'One in 4 parents flouts seat belt rules'

The law requires passengers under 1.35m to be secured with an appropriate child restraint or use a booster seat or adjustable seat belt.
The law requires passengers under 1.35m to be secured with an appropriate child restraint or use a booster seat or adjustable seat belt. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Child car seats inconvenient, their driving skills are good enough, they say in street poll

Most parents are aware of the rules governing the use of car seats for children and always belt up their children when on the move.

A Straits Times street poll of 50 parents on Wednesday found that nearly 75 per cent of parents ensure that their children are secured in car seats, as required by law.

On Tuesday morning, a Honda sedan skidded and crashed into a tree in Lentor Avenue, killing a woman and injuring her husband and two children.

Ms Sim Yee Ling, 33, who was seated in the back with her elder son Tan Yu Sen, six, was pronounced dead at the scene. The boy suffered spinal injuries. Her younger son, Wei Quan, three, sustained head injuries, while her husband Simon Tan, 42, who was driving, suffered a brain haemorrhage.

It remains unclear if they were wearing seat belts.

Drivers and passengers in motor vehicles are required by law to wear seat belts, unless medically exempted. The law also requires passengers under 1.35m to be secured with an appropriate child restraint or use a booster seat or adjustable seat belt, barring some exceptions.

In recent years, the number of drivers who failed to wear seat belts fell from 9,757 in 2013 to 7,375 last year, Traffic Police data shows.

Civil servant Vincent Teo, 34, who has a three-year-old son, said the recent accident "shows that you can never be too careful".

He added: "My child sits in a booster in the back of the car with his seat belt fastened at all times. We're very aware of safety while driving."

However, some parents flout the rules as they find child car seats inconvenient, or rely on their driving skills for safety. Software developer Pang Gin Dee, 33, said: "We used to have a baby seat… but now, since my kid is four years old, we don't use a booster seat; just seat belts.

"Boosters are too bulky and we need to fit other things, like prams, in the car. Accidents and injuries still can happen... I think it's how you drive that matters most."

Ms Linda Chia, 32, who works in software support and has a son in pre-school, also finds booster seats inconvenient. She said her son uses a booster seat, but not for short drives, or when the car is full.

"I know it's not that safe. I'll always try to hold on to him, just in case the car stops abruptly," she said.

Under the Road Traffic Act, drivers and passengers found not using a seat belt or appropriate restraints can be fined up to $1,000 or jailed up to three months, or both.

Mr Bernard Tay, president of the Automobile Association of Singapore, said: "A properly fitted child restraint system can reduce fatal injuries by up to 80 per cent for toddlers and 90 per cent for infants."

A car's passive safety elements, such as the body shell, airbags, seat belts and headrests are not designed specifically for protecting children, and will not protect them properly during an accident, he added.

• Additional reporting by Sherry Xuerui Sun and Trina Anne Khoo

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 18, 2016, with the headline ''One in 4 parents flouts seat belt rules''. Print Edition | Subscribe