This article is a translation of a feature on our Bahasa Malaysia site.
Malaysian car buyers are a demanding lot. Not only are high quality and attractive designs high on the list of priorities, safety features are required inclusions as well. With the advent of every new model, particularly in the more affordable segments, features such as electronic stability control, airbag count, autonomous emergency braking and NCAP ratings come under the shoppers’ microscope.
Despite the heightened demands for quality automobiles, Malaysians – for the most part, at least – still appear to have misplaced priorities in their approach towards vehicular safety. It seems that an NCAP five-star rating is a sort of magical protection against all hazards which may be encountered on-road, even if seat belt usage has been neglected.
Did you know that every test result in the New Car Assessment Programme is attained with crash test dummies securely fastened with the aforementioned seat belts? The ‘SRS’ in ‘SRS airbag’ you may have seen on steering wheels and dashboards stands for Supplementary Restraint System – airbags are the supporting act in the scheme of occupant protection in the event of a crash, not the first line of defense.
That lead role goes to the often-ignored seat belt. Sadly, the crucial protection offered by this most basic of safety equipment is sidelined when parents opt to install makeshift beds in the rear passenger compartment – more often promoted on social media as a more comfortable way to balik kampung for the kids in the back seats when prolonged traffic jams are expected.
It really shouldn’t need saying that this approach isn’t the way to go. Children need to be securely belted in the rear seats – like any other occupant, really. And yes, that’s right, adults really should be buckling up at the back, as we keep saying time and time and time again.
Children less than 10 years of age, or those who are still of insufficient height, should ideally use booster or child seats for optimum in-car safety, should any collision or otherwise untoward incident take place. By the way, Isofix child seat anchor points are a prerequisite for attaining five-star status in NCAP ratings, which really counts for nought if not used.
Of course, with the inevitably heavier traffic that is part and parcel of festive seasons, lower speeds would mean lower risk, wouldn’t it? Unfortunately not. Accidents can and do happen without warning, as a family found out two years ago in the hardest way possible. In that incident, the family of five was travelling in a Perodua Viva in the slow lane, minding its own business when another vehicle collided with it, sending the Viva into the drain. A three-month-old baby died as a result.
A child seat was eventually found outside the car in the aftermath, indicating that the seat had not been properly secured within the vehicle. This should offer some idea as to the severity of what can happen if such an incident takes place when the rear seats are used as a bed, occupants laid unsecured.
In addition to passengers, drivers should not forget about their own safety and remember to buckle up for themselves as well. Needless to say – actually, it does need saying, given the lackadaisical attitude towards buckling up – that the dummy clip for inserting into the seat belt clasp in order to disable the seat belt warning chime in most modern cars is a big mistake as it entirely defeats the purpose of seat belts.
In fact, the seat belt warning chime is a major contributor towards a car scoring enough points to be awarded a five-star rating; bypassing the seat belt warning essentially renders the safety rating somewhat meaningless, as a safety package is only relevant when it is used appropriately.
According to data from the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (MIROS) for 2017, an average of 16 road deaths were recorded daily for the months of Ramadan and Syawal, which makes for concerning reading. Even if passenger car occupants weren’t the sole contributors to that statistic, every viable precaution helps, and making use of seat belts which come installed on all cars today will help.
In any case, everyone can contribute towards reducing road casualties – remember to be considerate, use your indicators (and give way to those who have indicated), refrain from racing each other (granted, more applicable when not caught in a gridlock), vacate the emergency lanes for actual emergencies and last but not least, pull over for a rest when you begin to feel tired behind the wheel.
With these in mind, we wish everyone safe travels, and happy reunions with loved ones this festive season.
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