PETALING JAYA: Insufficient road education and a lack of emphasis on child safety have contributed to the high rate of deaths involving children on Malaysian roads, say experts.
Law Teik Hua of Universiti Putra Malaysia’s road safety research centre said existing policies aimed at safeguarding children travelling on roads are often insufficient.
“In the case of Malaysia, the existing child seat and child helmet policies represent measures to enhance safety. Unfortunately, the utilisation rate of these safety measures remains disappointingly low,” he told FMT.
For example, he said, a research centre survey revealed that in 2022, the utilisation of child seats in urban areas stood at only 26%, and a mere 15% in rural areas.
Recently, Bernama quoted deputy transport minister Hasbi Habibollah as saying that an average of one child died every day in accidents on Malaysian roads between 2011 and 2020.
He said the statistics for the 10-year period had been compiled by the police and analysed by the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (Miros), which found that 7.25% of fatalities involved children under 15 years old.
When contacted, Miros clarified that 72% of the road fatalities involving children aged five years and below occurred when they were passengers in vehicles, and the remainder, as pedestrians.
According to the institute, the highest number of fatalities among those aged between six and 10 years occurred when they were passengers (59%), mainly due to a failure to use seatbelts when in cars and helmets when on motorcycles or bicycles. Children in this age group also died as pedestrians (29%), and as drivers or riders (12%).
In contrast, 75% of road traffic fatalities among children aged 11 to 15 years were as drivers or riders. In most of these incidents, the victims were either cyclists or underage motorcyclists.
Miros chairman Wong Shaw Voon said road safety education for schoolchildren needs to extend beyond the walls of their classrooms.
“We can always work together and try to find solutions so that whatever (these students are being taught) in school, in the syllabus, would be (practised),” he said.
Parents, teachers and the school administration have a responsibility to play their part in this matter, he added.
Presently, the module on road safety education (Pendidikan Keselamatan Jalan Raya or PKJR) is taught in Malay in all primary and secondary schools. Beginning 2021, it has been extended to kindergartens and pre-schools as well.
Wong also said efforts are needed to take children “off the streets” when they should not be there. This can be done by making available sufficient facilities for them to play in, such as playgrounds and badminton courts.
Law said the government should require the installation of safety bars on school buses and raise pedestrian sidewalks especially in school zones. It should also consider restricting children under 10-years-old from riding bicycles unsupervised, he added.
He also suggested handing out tax benefits or subsidies to vehicle buyers who purchase helmets and child seats to reduce the financial burden on their parents and send a clear message about the importance of safety.
Last week, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said a total of 10,000 helmets, including for children, will be distributed to underprivileged families for free under the 2024 budget.