Ensure kids belt up, no matter the distance

Ms Madeline Heng putting her son Joash, one, in a child seat.
Ms Madeline Heng putting her son Joash, one, in a child seat. PHOTO: ST FILE

The death of a 21/2-month-old baby in a road accident is extremely tragic, and my heart goes out to the parents who lost their child in this traumatic accident ("Driver loses appeal against jail for crash that killed baby"; last Saturday).

The young motorist involved in the crash was indeed at fault. But I cannot help wondering if things might have turned out differently if the baby had been belted up.

We think that we may drive carefully or that it may be only a short distance. However, our safety does not depend on only our behaviour but also on the behaviour of other road users.

I often see many children not belted up in cars. I have seen toddlers sitting alone in the front passenger seat. I have seen mothers holding their standing toddlers next to their husbands who are driving. I have also seen the car seat placed in the front passenger seat, next to the driver.

Whenever I have the opportunity, I go up to these people and advise them against doing that.

Under road traffic rules here, "anyone below the height of 1.35m is required to be secured with a child restraint appropriate for a person of that height and weight, use a booster seat to supplement the seat belt or an adjustable seat belt".

I understand that it can be very frustrating to have a wailing baby in the car while one is driving.

But many people fail to understand the danger when they remove their child from a car seat.

I have read that a collision at 25kmh is equivalent to falling flat from a height of 2.5m, while a 50kmh impact is equivalent to a four-storey fall. But most people are not aware of this.

As parents, it is our duty to take our child's safety as a matter of utmost concern. A car seat is essential for a child in a moving car, no matter the distance travelled.

The solution might be in education, awareness and communication.

More needs to be done to enforce car-seat rules and to show the public the danger of not securing a child in an appropriate restraint in the car.

Perhaps the authorities could release figures showing the number of fatalities that have resulted from non-compliance with car-seat rules.

Catherine Toh Siew Gek (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2016, with the headline 'Ensure kids belt up, no matter the distance'. Print Edition | Subscribe