The Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation, on February 28th, distributed approximately 300 helmets during an event held in Maldives National University as part of their road safety campaign.
The helmets handed out during this event are part of a shipment of 3,300 donated by UNICEF.
The distribution kicked off a countrywide initiative to increase road safety: over the next few weeks, helmets will be distributed to individuals in accident-prone hotspots, including the Greater Malé Area, Laamu Atoll and Addu City.
“The traffic in Malé City is really bad these days”, said Sergeant Ahmed Hussain of the Maldives Police Service. “Helmets are a way to keep people safer.”
In Malé, over 82,000 motorbikes are registered to the tiny city, a situation that causes constant congestion and chaos on the road. According to the Ministry of Health, road traffic accidents have increased by 75 percent between 2012 and 2016. As such, increasing road regulations and changing behaviours becomes essential to keep people safe.
According to statistics around the world, road traffic incidents are the leading cause of death for children and young adults. It is known that more people die from road accidents than from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and diarrheal diseases combined. However, countless people around the world and in Maldives, do not wear helmets while riding motorcycles.
To mitigate this situation, all motorbike riders crossing the Sinamale Bridge and Link Road Highway will be mandated to wear a helmet starting from March 10, 2019.
The helmet distribution prepared people for this new policy and increased dialogue around its importance.
“There have been so many accidents on the [Sinamale] bridge,”, said Ema, who received a helmet. “Accidents happen every day, and sometimes they are fatal. We all need to be wearing helmets – not just because it will soon be mandatory, but because it keeps us safe”.
As cited in Asia-Pacific Journal of Public Health, such awareness is especially important among youth, as young motorcycle riders are almost twice as likely to be involved in a road accident than those who are aged 25 and above in Maldives.
Half of UNICEF's contribution of helmets are reserved for children and young people under the age of 18. Additionally, the government provided 2,700 helmets of their own, which will be distributed for free throughout the country.
“I don’t feel safe on the roads, but this helmet could help,” said Aminath Munawwara, a Malé resident who received a helmet.