Sun, Apr 22, 2012 - Page 2 News List

Novel devices pose legal conundrums

NOT ENFORCED:Your bike’s child safety seat might have a quality guarantee, but that does not alter that using it is illegal. However, the police seem not to care

By Tseng Hung-ju  /  Staff reporter

A “silent buckle” used to silence car seatbelt alarms is demonstrated on April 8.

Photo: Tseng Hung-ju, Taipei Times

The “child safety seat” and “silent buckle” — used to quieten car seatbelt alarms — are popular products. Manufacturers even boast of such products having passed national standard inspections.

The only problem? While the products may not be illegal per se, using them certainly is.

According to the Road Traffic Security Rules (道路交通安全規則), bicycles are barred from carrying passengers, and violators could face a fine of between NT$300 and NT$600, an official with the Ministry of Transportation and Communications’ Department of Railways and Highways said. However, in practice the police do not ticket violators and the public flouts the rules.

The legal authorities are at an even greater loss when it comes to disciplining the manufacturers of such unsafe products. They have their hands tied because of a lack of relevant regulations.

In the meantime, large numbers of parents continue to take their children to school or on outings in the safety seat, and are no doubt reassured that the seat has cleared a quality inspection.

Meanwhile, demand is rising for the “silent buckle,” retailers said.

In August last year the ministry made it compulsory for backseat passengers to buckle up, in a bid to reduce the death toll from road accidents.

A decade ago, the ministry made it compulsory for front-seat passengers to wear seat belts, and then decreed that automobile manufacturers must equip cars with a seat-belt reminder light or some kind of warning alarm, activated by a pressure sensor under the passenger seat, to persuade people to belt up.

However, by plugging in the silent buckle the seatbelt alarm is disabled and the annoying alarm tone, that would otherwise force passengers into buckling up, goes silent. Priced between NT$100 and NT$200, a driver can purchase a dozen of the devices for less than the price of a traffic ticket.

With the latest legislation requiring back-seat passengers to buckle up, sales volumes have increased by at least 30 percent, auto parts retailers said, adding that they have been busy replenishing their stocks to meet the growing demand.

Lin Fu-shan (林福山), head of the ministry’s Department of Railways and Highways’ supervision section, said the two products are in clear violation of the regulations, but there is no law to penalize producers of the illegal products.

Lin said that installing child safety seats on bikes is against regulations, but is mostly considered a trivial offense and is not reported. Violators usually only receive a warning instead of being fined, he said.

Translated by Stacy Hsu, Staff Writer

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