A recent Japanese report revealing a dramatic decline in traffic-related fatalities last year indicates that a strict seatbelt bill that failed to clear the Legislative Yuan in 2006 would still promote improved traffic safety in Taiwan, a transportation official said yesterday.
The statistical report issued on Friday in Japan attributed the reduction in traffic deaths to harsher fines for traffic violations and tighter seatbelt regulations that required passengers in the back seats of vehicles to buckle up.
Yin Cheng-peng (尹承蓬), director of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications’ (MOTC) Department of Aviation and Navigation, said that Taiwan promoted similar legislation in 2005, but it failed to get through the legislature in 2006 because of concerns the rear seatbelt could strangle young children.
Yin, who at the time was the deputy director of the Department of Railways and Highways and the government’s point man on the failed seatbelt bill, said that promoting rear seatbelts might still be desirable.
Though the correlation between rear seatbelts and traffic fatalities is still being studied, Yin said the MOTC would be in favor of another layer of protection to keep passengers in the back seats of vehicles from being ejected from cars in an accident.
Recalling the legislative campaign to promote the seatbelt bill, Yin said former Democratic Progressive Party legislator Chen Chao-lung (陳朝龍) proposed legislation in 2005 that would make rear seatbelts compulsory.
But it was not until a high-profile accident in late 2006 that the bill made it onto the legislative agenda, he said.
Taichung Mayor Jason Hu’s (胡志強) wife, Shirley Shaw (邵曉鈴), was nearly killed in a freeway accident after being thrown from the back seat of the vehicle in mid-November 2006.
She eventually lost her spleen and had her forearm amputated.
The accident got the bill onto the agenda of the legislature’s Transportation Committee, which then approved it and sent it to the full legislature for a vote.
The bill stalled in its second reading, however, with several lawmakers concerned rear seatbelts might harm small children.