800 caught every month for not belting up

ST poll finds many back-seat passengers do not wear seat belts, saying they’re restrictive

“The simple act of wearing seat belts can make the difference between life and death in the event of an accident,” said the Traffic Police. ST PHOTO: SYAMIL SAPARI

Adrian Lim (Transport Correspondent)

Esther Koh
and Nathanael Phang

Every month, there are close to 800 cases of passengers and drivers caught by the authorities for failing to belt up in their vehicles.

While last year’s 9,541 cases formed a slight dip from the 9,836 cases in 2016, road safety experts re- iterated the importance of wearing seat belts in reducing the severity of accident injuries, in the wake of a number of fatal accidents recently.

The Traffic Police, in providing the numbers, said: “The simple act of wearing seat belts can make the difference between life and death in the event of an accident.”

Singapore Road Safety Council’s chairman Bernard Tay said in a statement on Monday: “All persons travelling in vehicles, irrespective of their age, should be appropriately belted up… to lower the risk of injury in the event of an accident.”

Mr Tay said drivers have a “duty and responsibility” to prevent accidents at all times, must always travel at safe speeds and keep a careful lookout for other road users.

His comments come after two re- cent fatal incidents: A 19-year-old died after being nearly flung out of the window of the taxi she was in when it collided with a car; and a 23-year-old woman, also a back- seat passenger, died after the car she was in collided with a bus.

It is, however, unclear if the two victims had belted up or not.

Dr Victor Ong, a senior consultant at National University Hospital’s Emergency Medicine Department, said the hospital’s data showed that in similar accident types, passengers tended to have more severe and varied injuries when not wearing seat belts.

This was derived from a study of about 2,600 patients treated from 2014 to 2016.

“In a head-on collision, the vehicle’s forward momentum is suddenly slowed and stopped. How- ever, for the passengers, their for- ward motion continues unless something stops it,” said Dr Ong.

He said that “unrestrained passengers tend to be thrown about in the car and become projectiles as well”.

Rear-seat passengers could suffer injuries such as thoracic and lumbar spinal injuries, in addition to chest and abdominal trauma as well as fractures of the limbs, he added.

Despite the threat of such severe injuries and the possibility of a $120 fine, The Straits Times found that more than half of the 30 people it polled admitted to not belting up when sitting in the backseat of taxis, private-hire cars or cars driven when people they knew.

Most of the respondents cited the “discomfort and inconvenience” of wearing a seat belt, or that there was no culture of belting up.

“It is inconvenient and restricts my movements. If the journey is short, I don’t bother,” said Ms Chong Hwee Lin, an accountant in her 40s.

Secondary 3 student Rainee Quek, 15, said she knew it was important to belt up but did not do so “because there is no culture of wearing seat belts in my family”.

Ms Crystal Ong, 19, however, said she did not have the habit of belting up till she was involved in a near accident about two months ago.

The Institute of Technical Education student said she was sitting in a private-hire car when the driver, who was speeding, slammed on the brakes to avoid a collision with a bus turning out from a bus bay.

“I slid forward and hit the (back of the) front passenger seat,” she said, adding that she belts up all the time now. “It just takes one incident to be scared,” said Ms Ong.