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The Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (MIROS) has voiced its concerns regarding an alarming drop in rear seat belt compliance and awareness amongst motorists, reports Bernama.

MIROS statistics show that the compliance rate for the rear seat belt rule was 47% when introduced in February 2009 (enforcement began on January 1, 2009), but this plummeted to 13% by end-2009, 9.7% by 2010 and 9.2% by 2011.

For some reason compliance rose to 13.5% in 2012, before dropping again to 12.5% in 2013, and 7.7% for the first four months of this year. Needless to say, this is extremely alarming; MIROS says compliance and awareness seem to be borne more out of the fear of being fined.

A US Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration study revealed that in an accident involving a vehicle travelling at 50 km/h, the weight of unbuckled rear passengers jumps by 30-60 times their original weight.

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In simple terms, MIROS said in a statement, during a 30-50 km/h collision, an unrestrained rear passenger becomes the equivalent of a 3.5-tonne projectile hitting the back of the front passenger.

“You may argue that the front passenger is perhaps shielded by his/her seat back, but we are willing to bet that the (front) seats certainly weren’t designed to absorb three and a half tonnes of force,” it said.

MIROS statistics also reveal that nearly 90% of vehicles currently on Malaysian roads are fitted with rear seat belts, giving seat belt access to 85% of vehicle occupants in the country.

Some people think the implementation of the rear seat belt law has been put on hold, and this is not true, says MIROS. Only older models not equipped with seat belts are exempt from the law.

JPJ director-general Datuk Seri Ismail Ahmad told Bernama that 47,302 summons relating to the wearing of seat belts were issued from 2012 to 2013, with motorists from Johor recording the highest number of summons for non-compliance at 1,932 in 2012 and 8,997 in 2013.

“Last year we carried out two major operations throughout the country and this year we hope to increase it to three or four. Basically such operations are carried out are to ensure the compliance of the law,” he said.

Road Safety Department (JKJR) director-general Datuk Dr Tam Weng Wah also expressed his concern. “Awareness among the people is still low with about 20 deaths recorded every day due to such accidents and they could be a mother to someone, a child to someone, a husband to someone, etc,” he told Bernama.

“What is important is for individuals to realise and be aware of its importance and not just buckle up for fear of being penalised.”

Guys, please. Law or no law, fine or no fine, belting up in the back is not difficult to do, and you value your lives as well as those of your loved ones, don’t you?