At this point, as a driver, fastening our seat belts once you start up your car has become something instinctual as a sort of pre-drive ritual. And for those who haven’t yet formed this second-nature habit, most cars have seat belt reminders that will blare incessantly until we fasten up.
Unfortunately, that isn’t even usually the case with rear passengers, at least in Malaysia, according to the findings by the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (MIROS). This is despite proper regulation being in force since 2009.
The law, which came into effect on January 1st of that year under the Motor Vehicle Rules, stated that those found guilty can be fined no more than RM2,000 or jailed no more than a year, or both.
Although is it a violation to not be buckled up in the back seat and has been so for more than a decade, this doesn’t seem to be something that’s especially enforced by the authorities nor is it instilled in most of us at a social or community level. Worse still, this lack of regard for rear seat occupant safety, or lack thereof, has been a prevalent issue for years.
As for how little this matters to the majority of Malaysians, MIROS chairman Datuk Suret Singh told Bernama that only about 11% percent of passengers were consistently wearing rear seat safety belts, according to observations.
Presumably, that figure includes individuals who do not drive (such as children) and, more worryingly, those who are also accustomed to wearing a seat belt when seated in front. However, for some reason, buckling up isn’t a priority when the role is switched to a rear seat passenger as when taking a cab or ride-hailing vehicle.
Datuk Suret added that a new plan to better educate the public and instill habitual rear seat safety belt use has already been developed and approved by the MIROS board of directors. However, the 2-year public awareness campaign scheduled for rollout at the start of 2020 was derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Miros will work with the transport ministry and the Road Transport Department to ensure the plan is improved,” he said, adding that “we will turn the highest government officials into role models because it is the aspiration of the chief secretary to the government himself.”
Last year, on November 1st, Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Mohd Zuki Ali signed a Safety Belt Use Campaign circular that made it mandatory for government officers to use safety belts when using government-owned vehicles. At least that’s a start.