In 1993, the Road Traffic Act made buckling-up mandatory for backseat passengers at least 1.5m in height. Anyone in the rear caught not wearing a seat belt was slapped with a $120 fine, while the vehicle’s driver would be fined the same amount and given three demerit points.
Despite these penalties, many people flouted the rule (and still do, to this day). The excuses given by recalcitrant passengers range from “the belts are uncomfortable” to “the back seat is safer anyway”. Others even proclaimed that they had a “safe driver”, and believed they would never get into an accident.
This attitude echoes the initial resistance by local motorists to the wearing of front seat belts, which became compulsory in 1981. Many, including driving instructors, argued that seat belts would hinder their chances of escaping an automobile in a serious collision, especially if their hands were injured.
Although the rear seat belt law was intended to enhance safety, it wasn’t all-encompassing. While every new car registered on or after January 1, 1993 had to have rear seat belts, owners of older cars weren’t required to retrofit their vehicles with extra seat belts.
Even though seat belts have long been proven to save lives in a car crash, they remain unpopular among rear passengers. During a one-week crackdown in 2002, for instance, the Traffic Police issued no less than 587 warnings to rear-seat occupants who did not belt up The Government stepped up its efforts to improve passenger safety seven years later, when all purpose-built MPVs (multi-purpose vehicles) had to have seat belts for each of the back seats. Specifically, every outboard seat in every rear row has to have a three-point belt, while the middle seats should be equipped with a lap belt at the very least.
The authorities were very serious about this new ruling, even if it did come into effect on April 1, 2009 (April Fool’s Day). The real fools, however, are the back-seat passengers who persist in not belting up. In the event of (touch wood) a bad traffic accident, they could end up being transported in the back of a vehicle exempt from Singapore’s rear seat belt law – a hearse
This article was written by Jeremy Chua, writer for Torque.