On child safety in motor vehicles

A lot of clamor has been making rounds over social media as the love month enters. This came after media outlets have reminded car owners to also give love (and safety) to the children riding motor vehicles as full implementation of Republic Act No. 11229 or the Child Safety in Motor Vehicles Act starts on February 2, 2021.

The law requires motor vehicles to install child restraint system or child seat, in friendlier terms, when traveling with children below 12 years old to ensure their safety and welfare and to ultimately reduce related deaths and injuries from road crash.

The said act came from a consolidation of Senate Bill No. 1971 and House Bill No. 6938 and was passed for approval on December 11, 2018. It was then approved by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on February 22, 2019. The implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of this act was then prepared over a six-month period upon its effectivity by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) with due consultation from various agencies and stakeholders including the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Philippine National Police Highway Patrol Group, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and the Council for the Welfare of Children. The IRR was approved by Secretary Arthur P. Tugade on December 23, 2019.

Among the important things to know about the law and the IRR as as follows:

Definition of child. A child based on the IRR is defined to be any person 12 years and below. Thus, be aware of any violation that can be credited of this definition and to be safe in disputes for violations, make sure your child has an identification card with birth date in case you will need it.

Child restraint system or child seats is required and non-negotiable. Under Rule III, Section 6, it will be unlawful for the driver of a covered vehicle not to properly secure at all times the child in a child seat while the engine is running or when transporting the child. The seat should be appropriate for the age, height and weight in accordance with the United Nations Regulation Nos. 44 and 129. Nevertheless, the DTI is tasked to determine which is safe and compliant with international safety standards.

Leave no child unattended in a motor vehicle. Under Section 7 of the IRR, it clearly mandates that in no instance will a child be left unaccompanied by an adult inside a motor vehicle, notwithstanding the use of a child restraint system.

Front seats are not for kids. The DOTr required that no child should be allowed to sit in the front seat of a motor vehicle with a running engine or while the child is being transported on any road, street, or highway. Section 8 of the IRR also states that a child who is at least 150 centimeters or 59 inches in height and is properly secured using an adult seatbelt may sit on the front seat provided that nothing in RA 11229 or the IRR prevents the child from being seated in the rear seat of the motor vehicle.

The law covers private vehicles, public utility vehicles (PUVs) will be covered soon. Rule II of the IRR and Section 4 clearly states that it covers all private vehicles and for the avoidance of doubt, it covers private vehicles covered by a long-term lease contract between the rental company and the lessee, driven exclusively by the lessee and exempted from securing franchise from the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) under Memorandum Circular No. 2011-008. It also covers private vehicles rented out for a fee required to secure a franchise from the LTFRB under Memorandum Circular No. 98-027. Section 5, meanwhile shares that within one year from the effectivity of the law, the DOTr shall study the feasibility of requiring use of child restraint systems in PUVs.

Exception from using child seats. Under specific circumstances, the use of a child seat will not apply: (1) during medical emergencies involving the child; (2) the child being transported has a medical, mental psychological, psychiatric or developmental condition or disability that makes the use of the child seat hazardous or detrimental to the child’s health and safety as certified by a licensed physician provided that an appropriate modified, special purpose, special needs, or custom child seat is prescribed for the protection of the child; and, (3) other analogous circumstances as may be determined by the DOTr in consultation with the Department of Health.

In the country, while there is a handful of road safety laws, a lot of public outcry still lies on the implementation of these policies. There are, for instance, recent laws such as RA 10586 or the Anti-Drunk and Drugged Driving Act of 2013 and the RA 10913 or the Anti-Distracted Driving Act of 2016. Two years later, this new law on child seats came about while the effect of the two predecessor road safety laws remain unfelt by most Filipinos. There is no question that the implementation lies with the enforcers who are tasked to spot and penalize violators. However, it bothers me to question, do we really need enforcers around for us to follow rules?

There are still a lot of challenges toward the full implementation of the Child Safety in Motor Vehicles Act – economic would be the highest. Nevertheless, other laws on road safety exist and each of us can contribute by following them. The good part is that some do not even require us to shell out some cash to comply. What then is the best reason not to follow?

Published by Ilonggo Engineer

Ilonggo Engineer or Ray, is a civil engineer and a writer who strongly advocates for road safety, technology literacy, and social equity.

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