SINGAPORE – An MP on Tuesday (May 11) proposed providing all 60,000 taxis and private-hire cars in Singapore with two child car seats each, saying this would cost the Government about $15 million and reduce the injury risk to children passengers by up to 90 per cent in an accident.
Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC), reiterated earlier calls for the Government to reconsider its policy of not requiring children on taxis to be secured in child car seats, citing accidents in recent years that have caused death or injury.
He said talks with taxi drivers and their associations have shown the industry is supportive of government-provided seats, as developments in technology mean they no longer take up much space and can be set up quickly.
These solve concerns about time and space, which decades ago had cause street-hire drivers who had to pick up passengers quickly by the side of the road to baulk at the idea.
“Taxis are involved in about three injury-causing accidents on average each day. It is a matter of when, not if,” said Mr Ng said, who has three daughters aged seven, four and four.
“I’m speaking out about this so that no one lives in regret. Not the child who faces serious injury or death, not the parents who wish they could have done more, and not the taxi and PHC drivers who will have to live with the guilt.”
Under current laws, all young children under 1.35m must be secured using child restraints or booster seats when in a vehicle, with the exception of taxis.
Private-hire cars are not exempt from the rules, and drivers have had to turn parents with young children away, Mr Ng noted.
To address this, he suggested providing one car seat for children aged nine months to four years, and another for those aged above four years. Both can be set up in less than two minutes, he said, holding up in Parliament a folded seat that can fit in a car’s glove compartment, and another that fits in the boot while still leaving enough room for two suitcases.
Mr Ng also proposed launching an awareness campaign on the issue, working with hospitals to increase the use of infant car seats and for the Government to study the impact of his suggestions.
Cabbies have concerns, Govt will work with operators on suggestions: Baey Yam Keng
Responding, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Transport Baey Yam Keng said Singapore’s practice is similar to countries like Japan, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
He brought up consultations with parents in 2019, which also showed that less than half of them supported requiring children to be secured in booster seats or child restraints in taxis.
One concern was larger families having to divide themselves into multiple vehicles as these seats will reduce the capacity of taxis. Another was about hygiene of the seats, he said, adding: “I expect the concerns to be greater now during the current pandemic.”
Cabbies have also expressed concerns about their own safety and holding up traffic as they set up the infant car seas, he said, noting that if two seats are needed, one would have to set up on the driver’s side of the car.
Mr Baey added that the Government will work with operators to review how Mr Ng’s suggestion will affect the remaining boot space for other passengers, such as those with foldable wheelchairs or luggage.
He noted that in a pilot to equip all 1,750 SMRT taxis with one child car seat at no extra charge, “the take up rate was still low”.
Taxi and private-hire operators are sensitive to the market, and greater demand for child restraints and booster seats from parents will spur them to provide more of such seats, he said.
Mr Baey added: “Today, we have a workable equilibrium where parents who require child restraints and booster seats can book a ride-hail trip while those that need a street-hail taxi urgently can do so without breaching the law.
“We will look into viable business and operational models that can provide options for those who need child restraints and booster seats, while balancing diverse needs by different families.”