ACCORDING to the World Health Organisation, if correctly installed and used, child safety restraints in automobiles reduce deaths among infants by approximately 70 per cent, and deaths among small children by between 54 and 80 per cent in the event of an accident.

Last year, Kuala Lumpur Road Safety department chief Subashini Jane Antony Muthu was quoted as saying that about 73 per cent of fatal accidents involving children were caused by parents neglecting safety.

Parents needed to know the importance of proper child safety restraints, especially during festive seasons when the number of road users was higher, she added.

So why are we waiting until 2019 to enforce child restraint laws?

Malaysian Automotive Institute chief executive officer Datuk Madani Sahari, when contacted by Cars, Bikes and Trucks earlier this week, said gazetting the laws was a complicated process.

“Although on face value it would be ideal to rapidly enforce safety features on vehicles upon availability, gazetting these laws is a complicated process that takes into account all stakeholders and sensitivities before they are enforced on all motorists,” he said.

He added that in Malaysia, tremendous milestones had been achieved through the enforcement of rear passenger seat belts.

“The issue of child seat enforcement is relatively newer, and requires due legal processes before it is enforced under the law,” he said.

However, he added that the good news was that most cars in the market, including the entry-level Proton Saga and Perodua Axia, had ISOFIX mounts as standard safety features of the car.

This gives options for parents to use child seats that are secured either through the vehicle seat belt, or using ISOFIX clamps that come with UNECE-regulated ISOFIX mounts.

Going by current statistics, between now and 2019, hundreds more will be killed in road accidents. A significant portion of these lives could be saved with quicker enforcement.

However, given the meandering workings of government machinery, the onus now lies on parents to make the move. Don’t wait another two years for the government to gazette laws.

But automobile child restraints are only part of the ongoing problem of traffic injuries involving children in Malaysia.

The lack of helmet use among young children is also a cause for concern. How many times have you seen babies being cradled in their mother’s arms while riding pillion on a motorcycle? Even the best engineers can’t make helmets for 6-old month babies.

According to Malaysia’s first study looking into the use of helmets among children in Malaysia, only three per cent of child pillion riders wear proper safety gear.

Universiti Putra Malaysia Safe Kids Malaysia executive director Assoc Prof Dr Kulanthayan K.C. Mani was quoted as saying many children pillion riders wore adult helmets that did not fit them properly. A staggering 24 per cent wore toy helmets.

In the “The epidemiology of childhood brain injury in the state of Selangor and Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia” study last year, details were given about the injuries seen at hospitals in the study area.

About 10 per cent of the traumatic brain injuries were children under 10 years old. A significant portion of them were caused by traffic accidents.

While the injury statistics are similar to many other countries in the world, there is no reason why we shouldn’t try to reduce the figure further.

“The study also reinforced the need to continue the traffic safety awareness initiatives and programmes, especially among motorcyclists.”

Laws, regulations and enforcement can only go so much to protecting the lives of children on Malaysian roads.

At the end of the day adults are ultimately responsible for the safety of children under their care, and they need to make sure they do their best to protect them and ensure their safety.

cbt@nst. com. my

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