A tragic head-on collision between two vehicles near Batu Gajah yesterday claimed five lives, with three others seriously injured. The dead includes four in a Toyota, and one in a Mercedes-Benz.

All four occupants of the Vios lost their lives, while the Merc’s front passenger also died. The C-Class driver suffered serious head injuries, and the two rear passengers were seriously injured. It’s said that the Toyota crashed into the Mercedes after overtaking another vehicle.

Based on photos shared on social media (not shown here), it is believed that the rear passengers in the Toyota were not belted up, and were thrown forward in the collision, pushing the front seats and their occupants towards the dashboard. Seeing that this was a head-on crash, the speeds and forces involved would have been huge.

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.

This means that in 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. Needless to say, that’s huge potential for injury or even death for both occupants, as is the case here.

A recent World Health Organization (WHO) Global Status Report on Road Safety 2015 suggests that Malaysia has a seat belt compliance rate of 77% and 13% for front and rear occupants, lower than in Cambodia and Vietnam, even. However, the Malaysian police refuted these numbers, claiming that they should be higher.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (MIROS) found in May 2015 that only 7-9% of Malaysians wear seat belts in the back. On an even sadder note, MIROS found that compliance and overall awareness on the importance of buckling up at the back was founded more on the fear of being fined, as opposed to anything else.

Dear readers and motorists, please buckle up and insist that all your passengers do so too. We know full well why we must buckle up, front or back. And law or no law, fine or no fine, belting up in the back is not difficult to do – we value our lives as well as those of our loved ones, don’t we?