmets the single most effective way to reduce head injuries and fatalities resulting from bicycle crashes. Despite the fact that nearly 70 percent of all fatal bicycle crashes involve head injuries, it is very difficult to find bicyclists that wear helmets here in Japan.
One article on asahi.com (Asahi Newspaper) dated 22nd Dec 2004 titled, “Working to get Helmets on Kids while Riding with Mum” (ママチャリ乗せるなら子にヘルメット 広がる普及の動き) showed the reason why mothers of kindergarten children refuse to even use a helmet on their kids. The following mother’s example was a representative of most other parents that were interviewed:
４歳の長男を乗せていた主婦（３３）はヘルメットを持っているが、使っていないという。「幼稚園の送迎時に使ったら、まだ珍しいから、ほかの親に『何でかぶせているの？』という目で見られた。もっと普及すれば使いやすいんですが」(Translation: One mother who had her 4 year old son with her on the bike said that she does have a helmet for her child, but never uses it. “When I take him to kindergarten, a helmet would deviate from the norm, and other mother’s would look at me, as if to say, ‘what is that on his head!?’. It is embarrassing so I don’t use it. If only it would become more common to wear helmets..”)
It seems that the Japanese are so concerned with how they appear to others, that they are willing to risk the safety of themselves, and more worrying their children, by continuing to repel the practice of wearing bicycle helmets.
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