The Government has abandoned the requirement of child restraint systems for children up to 12 years-old using public transportation.
The about-turn comes less than a week after the new Road Traffic Act took effect on February 1, and following public outcry from operators of public transportation as well as parents.
Minister of Transport, Audley Shaw, outlined the changes in a ministerial statement in the House of Representatives Tuesday afternoon.
By way of compromise, children under one year must be restrained by an adult. Those one to three years-old are allowed to travel with no restraint or be restrained by an adult.
The other changes are as follows:
-- Children 3-6 years-old may travel without restraint, restrained by an adult or a lap belt.
-- Children 6-9 years-old may travel without restraint or with a lap belt.
-- Children over 9 years-old may travel without restraint, with a lap belt or a 3-point seatbelt.
Shaw stressed that only children who are of the weight and size to use an adult seatbelt are permitted to travel in the front passenger seat.
“In addition, where an adult is restraining a child, the adult should not be in the front. Children under one year-old are to be restrained by an adult in all forms of transport,” said Shaw.
He added that “all other children must be transported using appropriate restraint based on their size and weight”.
The transport minister said the guidelines have been set out so persons can determine what kind of restraint is applicable for different categories.
In summary, children traveling in licensed taxis and buses are allowed to do so without restraint but where a lap belt is available, it should be used. If a child is of the size to use an adult belt, this may be used if available.
In all instances, the driver must wear a seatbelt, whether operating privately or transporting public passengers.
In justifying the sweeping changes, Shaw argued that: “The realities of our public passenger transportation system and how it operates will place an undue burden on parents whose children need to travel in public transportation, whether accompanied by an adult or not.
"The risk of the inability to access transportation services may exceed the risk associated with travel without using a child restraint system, and in this regard, the rules applicable to public transport vehicles will have to be less stringent than those for private vehicles”.
Shaw explained that a Regulation is to be inserted making reference to the type of child restraint required for the conveyance of children based on age and size in different types of vehicles.
In this regard, the child seat requirement will be added to the 13th Schedule to set out what is required for different categories of vehicles based on the different age/size ranges and different types of restraints.
Meanwhile, Shaw told the House that 25 tickets were issued for breaches related to section 73 of the RTA which is now being amended. He said consideration will have to be given to those who were ticketed.
He also said the Government will allow a period of three months, while the Act is in force, to look at other possible changes to the new law which comes with far more punitive fines for road traffic breaches.