Car seats for children: Govt must help get the cost down

opinion April 13, 2014 00:00

By The Nation

The govt could reduce child road deaths by axing the 30-per-cent surcharge it imposes on foreign-made car seats

It’s not a difficult thing to do but no one seems to know why Thai parents have been so reluctant to take them up. We are talking about the use of child car seats. 
According to a recent study, child car seats can boost safety for infants by 70 per cent. 
In 2011, 614 children under the age of 15 died from road accidents. Some 21 per cent were infants and of the total, 101 were inside a car. 
Thai children’s deaths in road accidents, second only to deaths by drowning, have been blamed on as few as 1 per cent of parents using child car seats, according to a study by Dr Adisak Plitponkarnpim, director of Ramathibodi Hospital’s Child Safety Promotion and Injury Prevention Research Centre.
Dr Adisak called on the government to cut down on import tax on foreign-made car seats so more parents can afford them. Currently, there is a 30-per-cent surcharge on child car seats. A little dent in state revenue could help save many lives. In fact, if this research tells us anything it is that such a measure may save the country a bundle in health costs spent on the treatment of injured children.
Dr Adisak also urged national authorities to strictly enforce traffic laws, adding that parents should put their children in the backseat, as it is five times safer.
Child deaths rise significantly during the Songkran holiday, and most of the children killed in road accidents were either not wearing a seatbelt or not secured in car seats.
The very principle of safety should not confined to infants and toddlers. We need to extend this to older children and adults as well, in personal vehicles or on public transport – anybody, either in a personal capacity or working for a company or agency, has a moral obligation and legal duty to ensure people are transported safely. 
Too often we see public buses with broken windows with glass clanking as the bus moves along the bumpy road. Passengers sitting next to it can only hope that the grace of God can hold such damaged glass together.
Essentially, this is about enforcing regulations concerning public safety. If the government inspectors don’t do their job, and if the bus conductors and the company which they work for fail to property inspect the vehicle for safety purposes, they put other people’s lives on the line. 
Thailand has passed laws and safety regulation about road safety. There was an initial hoopla about the use of seatbelts. Checkpoints were set up to make sure people put on their seat belt. But it didn’t take long before that campaign went away from the public’s mind. 
The lack of an adequate road safety campaign is part of this sad national malaise. The other part has to do with the lack of public concern about safety. Whenever a high profile case makes headlines, officials are out full throttle, analysing and commenting about what has to be done to improve the situation. 
Be it gruesome road accidents or capsizing of river-boat taxis, or accidents at construction sites, we have heard and seen them all.  
But numbers don’t lie and the recent research by the Child Safety Promotion and Injury Prevention Research Centre is a case in point. 
Again, we shouldn’t just wait for the government to push for change. The public, too, has to do its part.