Go easy on the car seats
A new regulation that makes car seats for children mandatory seems to have come at a bad time. Motorists are complaining the requirement will add to their plight with regard to the surging cost of living.
Section 123 of the Land Traffic Act stipulates that children under six years old or children whose height is below 135cm must be restrained in a car seat or a special seat.
The law also allows other alternatives that ensure the safety of child travellers in the event of road accidents. In addition, the regulation also requires car passengers, including those in the back seat, to buckle their seatbelt. Law violators could face a fine of up to 2,000 baht.
The requirement has been published in the Royal Gazette which sets the enforcement deadline within 120 days, or Sept 5. It could be extended by another 90 days.
As car seats are imported items, the prices are high, ranging from 10,000-20,000 baht. The authorities should see how the law can be enforced while imposing the smallest burden on the public.
Pol Maj Gen Jirasant Kaewsaeng-ek, deputy chief of the Metropolitan Police Bureau, said enforcement may be put off to December as the police and the Department of Land Traffic need more time to finalise details.
Alternative restraint equipment which can serve as a substitute for expensive car seats such as booster seats, specially designed cushions that enable the seat occupant to sit high enough for fastening with an effective restraint, may be accepted. The booster seats cost about 1,000-2,000 baht a piece.
At the same time, the Transport Ministry said it could exclude taxis and other public transport from the requirement.
Undoubtedly, better safety measures are vital. Studies by the Royal College of Pediatricians say about 140 children are killed in car accidents in Thailand each year. The seats are also safer than the practice of a mother holding her child on her lap in a moving vehicle.
The effort to boost traffic-related child safety deserves praise. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that car seats could cut fatality rates in children below 12 months, and one to four years old, by 71% and 54% respectively. It helps cut the risk of serious injuries by half. The car seats law is strictly enforced in advanced countries.
It's necessary, however, that the state finds ways to ease the financial burden of those families by cutting the import tax on the seats, for example, to ensure they are more affordable. It should also do more, like cooperating with the private sector regarding incentives for local manufacturers to invest in the seats. In between, there should be a place where used car seats could be well kept and distributed to those in need.
If car seat regulations are fully enforced, child safety should improve, which means the government can afford to set aside a smaller welfare budget for people with disabilities caused by traffic accidents over the next 10-20 years.
However, some lawmakers say motorists need time to adjust, so police should opt for a warning for now, rather than slapping fines on motorists without car seats in the early phase of enforcement.
While leniency is understandable in the case of child car seats, the authorities must make no compromises on other traffic law violations, drunk driving in particular, given the fact that Thailand ranks No.2 in the world with regard to road fatality rates, at three per hour, as a result of rampant traffic law offences.
Weak enforcement can no longer be tolerated, or road safety will remain an elusive goal.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
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