The Singapore Traffic Police Department answers some of our questions on child safety when traveling with our kids on the local roads.
1. What are the general car seat guidelines in Singapore?
Under the Road Traffic Act, children below 8-years-old, who is the passenger of a motor vehicle, has to be secured using a child restraint that is appropriate for his/her height and weight or uses a booster seat cushion in conjunction with the vehicle seat belts. (A note to clarify: a child restraint comes with its own seat belts, but a booster seat cushion does not. A person sitting on a booster seat cushion has to be belted up with the vehicle seat belts.)
The law does not specify the age group that has to use a child restraint and the age group that has to use a booster seat cushion, because different children may grow at a different rate. It is left to the discretion of the parents/driver to decide whether a child restraint or booster seat cushion is more suitable for a particular child. Parents typically switch from using a child restraint to a booster seat cushion when their children turn 4 years old.
2. Is it illegal to have your car seat in the front seat?
There is no traffic rule which states where a child restraint should be placed (front seat or back seat). However, some cars do carry labels on their sun shade flaps, advising against putting a rear-facing child restraint in the front passenger seat, due to the location of the airbag in the car. Parents should check their cars to see if they carry such a label, before deciding on the appropriate place to put the child restraint.
3. How old should a child be for him/her to sit in the front seat?
The law does not specify where a child has to sit in the vehicle. A child can sit in the front passenger seat as long as he is secured with a child restraint.
4. Will the driver get into trouble if a child is not buckled?
It is the responsibility of the driver to ensure that all his passengers – whether they are adults or children — wear seat belts. If the passenger is a child, the child has to be secured with a child restraint or use a booster seat cushion. A driver who fails to ensure that his adult or child passenger is belted up commits an offense which entails a composition fine of S$120 and 3 demerit points.
5. Can a child sit in the front seat with an adult?
A child who is traveling in a motor vehicle has to be secured with a child restraint. If sitting “in the front seat with an adult” means that the child is sitting on the lap of the adult, with the adult holding on to the child, it is not allowed.
The purpose of a child restraint is to secure the child properly so that he/she can have a safe journey. It is not possible to adequately protect a child by carrying him/her in the arms. This is because, in the event of a forward collision, the effective weight of the child would increase dramatically. An adult would not be able to hold on to this weight.
6. What are the penalties for flouting the traffic law on car seats – are there any?
Any driver who fails to belt up or ensure that his adult or child passenger is belted up commits an offense which entails a composition fine of S$120 and 3 demerit points.
7. Advice from traffic police on car seat/child safety in a moving vehicle
Motorists, especially parents, should be aware that they are responsible for the safety of young children traveling in their vehicles, and that they are endangering the lives of these children whenever proper child restraints are not used. The use of proper child restraints is a simple act that could help save lives.
8. Are there any rules for children traveling in vans, lorries or trucks?
Yes, a child can travel in vans, lorries or trucks, but the same rule applies — the child has to be secured using a child restraint that is appropriate for his/her height and weight or use a booster seat cushion in conjunction with the vehicle seat belts.