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A closer look at the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Status Report on Road Safety 2015 has revealed some rather disturbing information – Malaysia is amongst the lowest-ranked nations in South East Asia (SEA) when it comes to seat belt law enforcement and awareness on the importance of road safety.

The body has provided Malaysia with only a score of four out of a maximum of 10 for enforcement levels on implementing the national seat belt law. In contrast, neighbouring countries like Thailand and Vietnam received six points while Cambodia and the Philippines got five. Indonesia and Singapore scored eight out of ten along with Japan – Australia scored seven while New Zealand was awarded nine points.

New Zealand boasted a 96% and 90% seat belt compliance rate for front occupants and rear, respectively. The same report, on the other hand, rated Malaysia with a seat belt compliance rate of 77% and 13% for front and rear occupants, respectively. Nations further away such as the United Kingdom had compliance rates recorded at 95% and 88% (front to rear) with the US scoring 84% and 70%.

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Also, it should be known that Malaysia, like several other countries in the region, has yet to implement a mandatory national-level child restraint law that would require parents to safely secure their children with a certified child seat (child restraint system). The list of countries that have yet to do so include Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam and the Philippines.

On the other hand, our neighbours down south have implemented a mandatory child seat law with enforcement efforts awarded an eight out of 10 score by the WHO. Australia has done the same but was awarded a lower score of six out of 10 – in contrast, the Kiwis received nine points out of 10 for enforcement efforts on the same law.

In terms of vehicle safety features, Malaysia has also yet to implement electronic stability control (ESC), in accordance to UNECE WP29 standard, as mandatory equipment aboard passenger vehicles sold in the country. The same can be said for nations such as Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam and Singapore.

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Malaysian road fatalities documented.

Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the United States of America as well as the United Kingdom have all made ESC as a requirement in vehicles sold there. As for the largest group that make up the total of deaths amongst road users, Malaysian motorcyclists rank the highest with 62%, followed behind by motorists in four-wheeled cars and light vehicles at 24%.

Equally depressing is the fact that recorded cases of road fatalities appear consistent enough in Malaysia from 2004 to 2013 – an estimated 25 motorists out of 100,000 are killed every year on the road, according to the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (MIROS).

In Singapore, motorcyclists and riders of three-wheeled vehicles form the bulk of road fatalities with 46% – pedestrians follow behind with a 27% share while motorists aboard four-wheeled cars and light vehicles only make up 13%. The mortality rate amongst individuals involved in traffic accidents also appear to be decreasing over time with around 3 deaths per 100,000 individuals in the year 2013.

Thai and Singaporean (right) road fatalities documented. Click to enlarge.

As for Thailand, motorcyclists and users of three-wheeled vehicles form the majority of road deaths with a percentage of 73%. Pedestrians make up 8% while rear passengers in cars make up 7% – the latter could be attributed to the fact that Thailand does not impose a law that requires rear passengers to buckle up.

All in all, while Malaysia may not exactly be last in class, it is fair to say that we all should do our part to help raise the levels of awareness on the importance of road safety. Always remember to use certified child restraint systems when ferrying children in one’s car and be sure to buckle up at all times.