Make Roads Safe campaign ambassador Michelle Yeoh today led nearly 2000 children through the streets of Ho Chi Minh City to launch our Call for a Decade of Action for Road Safety.
The primary school-age children seemed to enjoy the helmet ceremony and the march in the sunshine. But being in the midst of several hundred children, seeing their different personalities, their trust in what the adults were asking of them, really drove home the sickening statistic: around the world 2000 children just like these wake up every morning and by day's end they are have been involved in a road crash and are either dead or lying seriously injured in a hospital bed.
Michelle was back in Vietnam to check on the country's progress with its helmet wearing campaign and to help launch a powerful new TV ad from the AIP Foundation urging parents to put helmets on their kids' heads. Nearly a year after Vietnam's new helmet law was introduced adult wearing rates are excellent, and injury rates are falling - but it is still very rare to see a child wearing one on a motorbike. Around 12 children are being killed unnecessarily every day as a result - 4000 in 2008 alone by year's end.
Some unsung road safety champions were present, like the Danish Ambassador, who has directed hundreds of thousands of dollars from his embassy to the campaign and is a vocal critic of any backsliding. If other Western embassies in Vietnam - and in every country with road safety problems on this kind of scale - could support road safety interventions in this way the picture would be looking a lot less grim. This is what our Call for a Decade of Action for Road Safety is all about, demonstrating that if we can increase resources over a sustained period and support governments and non-governmental oganisations in delivering the measures we know work, safe road design, helmet wearing, seatbelts, speed control, then millions of lives can be saved.