The Road Safety Department is requesting the government to implement compulsory rear passenger seat belt usage in passenger vehicles, in efforts to to reduce the risk of them being injured in accidents. The rule is expected to go into effect early next year.
RSD director-general Datuk Suret Singh says such an enforcement could prevent 350 deaths per year, which is the police statistic number for the number of unbelted backseat passenger accident deaths.
The idea is that old cars without rear seatbelts would be given a grace period to fit them, while newer cars that come with rear seatbelts from the factory would have the rule put into effect immediately.
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PUTRAJAYA: The Road Safety Department will recommend to the Cabinet Committee on Road Safety the compulsory use of seat belts by rear seat passengers of vehicles.
Its director-general, Datuk Suret Singh, said the proposal would be made based on a recent study by the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety which revealed that the fastening of safety belts by backseat passengers could reduce the risk of them being injured in accidents.
If the proposal is accepted, backseat passengers who failed to buckle up risk being fined RM80.
The move could prevent some 350 deaths a year. According to police statistics, this is the number of deaths that occur annually in accidents involving unbelted backseat passengers.
Usage of the rear seatbelt could also save the lives of front seat passengers and drivers by reducing the impact of collision when backseat passengers are thrown forward in a crash.
Suret said he did not expect much problem to implement the move.
“We’ll move fast. It won’t take long as it is simply a matter of the transport minister using his ministerial powers to put the regulation in force. We expect it to be made compulsory next year,” Suret said.
Currently, only front seat passengers and drivers are fined for not wearing seatbelts.
A research paper by the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (Miros), concluded that it was possible to enforce usage of rear seatbelts because 90 per cent of cars in Malaysia already had them, while 91 per cent of passengers had access to seatbelts.
The paper said only 10 per cent of road users were expected to have difficulty complying with such a regulation, and these would be mainly those in rural areas where the overloading of cars and use of older cars without rear seatbelts were more common.
It was recommended that, should the rule be enforced, those with old cars be given a grace period to fit rear seatbelts, while those with newer cars would have to comply immediately.
The paper also pointed out that, in many fatal head-on collisions, the rear passenger compartment was usually intact even though there was extensive frontal damage.
In most cases, the rear passengers died because they did not fasten their safety belts.
Miros director-general Prof Dr Radin Umar said the public had to appreciate the importance of fastening rear seatbelts before the law was enforced.
Suret also announced a drop in the number of road deaths last month compared with the same month last year, due to heightened enforcement and new strategies adopted by the police and the Road Transport Department during the festive periods.
Overall, there were 363 deaths this November compared with 502 over the same period last year. There were also reductions in the daily death average.
For motorcyclists and pillion riders, the daily death average was 7.13, down from 10.13 in November 2006. For car drivers and passengers, the average was 2.65 deaths a day compared with 3.33 deaths daily last year.
For pedestrians, the daily death average was 1.03 compared with 1.63 last year.
Suret said the cabinet had agreed that Ops Sikap and the maximum fine of RM300 for major traffic offences be imposed throughout the year next year and not during festive seasons only.