While waiting for his 5-year-old twins to get out of school one afternoon, Raj Rajoo got their child safety seats ready.
“My kids, their lives are very important for me so I invested in the car seats,” he said.
Malaysia has been requiring the use of child safety seats — also known as child restraint systems — since January 1 but Rajoo and his wife, Jay Menon, have been using them since shortly after their children were born.
“Anything can happen in a split second and we don’t want to regret anything further on down the road,” Menon said.
Researchers in Malaysia found last year that fewer than half of the cars on the roads with children ages 12 and under had child safety seats.
“For many years, people have not been having car seats here, quite a number of people have not,” Menon said, "so it’s a change of mindset and it will take time.”
The Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research says more than 1,500 children under the age of 10 died in road accidents in Malaysia from 2007 to 2017. Statistics show that children secured properly in a child safety seat are up to 71% less likely to die in a car accident.
“A seat belt only, it is actually designed for an adult,” the institute's director-general, Siti Zaharah Ishak, said.
A child restraint system, she said, "is actually appropriate for a child to use in a car because it’s designed for a child to protect them to restrain them whenever there is a motor crash or an accident.“
Omar Mohamad recently looked for a child safety seat for his 2-year-old son at a store in Kuala Lumpur. He said his family already has one in his wife’s car and he’s buying another one for his.
“Every time we want to move into my car, I have to prepare half an hour before, take out the car seat, put it in my car, fix it properly then we can go," he said.
“So now I’m buying a new one, one more to put in my car so that one in each car and we are ready to go at any time.”
After a six-month phase-in period, the government says violators will be fined, although the amount has not been announced yet.
Large families are exempted from the requirement if they cannot fit safety seats for all of their children in their car. This decision came after complaints that many large families would otherwise need to buy new, bigger cars, but as child restraint systems do so much to protect children, safety advocates hope parents will make them a priority.