National child seat law rooted in science
After years of debate, Thailand finally has a law that requires small children to be in child seats in cars.
As announced earlier this month in the Royal Gazette, children under six must be placed in a car seat or a special seat for safety while in a moving vehicle. The implementation will start on Sept 5 and violations could mean a fine of up to 2,000 baht.
The law has good intentions and is designed to keep children safe in car accidents, which have killed an average of 100 kids aged 15 and below in Thailand per year in the past decade, according to data from the Child Safety Promotion and Injury Prevention Research Centre under Ramathibodi Hospital's Faculty of Medicine, Mahidol University.
But why is there so much negativity surrounding such a law that means to protect the lives of the young?
In Thailand, not every family with kids uses child car seats. In a moving vehicle, parents usually put kids on their lap or in the back seat -- a practice many families are used to.
So now when there is a law that requires them to change how they do things, especially when there is not enough support from lawmakers, it is not surprising that many parents have responded with objections.
But putting everything aside, let's at least admit we are talking about our children's lives. To keep them safe, there should be no question about if child car seats should be used.
Almost 100 countries around the world have implemented child car seat laws to some extent. The United States, for example, implements a national child car seat law with an enforced sub-national policy on infant restraint. While all states mandate the use of child restraints, they have various ages, weight and height requirements to specify the period of required use. Children travelling in taxis are also required to be put in child car seats.
In the United Kingdom, children must use a child seat until they are 12 or reach 135cm. Like the United States, a child car seat is also required in a cab. In Sweden, children are required to sit in a child car seat also until they reach a height of 135cm.
In South Africa, the law states that children must be in a child restraint until they are at least three years old and children under the age of 14 must always wear a seatbelt.
Coming back to Asia, Japanese law requires children up to six years old or 140cm in height to be put in a child seat while in a moving vehicle. The seat, however, is not required in a taxi.
In Southeast Asia in particular, countries like Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines have already implemented a child car seat law
Studies and research point out that child car seats can reduce 75% of car accident-related fatalities in children up to five years old and 40% of car accident-related deaths in school-age kids. All these figures explain why many developed countries have implemented a clear and strict child car seat law.
There is no better time for Thailand to introduce a law designed solely for children's safety. But while the law is being implemented, lawmakers should also introduce policies to support and encourage change.
First, let's admit that good child car seats are not cheap, with prices ranging from 2,000 baht up to 20,000 baht or above. To avoid parental objections to the use of child car seats, the products should be brought under price control regulations, meaning manufacturers or distributors should not be allowed to mark up the price as much as they wish.
In the initial phase, the state should have a subsidy programme to help families who cannot afford the purchase, especially those with more than one child. Car seat import taxes should be lowered while the private sector can come up with other initiatives to support the use of child car seats. Car companies, for instance, might incorporate a child car seat into a privilege campaign when making a special deal for potential buyers.
After all, no parent wants their children in danger. With proper policies, they will surely not think twice before buying one.
Arusa Pisuthipan is the editor of the Life section of the Bangkok Post.
Deputy editor of the Life section
Arusa Pisuthipan is the deputy editor of the Life section of the Bangkok Post.