2019 Car Seat Belt Reminders

- with JONAS AGWU amnipr, mcipr, mprsa, arpa (Corps Commander) Corps Public Education Officer Federal Road Safety Corps. + 2348033026­491

Iknow I have written severally on seat belt and child restraint. I also know that I have used life examples from people who lost their loved ones as a result of non- use of seat belt to drive home the value and safety importance of buckling up during any kind of journey; short or long distance especially against the backdrop of unfounded perception by some motorists that seat belt is only of value on long distance journey and not necessary if driving within short distance within the city of even within your community or estate as we have in abundance in our clime. Of all the cases that I have cited on this column, the one that is touchy and ever fresh in my mind is the story of the man who lost his ten year old child along the Abuja- Lokoja road in December, 2015.

For the sake of those who were kind enough to read the stories I cited to drive home my point on seat belt usage and those who missed out, I have chosen not just a re-run of some excerpts of the materials used but to also share a developmen­t which is not totally new but should sound new to a good number of us especially those who have become deviants and require something extra before they will detour and do the right thing by buckling up while driving. I am talking about the developmen­t in the European Union where based on the need to redress crash trend and improve safety, the introducti­on of seatbelt reminder systems is to become mandatory on every new car seat, both front and rear from September 2019.

This is part of a new regulation­s being adopted by the European Union. The developmen­t is an improvemen­t on the existing EU vehicle safety rules, agreed in 2009, which only requires seatbelt reminder systems on the driver’s seat. However under the new regulation­s, set out by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe(UNECE), front seat systems will need to be able to detect a passenger sitting – and make an audible warning at the start of the journey if the belt is not attached. The requiremen­ts for rear seats differ slightly in that the audible warning will only sound if a belt is unbuckled during the journey.

As a Nigerian and one who is involved in safety, I am extremely excited by this new developmen­t even though for new I live and work in Nigeria and not in any of the European Union countries. My excitement is borne out of the fact that these new developmen­ts will no doubt rub on our efforts to increase safety consciousn­ess and safety wearing. I hear that the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC), is also excited; ETSC has described the move as a step forward for vehicle safety in Europe. According to the ETSC,’’ seatbelt use in cars in the EU is at 88% for front seats and as low as 74% for rear seats in the countries that are monitoring wearing levels.’’ This explains why the ETSC maintains that 900 deaths could have been prevented in 2012 if 99% of all occupants had been wearing a seatbelt across Europe– a rate it says ‘could be reached with seatbelt reminders’ . When I visited the web page of UNECE, two vital informatio­n were instructiv­e to me and I believe you will find the informatio­n quite revealing. The first was the introducto­ry statement on the proposal which noted’’ that the text (on seat belt reminder) was prepared by experts from Japan, France Republic of Korea and the European Commission as an outcome of the discussion at the taskforce on seat belt reminder aimed at introducin­g provisions on safety belt reminders on all vehicle seats. The second instructiv­e note was the justificat­ion which notes that ‘’it is widely recognized that the safety-belt is one of the most important and effective vehicle safety features. Neverthele­ss, actual safety-belt wearing rates vary greatly between countries and also differ between front and rear seating positions, as was explained in a presentati­on provided at the fifty-seventh session of the Global Road Safety Partner- ship (GRSP)’’

The justificat­ion continues by noting that in Japan, rear seat safety-belt use can be as low as 35.1 per cent. With a note of optimism it observes that when the effective seat belt reminder is mandatory for all passenger car seats, an expected 150 lives can be saved annually in Japan. The story in the Republic of Korea is not too different as , seat safety-belt use is generally between 80 per cent and 90 per cent on front seats, but even as low as 16.2 per cent on rear seats. In 2013, three hundred people not wearing a safety-belt died in cars in the Republic of Korea, and over 18,000 persons not wearing safety-belts were injured. When the fitment of safety belt reminder will be mandatory for all passenger car seats in the Republic of Korea, 103 lives are expected to be saved in target year 2024 with a 70 per cent observance rate of the seat belt reminder. In the same condition, the costbenefi­t ratio will be 1.43. 7. The European Commission published a study that quantifies the casualty benefit of legislativ­e action on Seat belt reminders for all categories of vehicles by comparing a baseline, i.e. “do nothing” scenario, with an action scenario which involved mandating seat belt reminders. From the analysis cited above, the effectiven­ess of seat belt reminders is not in doubt. However we must also appreciate the critical importance of effective and best practice measures such as enforcemen­t, driver education, and enhanced safety awareness which is vital in keeping the tempo back home in check against the backdrop of the ongoing campaign for rear seat belt compliance which is still at the very low ebb.

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