Child safety seats implementation starts today

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    A well-selected child seat will comfortably harness a child. (Photo from bebecomfort.com)

    STARTING today February 2, Child Safety in Motor Vehicles Act (Republic Act No. 11229) or the “Child Car Seat Law” goes into full effect. Private car owners will have to install special seats for children in the rear of their vehicles to comply with the law.

    Installing a booster seat.

    Enforcement of the law will be fully implemented by the Land Transportation Office (LTO) but apprehensions will only start in 3 to 6 months because of technical difficulties, such as heavily tinted vehicles. This is because enforcement is visual.

    “We have to see if the child is on the car seat. So at first it will just be reminders and information to drivers who maybe flagged down at safety checkpoints,” Roberto Valera, Deputy Director for Law Enforcement at the LTO said at a press conference organized by the road safety advocacy group ImagineLaw.

    USE OF CHILD SEATS

    The Child Car Seat Law requires the installation and use of proper child restraint systems (CRS) for young passengers in private vehicles to prevent injury and deaths in case of a crash. These CRS include infant-only rear-facing, forward-facing child, and height adjusted booster seats or child seats that combine these features. It does not approve the use of cushioned child restraints and those systems that do not provide for energy absorbing crash protection.

    Provisions of the law mandate that children who are 12 years old or younger, or below 4 feet 11 inches or about 150 centimeters (not considering the age) be secured in compliant car seats only in the rear of the vehicle.

    Only children who are 13 years old above and taller than the mandated 150 cms. height can sit in front of the vehicle using the seatbelt. This also clarifies the question would it be legal if an adult below 150 cms would sit in front. The answer is adults are not covered by this law.


    FINES

    Vehicle owners who violate the law shall be fined P1,000 for the first offense; P2,000 for the second offense and P5,000 and suspension of the driver’s license for a period of one year for the third and succeeding offenses.

    A heftier fine will be leveled on “manufacturer, distributor, importer, retailer and seller” who violate the rules for product certification-compliant car seats set by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) with a fine of P50,000 to P100,000 for “each and every child restraint system manufactured, distributed, imported and or sold.”

    The law will also consider used, hand-me-down or already purchased child seats as long as these have not expired their shelf life or comply with the safety regulations on mounting and securing.

    Child seat mounting points should correspond to the seatbelts or ISOFIX tethers of cars. Securing of children will vary from 4-point to five-point harnesses built-in the CRS seat for younger children, or the use of the vehicles’ 3-point seatbelts and a booster seat for older ones.

    Private car owners will have to install special seats for children starting February 2 if they want to travel with children.

    UNCLEAR IRR

    The law does not apply to public utility vehicles (buses and jeepneys) and even school buses. It is also unclear if it will apply to the backyard-bred owner type jeepneys for safety reasons.

    No rules are set also for Transport Network Vehicle Services cars like Grab which are essentially private cars providing a paid public service. Though in this case, children who do not meet the height or age requirement cannot sit in front, there is no provision for car seats in the rear. A car seat will effectively reduce the passenger space by one.

    Then there is the question of point-to-point and shuttle vans. The modernized jeepney which in its development did not consider seatbelts even in the forward-facing configuration is also an unanswered question.

    Valera however said that the Department of Transportation “may recommend to Congress the inclusion of public motor vehicles and other vehicles used for public transport.” He also admitted that there will be complications in the use of the CRS on public utility vehicles.

    Even if a child is taller than 4′ 11″ responsible parents must not allow them to sit in front if they are less than 13 years old, as mandated by law. Though the reason for this is not clear in RA 11229, Malaya Business Insight has an article here to explain it further.

    Already several social media posts came out questioning or ridiculing the law, showing children taller than 150 cms sitting on child seats. Based on the law, above the mandated height, children can use the regular seats in the rear, if 12 y.o. and below.

    DON’T LEAVE CHILDREN IN THE CAR

    One of the provisions of the Child Safety in Motor Vehicles Act is protecting children from being left alone in a car unmanaged, even if secured in a child seat. The law explicitly bans parents or guardians from doing this even for a very short while because of the many dangers it may expose children, especially toddlers who can move about in a vehicle if unrestrained.

    GENTLE APPLICATION

    The LTO made it very clear. No apprehensions yet. More time is needed to make the public aware of the law, purchase and learn to install seats, and for parents to educate and wean children into using the safety equipment. The LTO also needs time to hurdle technical and legal difficulties which may hamper the equal and proper implementation of the law.

    Atty. Daphne Marcelo, the Policy Associate for Road Safety at ImagineLaw, reiterated that the enforcement of the car seat law requires gentleness from the apprehending officers. Already different agencies have been implementing various parts of the law.

    This was also the same sentiment of road safety expert Robert Susanj, a consultant for the Global Road Safety Partnership and former Director of Slovenian Traffic Police during the virtual training for LTO car seat fitters recently.

    He encourages to use of a “soft approach” which will take into consideration how “young children have physical and cognitive limitations that make them more vulnerable in road traffic than adults.”

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