Law may demand safety seats for more children

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 December, 2013, 4:46am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 December, 2013, 5:45am

All young children travelling in private cars could be required to use safety seats, if a government proposal becomes law.

But officials were open about the age limits for the proposal, with options ranging from those up to eight years old, or 11 years old, up for discussion.

The current Road Traffic (Safety Equipment) Regulations state that all children under the age of three must be placed in a secured carry cot or in a safety seat if they travel in the front seat of a private car, but these rules do not cover older children or those sitting in the back. Adults are required to wear a safety belt, whether they sit in the front or the back of a vehicle.

A government paper submitted to the Legislative Council yesterday revealed that the stipulation for children could change.

"[While] it is noted that the number of private car child passengers killed or seriously injured in traffic accidents has been low in recent years … we think that there is room to further enhance the statutory requirement of [child safety] devices in private cars for their better protection," the government said.

Drawing references from foreign countries, the bureau listed four ideas, with the least strict requiring children under eight years old or under 1.35m in height to use a safety device, such as a booster seat, while the most stringent put the limit at 1.5m or age 11 - a measure adopted from Germany, Italy and Switzerland.

Booster seats for children aged four or above cost at least HK$400 each, while safety seats for younger children cost as much as HK$6,600. Officials estimated 75,000 to 99,000 families could be affected.

The proposals will be discussed by the Legco's transport panel on Friday.

Panel vice-chairman Gary Fan Kwok-wai said while it was good to raise the requirement to protect children aged under eight, the transport bureau must be careful about whether it was appropriate to lift the limit even further. "Some foreign research suggests that if children are old enough, adults' safety belts are good enough for them," Fan said.