Wearing a seat belt on express buses could save the lives of passengers, say experts here in response to calls in Malaysia to make them compulsory.
This follows the horrific accident in which a Kuala Lumpur-bound express coach from Johor Baru crashed into a ravine on the North-South Expressway near Muar, Johor, in the early hours of Saturday, killing 14 people, including three Singaporeans and a Singapore permanent resident.
Mr Azman Ujang, chairman of Malaysian national news agency Bernama, then suggested banning express buses from travelling during "sleepy hours" and making seat belts mandatory for passengers as measures to prevent similar road accidents.
Welcoming the proposals, Malaysia's Road Transport Department director-general Nadzri Siron suggested bus operators could take the initiative and install seat belts for passengers.
But he said operators and consumers were against previous proposals to ban night-time express buses.
Singapore Road Safety Council chairman Bernard Tay told The New Paper that making seat belts mandatory in express buses was a "good idea" and could save many lives in an accident.
"When there is an impact, the seat belts can prevent passengers from hitting hard objects or being flung," he said.
"Many studies over the years have shown that seat belts lower passenger injuries in cars, and it is the same for coaches."
Referring to the introduction of compulsory seat belts in school buses here in 2012, he said: "Even kids have to wear seat belts on the buses over short distances. You can see the importance, and this can be applied to tour buses too."
Transport engineering consultant Gopinath Menon said: "Anything that improves safety is a good idea.
"With the seat belt, chances of you getting thrown out is lower. Being restrained like that will minimise harm."
But he said implementation might be challenging.
"It works for schoolchildren because it is easier to enforce, but will all buses need to have seat belts and over what distances? It opens up a spectrum of issues," said Mr Menon.
Mr Ang Hin Kee, deputy chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport, told TNP that measures to prevent accidents could also be considered.
BEYOND SEAT BELTS
Safety features such as the lane departure warning system, which alerts drivers if they suddenly change lanes without signalling, go beyond seat belts, Mr Ang said.
He added: "Seat belts are useful if you get into a collision. But minimising accidents is just as important, and we should assess all the safety concerns."
Madam Sarina Moh, a retiree in her 70s who makes annual trips to Kuala Lumpur to visit relatives, said the accident has heightened her concerns about travelling on express buses.
She said: "I used to use them without worry, but now I would be too scared to fall asleep."
Asked if being belted down would make her feel better, Madam Sarina said: "It won't hurt. Maybe it can encourage people to be safer on the roads."
This article was first published on December 27, 2016.
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