China’s traffic regulator is preparing a proposal to make the use of child-safety seats in vehicles mandatory in the country to reduce the number of fatalities and injuries in the world’s largest auto market.
The Ministry of Public Security, whose oversight includes road safety, is researching the matter with the China Automotive Technology & Research Center, said Pan Zengyou, who’s heading the feasibility study. Once the analysis is completed, the ministry will probably submit its proposal to the State Council for approval within months, he said.
“There is imminent need for China to include child passenger-safety requirements into the legal framework,” Pan said in a telephone interview yesterday. “Any delay in this means more casualties and damages. Children’s lives are hanging over our heads.”
China lost almost three times as many children in car accidents as the U.S. in 2012, even though it has fewer than half the number of vehicles. Traffic accidents were the leading cause of death for children under the age of 14 in China, according to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a research body under the cabinet.
The public security ministry didn’t respond to two calls or fax request for comment to the spokesman’s office.
Mandatory use of booster seats, which can reduce stress to the neck and spinal cord in a crash, would bring China in line with the more than 50 jurisdictions worldwide that enforce their use.
Road safety is gaining importance as more of the country’s 1.3 billion people climb the economic ladder and can afford cars. The number of private passenger vehicles in China reached 76.4 million at the end of 2012, a ninefold increase on the 8.45 million at the end of 2003, according to National Bureau of Statistics data.
As part of efforts to standardize equipment, CATARC, which administers the nation’s crash tests, will include child-safety seats in its assessments, spokeswoman Liu Ying said yesterday, without providing details.
The proposal comes as Shanghai prepares to prohibit passengers under the age of 12 from sitting in front starting tomorrow. Child-safety seats will be recommended for those under the age of four.
While the rules aren’t legally binding, Shanghai is the first city in China to amend its protection of minors code to recommend the use of the safety equipment.
Residents such as Cao Hefang are taking heed.
“We’ll definitely do it soon since the regulation is encouraging us,” said Cao, a 68-year-old retiree, as she played with her three-year-old grandchild at an arcade. “It’s good for the safety of kids.”
In a sign of increased public awareness, Goodbaby International Holdings Ltd. surged 54 percent in Hong Kong trading last year as more Chinese parents buy child-safety equipment in cars. Goodbaby rose 9 percent for the biggest gain in a month to HK$4.49 in Hong Kong trading today. The benchmark Hang Seng Index was little changed.
The health ministry’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention started the country’s first national campaign late last year to encourage the use of child seats, starting in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen.
“The time has come to make it compulsory with rising awareness and consensus on this issue,” said Duan Leilei, a doctor with the center working on the campaign. “We need to protect our children with these totally affordable equipment.”
— With assistance by Tian Ying, and Alexandra Ho