KUALA LUMPUR: The Transport Ministry will, from January, compel all manufacturers of passenger vehicles to fit their models with the three-point seatbelt.
The lapbelt, often found in the centre rear seat of cars and express buses, will be banned from being installed in such vehicles.
Manufacturers that fail to observe the ban will not be able to market their vehicles as they would be declared “not roadworthy”.
This new standard will be included in the Vehicle Type Approval Permit (VTA).
Road Transport Department automotive engineering director Datuk Mohamad Dalib said crash impact tests carried out by industry experts had proven that while the lapbelt could prevent the centre rear seat passenger from being thrown out of a vehicle in an accident, the pressure the lapbelt puts on the human body could cause serious injuries, even death.
“Crash impact tests show the need for lapbelts to be replaced with three-point seatbelts.
“The risks associated with lapbelts include severing the lower torso and causing serious injuries
to women who have had a Caesarean section,” he told the New Straits Times.
Other common injuries linked to lapbelts, he said, included contusions to the abdominal wall, kidney and bladder damage, rupture of the mesenteries, small intestines, bladder, aorta, spleen and uterus.
There have been many cases where those strapped in with the lapbelt fractured their ribs, pelvis and lumbar vertebra, besides sustaining intra-abdominal injuries and paralysis. Deaths have also been attributed to its use.
Mohamad said the lapbelt (also known as two-point belt), which is commonly fitted in the centre rear seat of a car, would be banned from passenger vehicles manufactured from January.
“We adopted the United Nation Vehicle Regulations R14 and R16 (related to seatbelts), which were incorporated in the Road Transport Rules (construction and use) 1959, in 2007 and 2011.
“This means that, by right, passenger vehicles built from 2012 should not have the lapbelt... We have given industry players a lot of time to prepare.
“Cars manufactured from January that are still fitted with the lapbelt will be considered not roadworthy, and we will not approve its VTA,” he said.
Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (Miros) research officer Yahaya Ahmad said three-point seatbelts distributed the “impact load” during an accident, while limiting violent movement of the body, as well as minimised pressure to the abdomen.
This was different for lapbelts, he said, adding that the way its mechanism worked would introduce the concentration of load at the abdomen area.
“This can cause serious internal injuries.
“If you are strapped in with a lapbelt and a collision happens, or the driver brakes suddenly, your body, which is only partially restrained, will be violently thrown forward.
“When this happens at high speed... your head will either smash into the front seat, or you will be thrown forward and possibly impact the floor, causing facial and head injuries.
“The ensuing whiplash, where the body is thrown back into the seat, could cause the neck to snap,” he said, adding that several European countries, Japan and Austria had long banned the lapbelts.
Yahaya said children were at greater risk if they used the lapbelt as their bodies were more fragile.
“For children, the seat booster would be the best option.”