Singapore study highlights dangers of not belting up

Generic photo of passengers wearing seat belts. PHOTO: ST FILE
Generic photo of passengers wearing seat belts. PHOTO: ST FILE PHOTO: ST FILE

Stuck in the back of a car or travelling during the morning rush hour, and not buckled up? A local study suggests that passengers who fall in these two categories are at a higher risk of sustaining severe injuries when involved in a road accident.

Rear-seat passengers who did not wear seat belts were about 45 per cent more likely to sustain severe injuries than front-seat passengers and drivers.

In addition, more than 30 per cent of passengers who travelled between 7am and 10am - and did not wear a seat belt - sustained severe injuries.

This was about 10 per cent higher than at any other time of the day. Some of these severe injuries included major head injuries and bleeding from pelvic fractures.

"Our study shows that more than half of back-seat passengers do not wear seat belts, which makes them vulnerable to severe injuries," said Dr Wong Ting Hway, a consultant at the Department of General Surgery at Singapore General Hospital, who led the research study.

"With our results, we hope these groups could be targeted in future road safety campaigns because they are at risk of sustaining more severe injuries."

The study, which was supported by the Ministry of Health's National Trauma Committee, investigated the use of seat belts in Singapore, examining the data of some 4,600 patients who were involved in traffic accidents and were admitted to the emergency departments of five public hospitals for treatment.

When The Straits Times spoke to private-hire car drivers, many said that while front-seat passengers do buckle up, those who sit at the back tend not to.

"Back-seat passengers don't usually wear their seat belts when they get into the car," said Mr Randy Ho, 24, who has been a private-hire car driver for about a year. "But once you tell them to, they do. Maybe Singaporeans haven't made it a habit to wear their belts yet."

Mr Gerard Pereira, 60, a training manager at the Singapore Safety Driving Centre, said that students are educated on the importance of wearing a seat belt during training sessions at the centre, but commuters may need more reminders.

"While more cars now have a beeping sound to alert drivers and front-seat passengers to put on their seat belts, I think car manufacturers can do more to incorporate such safety features, ensuring that rear-seat passengers buckle up as well."

The findings also showed that about six in ten back-seat passengers did not wear their seat belts, and that back-seat passengers made up just over half of all passengers who did not buckle up.

This comes after the Traffic Police reported an increase in the number of seat-belt violations. There were 9,833 such cases last year, up from 8,162 cases in 2015.

Since 1973, drivers and front-seat passengers have been required by law to wear seat belts. An amendment in 1993 also included rear-seat passengers.

Motorists who are found driving without the use of a seat belt are liable to a fine of $120 and three demerit points. Passengers caught without wearing their seat belts can also receive a $120 fine.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 02, 2017, with the headline 'S'pore study highlights dangers of not belting up'. Print Edition | Subscribe