Sunday, December 2, 2012

Parent of the Year





This photo is one a several photos that have been circulating in email jokes with the satirical title of "parent of the year". When I first looked at this photo I chuckled for a minute, but then soon realized that I see this every day, living in Malaysia.

Each and every day as I walk along the streets of Penang, I see thousands upon thousands of motorbikes. Often I will see parents and one, two or more children riding on the bikes. Occassionally you might see the driver wearing a cheap helmet, but the kids usually never have one.

When I first saw these motorcycles with the entire family aboard, I was appalled, thinking that this would never happen back home. The difference is that very poor people back home often have cars or at least can afford public transportation, whereas here the motorbike substitutes for the family car. The people driving these motorbikes have a salary of less than $300 a month for the entire family.  There are helmet laws here in Malaysia, but they are enforced selectively. Many people just thumb their noses at the police. The police feel that most of these people can't afford to buy proper helmets and if they were given a summons, they couldn't afford that either. So the helmetless drivers are ignored. I often wonder if someone can afford a motorbike, they should be able to afford a helmet to save the lives of their children.

Even though I see this everyday I can't get used to it and wonder how many children are needlessly killed or injured. But that is one of the many ways a developing country is different.

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