Rear seat belts

Come January 1st 2009, the first 3 rear paseengers would have to wear safety belts for cars registered after 1995.

This is indeed good news.

Studies have shown that many deaths of the front passengers who buckled up properly  were caused by rear passengers being thrown forward like a projectile in a crash. The force of a person  travelling at 60km/hour would be 40 times the body weight. If there is any impact, the force exerted would kill the Back passenger as well the the Front passenger directly in front, mostly by fracturing the cervical spines (neck spines). ( it is also for this reason that it is best to keep loose things like umbrellas and books in the boot instead of the shelf in front of the back windsrceen.)

So, it is for the good of the rear passengers as well as the front passengers for the rear passengers to buckle up.

What I cannot agree is the ruling that the fourth rear passenger would be exempted. This would have defeated the purpose of asking the first 3 persons to wear safety belts. This ruling might be because the government is trying to appease the rural folks and those with big family. But if there is a law or rule for the safety of the people, it should be applied to all people.

I think enforcement alone, especially  in the Malaysian context, may not be enough to ensure this rule be followed. What is needed is to educate the public, telling them that this is something for their own good . So how are you going to educate the importance of safety when the fourth person at the back is exempted and while the first 3 have to buckle up?

If people are not convinced, then how are you going to achieve a behavioural change? Enforcement can only do the trick when it is very strictly enforced with very frequent checks, like what Singapore enforcement agencies are doing.

At the moment , Malaysian enforcement is so lax that motorcyclists are often seen to go through red lights even in the presence of police officers who will not do anything to stop them. This is a great departure from the sixties when cars that stopped over the white ‘halt’ line at junctions were being summoned.

So unless there is strict enforcement and a vigilant police force, this ruling would not really help to make people buckled up.


9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Peter Yew
    Dec 30, 2008 @ 13:04:37

    Dr Hsu,

    Greetings to you and family for a good year ahead. Some comments to your post above.

    1. Belting up definitely saves lives, so does wearing safety helmets. What are required are the participants to be disciplined enough to be wearing them whenever they are in a moving vehicle/motorcycle. The rules are to preserve lives and yet Malaysians are notoriously well know for disregarding the worth of their lives. They consider the inconvenience of greater importance than their lives. It is really frustrating when law abiding drivers/riders are involved in accidents with non-law abiders and have to go through the tedious process of exonerating themselves. Each time I drive alongside violaters I avoid getting too close, and that unfortunately only embolden them to ‘own’ the roads and be ‘kings of the road’.

    2. Since many road users blatantly violate traffic laws we are not seeing enforcements efforts that commensurate with the extent of violations. It appear the police and JPJ officers are blind or indifferent, which compound the boldness of the violaters. We are paying a hefty price in prosecuting violaters or taking care of accident victims because they don’t follow the laws! In short, my observation is simply this:


    There is hardly any enforcement on motorcyclists not wearing safety helmets. Lately I am seeing more motorcyclists and their pillion riders NOT wearing helmets than those who do, especially in industrial estates and residential areas where they sense police presence to be minimal. It is a shame really that respect towards our laws is shamefully low. The government must reverse this trend or else no amout of additional budget, increase in police force or purchase of sophisticated surveillance equipment will change the scenario.

    The big laugh is that the police is actually encouraging road users to violate by discounting payments of unsettled compound fines. They should do the opposite, raise the fine or send the offenders to jail or community service. There is no problem in this world that is insolvable. The problem is lack of focus and will power to deal with it with determination.


  2. wassup
    Dec 30, 2008 @ 15:25:49

    Police should give summons to everyone inside the vehicle if there is someone inside who doesn’t buckle up.

    It’s quite numbing that Police have to threaten motorist with summons in order to save their lives.

    What in hell is so difficult about wearing seat belts till we have to spend time enforcing them. Blardy hell, they even offer to install for FREE if there are no rear seat belts. What else? Free Pepsi too??


  3. klm
    Dec 31, 2008 @ 15:01:48

    Talking of police traffic summons. Every year police issued 800 million RM worth of traffic summons. Only 250M RM is collected. Rest could not be collected due to all kind of problems – wrong address, false number plates, people dont care, etc (These are actual numbers and dont asked where I got them).

    How much “summons” not accounted for is unknown.

    Issuing more summons because of new offenses will not help.

    Issue is enforcement. There are several strategies being used :

    1. Automatic traffic violation sensing with surveillance equipment, and automatic issuing of
    summons. In many countries it take only 2-3 days to get receive an automatic summon.
    This is common in European countries such as France and Germany.

    2. Automatic escalation of non-payment of summons. In germany, if one chose not to pay after 2 warning letters, police officers will be sent to arrest the person. The state can initiate bankruptcy action.

    3. Tight control of police patrols especially car.
    All vehicle stop check are monitored to ensure proper procedures are followed and any hanky panky detected. In many countries, police officers action are video recorded. All summons are cross checked with vehicle stop checks.

    4. No discounts. No mercy.

    If Malaysia were to implement these, I can assure you that accident rates will drop. The extra summons collected can pay for these tools.
    We can save from putting more policemen on the road.


  4. monsterball
    Dec 31, 2008 @ 15:26:57

    I wish to take this opportunity to wish Dr.Hsu and his lovely wife…whom I have met….a happy and peaceful prosperous 2009.


  5. Eskay See
    Dec 31, 2008 @ 15:56:04


    I think it’s unfair of you to just comment that the 4th rear passenger shouldn’t be exempted from the ruling without taking into consideration the financial constraint of most families.
    Many families would either have to leave their 4th member behind and/or find the various alternatives which one way or another would be a financial constraint to them.
    Most private saloon cars nowadays(save for the smaller kancil) can safely and comfortably sit(of course this may be a ‘relative’ term to others) 4 rear passengers(depending on sizes of passengers too)
    Hence,I think getting the first 3 rear passengers to buckle up and exempting the 4th is a good start by the goverment without burdening most families.
    Of course,one can go on to ask further what about the 5th rear passenger?I think this risk judgement would be best for the driver to make and the police to decide whether having a 5th rear passenger would be too overcrowded and pose an overall risk to all.

    my 2 cents worth.


  6. motherchell
    Jan 01, 2009 @ 00:41:28

    Happy New Year to each and everyone reading this . Take care ! Keep filled with joy!


  7. Meng
    Jan 01, 2009 @ 21:07:50

    Hi Doc the ruling is not to appease the rural folks and those with big family but to reduce their numbers. Too many mouth to feed and strain on the NEP.


  8. Meng
    Jan 01, 2009 @ 21:08:30

    Dr Just a Joke


  9. john
    Jan 02, 2009 @ 13:24:28

    this law is about protecting lives.economic consideration takes a backseat literally.well,presumably the smart bureaucrats agree with major car manufacturers that cars are designed for 3 rear seat passengers only!!!
    however,i think the government should spend more time in enforcing rules to deter or educating the public on the peril of
    1 indiscriminate parking
    2 blatant violation of traffic rules with parking on double yellow lines,stopping inside zebra crossings meant for pedestrians,beating red lights in busy and not so busy intersections
    3 the disgusting habit of switching lanes without using signal lights
    4 the reluctance or failure of most drivers to switch on headlamps in the evening and in rainy conditions where visibility is poor
    improving driving habits (文明駕駛)should be the prerogative of our JPJ instead of introducing more regulations to be in line with international norms oblivious of poor enforcement capability of our local authorities


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