Jonny Edbrooke reviews some motorbike safety issues that are all too often ignored.

Wearing a helmet — and a good one — is an obvious safety factor when riding motorbikes in Vietnam. Even though if you look around District 2 sometimes, it seems we have a way to go on this issue.

There are also a number of other safety issues to be aware of when throwing your leg over a motorbike here, many of which are simple common sense.

Pillion Passengers

Under most countries’ laws you can only have one passenger on a bike and they should be tall enough to sit on the back and have their feet firmly on footrests while holding onto grip at back of bike. You should not carry anyone in front of you when driving, it’s fairly obvious what will happen but if you do hit something and a  child is between you and the front of the bike.

Clothing

So it’s hot and it rains here, but when you hit the ground at 40kmh, flip-flops and shorts aren’t really going to offer much protection. According to US Center for Disease Control, 30% of non-fatal injuries in motorbike accidents happen to legs and feet, so put some shoes that might give you some sort of protection.

Also be aware of the Then you have the “Saigon kiss”, the scar left by a muffler burn, usually on the calf. Wearing trousers minimises the risks of getting the dreaded Saigon kiss.

Shopping

Many of us carry shopping dangling from our handle-bars, this impedes the ability to steer especially if you have to make a sudden quick maneuver. The safest option is to install a back pannier and strap on a box with bungee cords. There’s also another issue with shopping, especially if you hang your shopping bags from  the handlebars or on a hooks on the front of the bike — if there are glass bottles inside, you can end up with quite severe injuries in the cast of an accident. Either from the glass bottles smashing into your legs, or from falling onto broken glass when the bike goes down.

Mirrors

Firstly, actually have two of them. Yes, there are meant to be two, and they should be angled correctly so you can see behind you, on both sides. The next step is to actually use them. Look in the mirror to check what’s behind you when you approach a turn, or prepare to change lanes.

Tyre Pressure

The majority of motorbike drivers in Ho Chi Minh City get their tyres pumped at local garages, which have no pressure guages. Trevor Long of Saigon Motorcycles, who imports tyre gauges, said this can contribute to accidents. 

“I believe it’s one of the biggest causes of avoidable accidents here, over-pressurised tyres,” he said. Trevor recently checked a number of customers’ tyres and found “not one was under 50psi, one was actually 85psi, its should be about 30 to 35psi in the front,” he said. “What happens when you apply the front brake is the tyre flattens out on the road, that’s what gives you your grip, when it’s at 60psi there is no grip.”

If you carry passengers regularly, you will likely want your psi to be on the higher end for the back tyre.

The seasoned bike riders will think this guide is a bit unnecessary. But take a look around the city and you’ll see a lot of people, including expats, making simple safety mistakes again and again.

Following these guidelines could save you from a serious injury, or worse.