Many parents not using car child restraints while travelling with children in cars: Survey

Ms Liu Wen Hsin, 30, putting her child, Spence Lowe, 2, into a car seat at the back of their car.
Ms Liu Wen Hsin, 30, putting her child, Spence Lowe, 2, into a car seat at the back of their car.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - Whenever Ms Liu Wen Hsin heads out in a private hire vehicle or a taxi with her two-year-old son Spencer, she will always bring along a child car seat.

Despite the additional baggage during these trips, which happens about three times a week, the housewife said it is a worthy trade off.

Ms Liu, 30, said: "Many parents do so much for their kids, and none of these things are convenient, so why do we shortchange our kids in the safety aspect?"

But not all parents do the same, despite the law stating that motor vehicle passengers under 1.35m must be secured with an appropriate restraint such as booster seat or adjustable seat belt.

Survey results published on Monday (Feb 25) by four final-year students from the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) found that almost half of parents polled do not actively put their children in car restraints, even though most agreed that it was an important safety measure.

Out of 513 parents with children younger than 10 years old, about 78 per cent said they own car restraints, but only 55 per cent use them all the time.

Almost half of parents who have cars said their children felt uncomfortable in restraints, while non- car owners said it was inconvenient to carry the item around.

Undergraduate Gracia Ow, 23, one of the members of the NTU group, said: "We found the gap between ownership and usage of child restraints to be appalling and surprising, because it shows that parents are compromising on their children's safety over perceived barriers."

The survey was conducted between October and December last year.

The issue previously came into the spotlight in 2017.

 
 

A study published then by the KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH) found that majority of infants and toddlers injured in motor accidents were not secured in child seats .

Dr Chong Shu-Ling, the study's lead researcher and senior staff physician at KKH, told The Straits Times on Friday (March 1) that parents are now more aware that the use of child restraints is mandatory by law.

"However, actual compliance can be improved,"she said.

"At the children's emergency of KKH, we still see many young children brought in for injuries who were unrestrained and/or sitting in the front seat of the vehicle."

Private hire drivers said it is common for parents with young children to attempt to board their cars without a booster seat. Such cases occur as often as three times a day.

Ride hailing operators Grab and Gojek said drivers are advised to reject such requests. Grab also has a GrabFamily option with special seats for young children.

Chairman for the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport Sitoh Yih Pin said the laws on seat belts and restraints are in place to protect children in case of accidents.

"We have and will continue our efforts to raise awareness of safety during travel and also the importance of always using the appropriate restraints for children in motor vehicles," he added.

KKH said that in another study last year, parents suggested that public education by a reliable source could be the most effective way to increase use of child car restraint.

Other ideas include reinforcing positive child behaviour and financial incentives.

Meanwhile, the students from NTU's Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information are promoting the use of appropriate child restraints for children aged up to 10 through a campaign titled The Safe Seat.

The campaign is supported by KKH and includes partners such as the Automobile Association of Singapore.

It features educational postings on social media platforms and events to engage parents.

One such event, The Safe Seat Day, is being held at the library@harbourfront at VivoCity on Sunday .

Ms Ow, the group spokesman, said: "We want our campaign to fill the gap in awareness and behaviour, and ultimately, we hope to save children's lives."