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American urges Thais: Wear a helmet

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  • Writer: Chaloempong Phanthupo
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An American activist on Wednesday kicked off a campaign to promote the importance of wearing motorcycle helmets by driving a pickup truck alone through 77 provinces over the next few weeks. 

Photo courtesy of Isara Foundation

Kirk Gillock, founder of Nong Khai-based Isara Foundation, set off from the northeastern province of Nong Khai in the morning and drove through Nakhon Phanom before arriving in Bung Kan late in the afternoon, ending his first day of the campaign.

For his self-funded campaign, Mr Gillock has installed banners and loudspeakers to the pickup to deliver a message urging riders to be more concerned for their safety by always wearing a helmet.

Mr Gillock told the Bangkok Post the campaign was expected to take about a month, with visits being made to three provinces every day. His travel route started from the Northeast and will continue through the eastern provinces, the Central region, the South and finally the North. He expects to reach Bangkok in the next two weeks.   

The 40-year-old American from Texas launched a similar campaign seven years ago by riding a motorcycle through every province in Thailand in the hope of reducing fatalities and injuries.

Daily News quoted Mr Gillock as saying that he found only 5-10% of motorcyclists wearing helmets while riding their bikes during his last campaign but the figure had risen to 40-50% today. He hoped the number of helmeted riders would reach 100% in the next couple of years.

For his latest campaign, Mr Gillock said when he spots a motorcyclist without a helmet, he will pull over, give the person a helmet and try to urge them to change their old habit to save their own lives, the newspaper quoted him as saying.   

Mr Gillock founded Isara Foundation in 2005. A non-profit organisation, it focuses on improving education, health, safety and the environment. In the past seven years, the foundation has distributed more than 4,500 helmets to motorcyclists and worked with public and private agencies to promote helmet use.

The Public Health Ministry revealed earlier this year that injuries and fatalities among motorcyclists accounted for 81.67% of all road accidents, and one rider died every hour. A motorbike user is 37 times more likely to die in an accident than a car user, it said.

According to Land Transport Department figures for 2012, Thailand has about 19 million registered motorcycles, or 58.6% of all registered vehicles.

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