Colleen Setchell

Helmets are not fashion accessories

Wear your helmets people!

From the second, I turned into the road, I knew something was wrong. Traffic was queued bumper to bumper as far as I could see in front of me. I was just coming out from the regular Friday evening walking street market in Bophut and even though there were normally lots of cars and bikes, it was never like this.

Luckily, being on a bike, I could sneak into the space on the left and slip past the cars. Then I saw the lights and I knew - there'd been an accident and living on Samui, it was highly unlikely this was an accident between two cars and was almost guaranteed to involve a bike. My stomach sank - a girl had just been killed on this very stretch of road last Friday.

I rode slowly up towards the lights and then I saw it ... the blood. Lots and lots of blood. People were crouching over a man's form which was splayed awkwardly out on the road. He wasn't moving, he wasn't groaning, he wasn't whimpering. The only reason I knew he was alive was that someone was holding his bloodied head very still and shouting commands to other people. I felt sick. The bikes in front of me had all stopped to rubberneck and I couldn't go any further. As much as I didn't want to look, my eyes were just drawn to his limp body. What had happened? Was anyone else hurt? Was he in pain? Was he conscious? Did he have insurance? Who could contact his family? And how could anyone, ANYONE, survive with that much blood loss.

I could hear sirens and realised an ambulance was on its way. I tore my eyes away with a sick feeling in my stomach. Then I realised what was missing. My head swung back to his body and I force myself to look at his head and sadly, my suspicions were right. Judging from what was missing from his head and his related injuries, he was NOT wearing a helmet!

I surprised myself by suddenly feeling very angry. Every day, hundreds of tourists descend on Koh Samui and for the time that they are here, seem to leave their brains at home. Riding around on bikes like crazy things, darting in and out of traffic, shouting to each other, racing each other and often driving while WELL under the influence of drink and who knows what else. And, you guessed it, with no helmets.

What is it with tourists that they feel they have no need to wear helmets? Do they think that there is some weird Asian spiritual field hanging over Koh Samui that protects their precious heads from being scraped, sliced or split open. Yeah, you might not look cool but seriously, looking at what was left of this guy's head, he didn't look cool either. At least if you wear a helmet, you can take it off at some point and then look cool - I doubt this guy is going to look cool for a very long time.

I'm not saying that this guy was a reckless driver, was drunk or acting like a crazy tourist, but I am saying that if he was wearing a helmet, his head might look in a better state than it did right now. I really hope that he survived.

Wear your helmets people!! They're not fashion items, they're life savers and there to protect your head.


I believe in informed decisions, and if farang people choose to not wear helmets and knowingly run the risks of having their heads bashed in, I am cool with it. Their choice, and if they make such a silly choice, I guess there is not much of value for the helmet to protect anyway.

I think maybe some Thai people can be excused due to misinformation, misconceptions about helmets or simply a lack of real information; a lot of the Thais I have spoken to claim that helmets are often useless in accidents.
Having seen the helmets that some of them wear, I understand why they would get such an idea - most of those helmets have no cushioning and their insides are as hard as concrete. Even the more "expensive" ones that appear to be safe (Index fullface helmets, for example) will offer no protection against highspeed impact. When everyone wears crap helmets like that, you might easily be led to think that such protection is useless. And then why indeed wear it when you might instead enjoy a fresh breeze upon your face?

No, what infuriates me is when I see expat daddies with their half-thai children driving around at high speed, neither person wearing any kind of safety gear. Us foreigners should know better than that, having grown up in countries with safety campaigns, freely available information and general common sense (compared to Thailand, at least). Whats more, we should have the money to be able to decent quality helmets for our kids. Not wearing safety gear just because Thai society "accepts" it is lazy and irresponsible, especially when it comes to the kids. Teach them to take care of themselves - it is the number one job for a parent.

Myself, I roll with a Shark Speed-R Avenger helmet (so fly it might as well be a fashion accessory), and my 3 year old has a fullface Caberg kids model. I would hate for either of us to be seriously injured because I skimped on safety equipment.

By Mike, Phuket (19th February 2014)

Not just Samui and not just tourists. Many teachers are guilty of the same thing. I wear a full face helmet and get laughed at sometimes, or told it's a boys' helmet. I just point out that I have a fine brain and I feel it worth protecting. I have also been known, in my more sarcastic moments, to suggest that if people do not think their brain is worth protecting they are are probably right.

By Jill, Lampang (14th February 2014)

The tourist are just doing what the Thais do but of course the tourist should know better. And then on top of that the Thai police rarely enforce the helmet laws or any laws for that matter. But that is why there are laws to stop people from doing illegal or dangerous things but when the laws are not enforced it is up to oneself not to do those things. And yes a lot of tourist come to Thailand and think it is an adult Disneyland and find out the hard way it really is not.

By Thomas, Thailand (9th February 2014)

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