Drivers must take responsibility for passenger seatbelt use, says Hyundai’s Africa and Middle East Chief

Mike Song, Head of Operations, Africa & Middle East
  • Seatbelts reduce risk of fatal injuries by up to 75 percent: World Health Organization
  • Statistics show that rear passengers can be at higher risk than those in the front seats
  • Unrestrained children are a particular concern, at risk of injury from airbags

May 17, 2017 – Hyundai’s Head of Operations for Africa and the Middle East, Mike Song, says drivers across the region must take responsibility for making sure all their passengers are wearing seatbelts, especially those in the back seat.

While most countries now require new vehicles to be fitted with seatbelts for every passenger, and many have laws in place requiring passengers to wear them, Mike Song says bad habits remain widespread.

“The number of times I see people not wearing a seatbelt is very worrying,” Mike Song said. “We put a great deal of effort into making each generation of new car safer, but a seatbelt remains the single most important safety feature in any car. Without the belt holding you firmly in place in an accident, the risk of injury or death is much higher.”

The United Arab Emirates, where Hyundai has its regional headquarters, recently became the latest country to introduce laws requiring all passengers to wear seatbelts when fitted, including in the back seat. Police are promising the laws will be enforced.

According to World Health Organization statistics, wearing a seatbelt reduces the risk of a fatal injury by up to 50 percent for front seat passengers, and 75 percent for those in the rear seat. Child restraint laws, combined with a restriction on children sitting in the front a car, reduce the risk of death by around 70 percent for infants and between 54 and 80 percent for young children.

“People wrongly believe the back seat is safer in the event of an accident, but that is not true,” said Mike Song. “Not only are rear passengers at risk themselves, but the force with which your body can be thrown forward in a crash is also a significant danger to others.”

Airbags, which are primarily designed to give additional protection to vulnerable parts of the body, such as the head and face, can also become a hazard to someone whose body is thrown into the bag as it deploys.

“The risk to an unrestrained child being struck by the airbag is higher than for adults, which is why it is no longer recommended for a young child to travel in the front seat – and why many countries have banned this,” said Mike Song.

“Yet I have seen infants not just in the front of the car, but carried in the lap of a parent, sometimes while driving. In an accident, the child is caught between the adult’s body moving forward, and the airbag deploying from the dashboard or steering wheel. Even in a minor collision the risk of serious injury can be very high, and is completely avoidable.”

Mike Song says children should always be carried in a child seat suitable for their age and height.

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