By SU MYAT MON | FRONTIER
YANGON — Myanmar’s long national disregard for one of the most effective road safety measures may soon be at an end, with authorities announcing plans to fine and possibly arrest drivers of vehicles with no seatbelts.
The National Road Safety Council has announced a seatbelt education campaign for the final two months of 2016, followed by plans to enforce an existing statute of the Motor Vehicle Law requiring all non-motorbike road vehicles to be fitted with seatbelts.
Lt-Col Aung Ko Oo of the Myanmar Police Force traffic division said the time had come to educate drivers about the safety benefits of wearing seatbelts, decades after most countries had introduced laws to make their use mandatory.
“If an accident happens while wearing a seatbelt, it can prevent people from being seriously injured,” he said.
Flouting of seatbelt laws is almost ubiquitous in Myanmar. It is common for taxi operators behind the wheel of late model cars to disable seatbelt latches in order to prevent a dashboard seatbelt alarm being sounded, instead of requiring passengers to buckle up.
According to the National Road Safety Council, enforcement action will be directed at drivers of cars, buses and trucks. Frontier could not confirm whether passengers will face sanctions for not wearing seatbelts.
Ko Tayoke Lay, a driver on Yangon’s #45 bus route, said it was vital that both drivers and passengers respected seatbelt laws, which had the potential to significantly reduce Myanmar’s road toll.
“We need to teach people to have the habit,” he said, adding that passengers would need to cooperate to prevent drivers falling afoul of the law.
More than 2,100 people in died in road crashes between January and December of 2015, a figure that does not include motorbike fatalities.