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Motorcyclists' reactions to safety helmet law: a qualitative study

Fereshteh Zamani-Alavijeh1, Shamsaddin Niknami1*, Eesa Mohammadi2, Ali Montazeri3, Fazlollah Ghofranipour1, Fazlollah Ahmadi2 and Shahrzad Hejazi Bazargan45

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Health Education, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran

2 Department of Nursing, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran

3 Department of Mental Health, Iranian Institute for Health Sciences Research, ACECR, Tehran, Iran

4 Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science, Los Angeles, California, USA

5 University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Los Angeles, California, USA

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BMC Public Health 2009, 9:393  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-9-393

Published: 20 October 2009



Extensive body of the literature reveals that proper use of helmets is an effective way to reduce the severity of injuries and fatalities among motorcyclists. However, many motorcyclists do not use safety helmet properly. This study aimed to empirically explore reactions of motorcyclists to the safety helmet laws, in Iran.


Qualitative data were collected via four focus groups and 11 in-depth interviews. Participants were 28 male motorcyclists who never used a safety helmet during rides, and 4 male police officers. All transcripts, codes and categories were read for several times to exhaust identifiable major themes. During this process data were reduced from text to codes and themes.


Five major themes emerged from the data analyses, including themes related to the following: (1) circumventing or dodging police officers; (2) simulating a helmet wearing behavior; (3) accepting the probability of receiving a ticket; (4) taking advantage of the police neglect and carelessness; and (5) using a cheap or convenient helmet.


Our findings suggest certain levels of reckless driving among the participating motorcyclists in this study. They also point to a system of law enforcement that operates haphazardly and fails to consistently penalize those who deviate from it. Further studies are needed to investigate how "risks" are perceived and relate to "reactions", and how a 'culture of masculinity' may encourage risk tolerance and a disposition toward lawlessness and carelessness among male motorcyclists. Also, there is a need for the development and implementation of multidimensional interventions that would offer socio-culturally sensitive educational and motivational messages to the motorcyclists and the in-service traffic-enforcement officers in Iran.