While browsing my social media news feeds during the Raya break, I saw a rather sad news piece posted by someone I know about a five month old baby who died in a car accident in Dungun because the baby was flung out of the car as there was no proper restraining done. The baby was being held by the grandmother in the rear seat of the car, instead of sitting in a baby chair.
There are no such thing as child seat laws in Malaysia. Even the requirement to use rear seat belts was only introduced in 2009, and adoption as well as enforcement remain poor. Forget airbags – the primary safety feature in the case of a car accident is the seatbelt. Airbags are only meant to be a supplementary restraint system, hence the acronym SRS. But a seatbelt is meant to safely hold an adult body in place – it will not work for the small body of an infant, toddler or a small child.
It’s been proven time and time again – the statistics show that a child who is in a vehicle that gets into an accident will face the possibility of significantly more injuries or even fatality than a child who is in a child seat. A recent crash test conducted by MIROS shows an adult passenger will not have the required strength to prevent an infant or a child from being thrown forward during a collision at any speed applied.
Yes, no matter how strong you think you are, your arms are not as good as proper belts. According to AAM, an unsecured infant weighing 7 kg a crash speed of just 50km/h will be thrown forward at a force that’s equivalent to an adult falling from a five-(5) storey building!
However, obviously there are many who simply still do not use chlid seats. Why do parents and guardians continue to let their loved ones travel in an unsafe manner?
There are a few reasons for this. Here are some of the usual suspects.
1. Child seats are too expensive
With the rising cost of living these days, some parents choose to forgo child seats. However, should we really compromise on a child’s safety?
Child seats can be had for as low as RM150 these days. I even saw one going for RM97 after discount recently. That’s cheaper than most people spend on cigarettes in a single month. For these more affordable “Made in Malaysia” child seats, just make sure they are SIRIM approved.
An alternative would be to look on local classifieds websites or even parenting forums or Facebook groups to buy good condition used ones. You also need to check if the child seat has been in an accident before as the structure might be damaged. And give it a good wash, of course.
2. Child seats take up too much space (i.e. my car is too small)
Unfortunately this is a real problem for many and it is a problem that runs much too deep to be able to fix easily. Unlike a lot of the other reasons here that are ‘first world problems’, this one is not. In a nutshell, a safe mode of transportation is basically still out of each for many.
A child seat will take up an entire adult’s seating space, and a lot of people can only afford a car that can seat five max. In fact, getting roofed transport like an old Kelisa or Kenari instead of going around on a motorcycle is already a big upgrade. Our public transport system is not really up to the mark yet, so you have to bring your kids around with a car – if you’re lucky enough to have a car in the first place. Otherwise it’s a balancing act on the motorcycle for you.
Interestingly, the government actually wants people to have more kids. Women, Family and Community Development Minister, Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim told the press recently that the government was studying proposals to give incentives for Malaysians to have more kids in order to address a rapid decline in births.
The 2012 number is 2.1 children per woman compared to 3 per woman in 2000, and Rohani says this will cause problems with a shortage of workforce in Malaysia in 20 to 30 years. But how are we going to fit all these kids into the small 5 seater sedans or hatchbacks that a lot of people are limited to in terms of affordability?
A search for 7 seater cars on CarBase.my reveals that the cheapest 7 seater in the country is the Perodua Alza 1.5 Standard MT, which costs RM50,837.50. But the cheapest 5 seater is the Perodua Viva 660 BX MT, at an incredibly low price of RM21,144.80. That’s a massive, massive price difference!
3. I don’t need it, I drive really carefully when my child is in the car
Anyone who really believes this needs a reality check because no matter how carefully you drive, you are sharing the road with plenty of other motorists and not everyone is as careful and conservative as you.
Imagine you’re driving with your family on a rainy day, the roads are wet, and a car spins out right in front of you. Everything happens so fast that you’re unable to react and you cannot avoid slamming into him. I bet at that moment you’ll wish you’d have put your child in a child seat.
4. My child does not want to sit in a child seat
This would not even be an issue if the government makes child seats a legal requirement. As a result, many parents who don’t face any of the problems above still choose to carry their child in their arms.
I believe that this is just a matter of the child getting used to sitting in a car seat from the very beginning. My son is 20 months old now and he has always been in a car seat. He graduated from a rear facing Maxi Cosi Pebble to a rear facing Britax Max-Fix before he turned one year old and still sits in his car seat until today.
What we do is try to cap car journeys to 45 minutes max, and if he really gets agitated we’ll stop somewhere for a break. We’ve done KL to Penang and KL to Singapore journeys with him completely sitting still in the car seat.
5. Who needs child seats? I got child bed!
There are also parents who want the best for their child and misguidedly decide that a child seat is too restrictive and uncomfortable for the child. The comfort of their child is the number one priority for them. As a result, ridiculous things like this “car bed” sell like hot cakes on online shops.
I don’t want to even begin to imagine what would happen to a child lying down on this type of “car bed” in an accident. The shocking thing is that it seems to getting massive amount of shares, likes and ‘interested’ comments this item is getting on social media, this means there are a lot of people interested in buying it.
6. My wife’s arms are as good as the belts in a car seat
Like we said earlier, tests show that an adult passenger will not have the required strength to prevent an infant or a child from being thrown forward during a collision at any speed applied.
It’s simple physics. Trying to hold a small baby in a car crash at 50km/h would be like trying to lift 8 bags of cement at the same time. It’s simply not possible.
7. My child is big enough not to sit in a car seat
Like we said earlier, seat belts in cars are designed for adult bodies. Even if it appears that your child can wear a seatbelt properly, the seat belt could be sitting on areas like their tummy or neck, which are not the strongest parts of their bodies, instead of where seat belts are supposed to lie – their hips, chest and shoulder.
In the UK, there are legal requirements in place where a child has to first use a Group 0+ seat (up to 13kg), then move to a Group 1 seat (9-18kg), and then use a booster seat up to 12 years old or taller than 135cm. We do not have such laws but this would be a good guideline. If you want to save money, you can go for ‘convertible’ seats that combine both Group 0+ and Group 1 sizes in one seat.
This is of course just the minimum. Since everyone’s body is different, if adult seat belts don’t seem to rest on the right places on your child even after the thresholds, continue to use your booster seat.
Do I need ISOFIX?
No you don’t need ISOFIX. You can use a child seat that is secured by a seat belt too. But a child seat is only safe if it is secured properly, otherwise it will just become a projectile in a car crash.
AA surveys show that child seats that are fitted with the adult seatbelts are typically 70% to 80% misfitted with around 30% being seriously misfitted.
ISOFIX’s purpose is to fix this problem. It minimises installation errors, but if your car does not have ISOFIX points, you just need to make sure you learn how to secure your child seat properly.
For your next car, use CarBase.my’s advanced search feature to look for cars with ISOFIX points.
This is what a child goes through in an accident
I think watching what happens in these videos would say it best. Once you’ve decide to put your child in a car seat where he or she belongs, you might want to read up on front facing versus rear facing child seats – these videos will help show you the difference. A child should be kept in a rear-facing child seat for as long as possible before graduating to a front-facing one.
I hope that this article helps raise some awareness on the importance of child seats in Malaysia. If you know someone who has a child and doesn’t use child seats, please share this with them.