Thailand has now made the use of child car seats mandatory as part of sweeping amendments to its Road Traffic Act 1979. The new laws, which also cover road racing, are meant to bring the regulations up to date and impose stricter punishments for breaking them.

Most pertinent in this story are the amendments to Section 123, which previously only covered seat belt usage (the law was amended in 2017 to enforce rear seat belt usage). Now, children under six years of age will be required to be secured in either a child safety seat or a “special seat for children,” with details of exactly what seats will be allowed to be announced by the police commissioner.

The Land of Smiles has also raised the fine for non-compliance (both for seat belt and child seat usage) from just 500 baht (RM60) previously to 2,000 baht (RM250), although it provides an exception for children who cannot be secured for health or physical reasons. The new laws will take effect on September 5, 2022.

Nikorn Chamnog, deputy chairman of the House of Representatives committee scrutinising the amendments, said the child seat law allows the use of cheaper “seat cushions” priced around 600 (RM80) to 700 baht (RM90), the Bangkok Post reported. He added this is due to the fact that proper child seats cost more than 10,000 baht (RM1,300), which is the going rate for a mid-range ISOFIX child seat in Malaysia.

These “seat cushions”, Nikorn said, allow children to sit high enough to be effectively secured using the car’s built-in seat belt. This likely refers to booster seats that have been designed to fit larger children, rather than those flimsy makeshift “child seats” that are not actually suited for use in cars.

Nikorn, who is also the chairman of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Asia-Pacific Regional Network on Road Safety, said the committee studied child seat regulations in Malaysia and Philippines and found that enforcing the laws proved difficult in the early stages due to the “high price of car seats.”

He added that the police should be lenient at first and issue warnings rather than taking serious action, as motorists will need time to adjust. Nikorn also advised the government to launch a campaign to educate the public and consider lowering the import tax for child seats while promoting local production.

In Malaysia, the use of child safety seats was made mandatory in January 2020 but the enforcement of the law – which was supposed to kick off in July – was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In August that year, we reported that it was due to start at the end of 2020, but we’ve checked with the Road Transport Department (JPJ) and found that the authority has yet to begin enforcement.

In any case, nobody should be waiting until officers to start fining motorists before they ensure the safety of their own kids. Child safety seats are essential in preventing children from experiencing violent forces in a collision, and they don’t have to break the bank – not when proper, ECE R44/04-certified seats can be had for well under RM200. Fine or no fine, you only want the best for your loved ones, right?